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New York Rangers Season Preview

The New York Rangers and their fans should be nothing but excited for this upcoming season. In the 2019-20 season, the Rangers showed improvement in almost every aspect of their game. Starting from the top, Hart finalist Artemi Panarin demonstrated that he was well worth the large contract he was given. Panarin was able to nab 95 points (32 goals and 63 assists) in just 69 games played. It wasn't just his point production that caught everyone’s eye, it was his play that made everyone around him better. Ryan Strome coming off a career year playing alongside Panarin tallied 59 points, consisting of 41 assists and 18 goals.

Perhaps the biggest surprise was Mika Zibanejad who in the 2nd half of the season was a different type of monster. He ended up finishing with 41 goals while only playing in 57 games. I encourage you to use your imagination and envision what a fully healthy campaign from Mika will look like. Zibanejad and Panarin I believe will continue their strong pursuit in helping this team get to the top, but the big question is if the rest of the team can continue to take strides. I will dive into what I think are the three biggest improvements the New York Rangers need in order to be successful in their loaded East division this season.

Question 1: D-Core

The first question and most likely the biggest one will come from the blue line. The Rangers defensively last year were a liability defending the puck. Almost in the bottom of every defensive category in the league last year, they were able to show little glimpses of hope in some areas.

First, the emergence of Adam Fox, who, coming into this season is the clear cut first pair d-man. Not only was Fox fantastic in creating space and starting the push on almost every rush, his defensive game which some thought could be a liability, was in fact solid. The rookie Fox was able to produce 42 points in his rookie campaign, which led to a 4th place finish in the Calder race. The pairing of Fox and Ryan Lindgren was about the only solid defensive pairing the Rangers were able to produce on a nightly basis. Lindgren was able to compliment Fox’s game with his rugged defense.

As for the rest of the defense, that’s where the concern is raised. Following the trade for Trouba in the offseason, throughout the year he never lived up to the hype or production some thought he might bring. This could be due to constant shuffling of defensive partners he was provided. That should hopefully not be the case following training camp. As of right now it seems as if rookie K’andre Miller will take the spot alongside Trouba. This is a pleasant surprise considering most thought Miller was about a year away from playing in the NHL. But this season, all signs point to him being the 2nd defensive pairing. On opening night, David Quinn was asked about the pairing following the Rangers scrimmage Saturday. Quinn stated “I thought it was a very good pair. I thought Trouba was the best defenseman out there tonight.” Quinn responded to a question about the duo “I really like that d-pair – they certainly take up a lot of space.” A lot of credit has to be given to the kid, Miller, who only three years ago switched from forward to d-man and now in two days he will be in the Rangers’ opening night lineup at the young age of 20.

Now comes the third pairing, which is by far the biggest worry on the blue line. Tony DeAngelo had a solid 2019-20 offensively, leading to him being in every top 5 offensive category for NHL defenseman. Offense wasn't Tony’s problem, it was the lack of defense in which his game was exposed. The playoff series against Carolina showed DeAnglo’s lack of defensive ability. Now pair him with the worst rated Defensive player in the league last year and you might not end up with the product you are hoping for. The Jack Johnson signing still raises a ton of eyebrows to almost every Ranger fan. There was nothing satisfying about Johnson’s play last year with the Penguins and almost every analytical chart shows that he’s only regressed in the last 3 seasons. Whether he’s a stop gap until they’re able to get another rookie plugged in or he’s a constant in the lineup, Ranger fans should be very worried.

Question 2: The Young Guns

The next big key for the Rangers in the upcoming year will be the play of sophomore Kappo Kakko and the rookie sensation Alexis Lanfreniere. You could see Kakko struggled at first acclimating to the North American game. I believe the small ice and constant grind of games along with practice everyday showed the 19 year old this was not going to be easy. At times Kakko looked a little lost on the ice; Quinn pairing him with Howden and Lemuix did him no favors. When bumped up with Chytil and Gauthier he seemed to fit in more comfortably. While statistically the numbers weren't there for the 19 year old, you were able to see glimpses of why he was chosen with the second overall pick in the draft. His control of the puck in the offensive zone shows how special he can be. Now pair him with Strome, along with Hart Finalist Artemi Panarin and you might have something special. Kakko and Panarin could be a very scary tandem. I expect Kakko to come into this year refreshed and ready to go. An improvement from last year would be anything in the 20 goal ballpark (56 game season remember) and finishing just under a point per game (0.80 is what I am hopeful for). Panarin should do wonders for his game and Ranger fans should be pleased that they finally have the chance to play together on the same line.

The player that every NHL fan is interested to see is the #1 overall pick Alexis Lanfreniere. I believe this kid has every tool to eventually become an absolute superstar. His offensive game is way beyond his years. His play with the puck, his relentless forecheck, and his overall willingness to win is going to give the Rangers the boost they need to hopefully get into the playoffs. Going into the season, the Rangers are going to plug him into the 3rd line with Chytil and Gauthier. Playing with Gauthier will help Alexis get acclimated even more, given that they both speak fluent French. As far as what you can expect from the rookie sensation, around 35-40 points for the year would be a solid campaign for him. Regardless, it is going to be very exciting to see what these two young guns can do this season.

Question 3: Goaltending

Lastly, and most importantly, the goaltending for the New York Rangers will have a vital impact in where they go. Last year the Rangers relied heavily on the goalie play, with the defense doing them no favors in allowing opponents to get off more shots than any other team in the league.

Last year Igor Shesterkin and Alexander Georgiev had stellar seasons. Georgiev started 32 games and posted a 17-14 record with a 3.04 GAA along with a .910 save percentage. With a better defense in front of the net minder those numbers should only get better. Georgiev is expected to be the backup coming into the year playing behind Shesterkin. Igor, the Calder favorite coming into the year, posted a 10-2 record, 2.52 GAA, and a .932 save percentage. Each one of those stats is impressive in and of itself. Yes, the small sample size is nothing to gloat about, but if he is able to keep up his stellar production, watch out, he might not only be coming for the Calder, but also the Veznia trophy.

His ability to not let up rebounds on shots and his steadiness with handling the puck are splendid, but I think the best factor about Shesterkin is his composure. He never seems as if the moment is too big for him. Throughout the last 3 years he has been stellar in the KHL, AHL, and now NHL. I truly believe Igor could carry this team down the grueling stretch in March and April in the tough East division.


In all my years of following the New York Rangers I have not been this exhilarated. It seems as if everything is falling into place and rather quickly. When “The Letter” came out in 2018 stating the Rangers were going into a rebuild, no one would have believed three years later they would be on the cusp of contending.

This team has the superstars in Mika and Artemi, they have the young guns with Kakko and Lanfreniere, in addition to Igor Shesterkin. Along with having a lot of their young guys up, the Rangers still have the #1 farm system in all of hockey. So the young crop of kids coming in is only going to continue.

For my prediction this year I am very high on this team. I think they're very dangerous and are probably classified as an underdog in the East Division. The Bruins, Caps, and Pens have been a staple in their respective divisions for the past decade, and I do think they’ll continue that this year. I have the Rangers finishing 4th in the division, which will get them into the playoffs in by far the toughest division in hockey this year. What they do in the playoffs is TBD, but I do trust them getting into the playoffs. In conclusion, to every Ranger fan, remain patient, continue to be excited, but for the rest of the league they will soon be put on notice on what this special New York Ranger team is becoming.

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