This is going to be an exciting season for Rangers fans. They had a great offseason, landing the second overall draft pick, Kaapo Kakko, and the top free agent, Artemi Panarin. They also had other top prospects, Vitali Kravtsov and Igor Shesterkin, sign their entry level contracts, making the commitment to adapting their current game to the North American style of hockey. Let’s take a look at how the Rangers lines might look this upcoming season.
Adding new faces to the organization, the Rangers look to be a revitalized team going into the 2018-19 season. There will undoubtedly be a few more trades before the season starts, as they still have RFA’s Brendan Lemeuix and Tony DeAngelo to sign, with only $1 million in cap space. These projections take into account what could happen to free up additional cap space.
The RW position could be a rotating cast, but Buchnevich should get first crack at keeping that spot. Zibanejad’s career season should have him as the 1C for the foreseeable future, and bringing in Panarin solidified the top line. Two players with 80+ point potential would make this a very fun line to watch.
It’s very likely that Ryan Strome is on the move. If that comes to pass, Chytil stands to be the best option to center the second line. Setting up between a solid veteran in Kreider, and top rookie Kakko, Chytil would be in a great spot to succeed.
We could get a chance to see two former top 10 picks, Andersson and Kravtsov, line up along with an energetic Lemieux. This line would have an elegant mix of toughness and skill that could be a nice matchup against other third lines.
This line could be very different week to week. Nieves should get first crack at making the NHL roster over newcomer Greg McKegg, and Fast could bounce up and down the lines as well. But this line could be the one the Rangers roll with to begin the season.
Here is where things get murky. The Rangers have several young defenseman that have a legit shot at making the team.
The other top name added this offseason, Trouba, will most likely get the top pair spot, along with the top power play role. Trouba will have his work cut out for him. Going from a stacked power play squad in Winnipeg to a serviceable one in NY could put a damper on his production. Time will tell, but expectations should be tempered. Skjei could see his production get a little bump, but overall this should be a more defensively sound top pairing compared to last year.
As of August 8th, DeAngelo is still unsigned, but the consensus is that he will be re-signed. At just under a half point per game pace, DeAngelo showed signs of his potential last year. Adding his offensive upside with Marc Staal, who was, surprisingly, one of the better defenseman on the Rangers last season is a strong option. If Staal isn’t able to continue his play from last year, a demotion to the third pairing isn’t outside the realm of possibility.
An injury ended Hajek’s time with the Rangers after only five games. But in his short time, Hajek showed he could handle the NHL level of play. Look for him to grab one of the last available spots in the starting six. After trading two draft picks to Carolina for his signing rights, look for Adam Fox to be in the starting lineup on opening day. He has had a successful three year run at Harvard, and is one of the top defensive prospects in the Rangers system.
This goaltending duo should be a close 50/50 split this year. It doesn’t seem like the Rangers want to overwork Lundqvist and they’ll want to give Georgiev a chance to show his capabilities. Lundqvist has two years left on his current contract, and Russian phenom Igor Shesterkin is making the jump from the KHL to North America. If Shesterkin proves to be ready for the NHL, Georgiev could be a great trade bait candidate.
There is a lot to be excited about this season. The rebuild has been going amazingly well. Jeff Gorton has done an excellent job in the last drafts, making smart trades, and pointedly acquiring the top talent needed to shore up this young roster. But let’s be realistic, this rebuild is far from over. The young, untested talent need to show they can handle their new roles at the NHL level.
Guys like Chytil and Andersson will have more responsibility this season. They can expect expanded leadership roles, as the new crop of rookies join the team. Kakko, Kravtsov, Hajek and Fox are going to be introduced to the grueling NHL season. It’s good to be excited about the future, just try not to set unrealistic expectations for this young squad in New York.
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