The New York Rangers had one of the best off-seasons in the NHL and look poised to make a playoff push for the first time since 2017.
Their in-state rivals, the New Jersey Devils, got a lot of headlines this summer after winning the draft lottery and taking Jack Hughes, trading for P.K. Subban and Nikita Gusev and signing Wayne Simmonds. However, the Rangers probably had a more impressive couple of months. They were second in the draft lottery and took Kaapo Kakko, traded and signed both Jacob Trouba and Adam Fox and signed Artemi Panarin to a lucrative seven-year deal.
New York will make some noise in 2020 but their outlook beyond that looks even better. Almost all of their core is under 30-years-old, with Marc Staal and Henrik Lundqvist being the exceptions. The average age of their projected 12 forwards and six defensemen is just 24.1. years old. There is a lot of room for this team to grow into a potential Metropolitan Division powerhouse.
Zibanejad took a major step forward in 2019 and adding Panarin to the first-line will help him maintain that production. Panarin will also bump Chris Kreider to the second-line with Kakko, making the Rangers instantly deeper than they were last season.
Adding top-6 forward is great, but the Rangers will also be relying heavily on young bottom-6 forwards like Filip Chytil, Brett Howden and Lias Andersson. If they make progress in 2020, the Rangers could boast an offensively dominant bottom-6. Vitali Kravtsov could make the team in training camp, further bolstering their wing depth.
All-in-all, the Rangers have done an excellent job building through the draft over the years. To help insulate the young forwards, they’ve made savvy deals and signings. This is a group that should absolutely improve on their 2.70 goals for per game (t-23rd in the NHL) from 2019.
Artemi Panarin (LW)
- — Panarin has been excellent since breaking into the NHL in 2016. During two seasons in Chicago and two in Columbus, Panarin has missed just six games and ranks eighth in points (320) and 23rd in goals (116). In four seasons, Panarin has never finished worst the 20th in the NHL in points and is a safe second-round pick with his new team.
Mika Zibanejad (C)
- — Zibanejad exploded for 30 goals and 44 assists last season but was aided by a 9.9 on-ice SH%. Zibanejad elevated his shot volume, which allowed him to get to 30 goals for the first time and the addition of Panarin should help mitigate some of his potential regression. Panarin is a creative playmaker that should help Zibanejad maintain the 2.9 shots per game he set last season. He is a low-end No.2/high-end No.3 fantasy centre.
Kaapo Kakko (RW)
- — Despite being selected after Hughes in the draft, Kakko should be the first rookie picked in fantasy. Kakko scored 22 goals with 16 assists (38 points) in 45 games in Finland last year and had a great showing in the World Championship scoring six goals in 10 games. He’s already scoring sick goals in a Rangers uniform as well:
— New York Rangers (@NYRangers) September 9, 2019
- Kakko should lead all rookie in goals and could even be a 30-30 player in year-1.
Chris Kreider (LW)
- — Kreider played 61.7 percent of his 5v5 ice-time with Zibanejad last year and tied a career-high in goals (28) and set highs in shots (201), and ATOI (17:24) in 79 games. Moving down to the second line is could hurt his value but Kakko may help offset it. Kreider gets a boost in hits leagues, having averaged 165 hits per 82 games since 2014.
Pavel Buchnevich (RW)
- — Buchnevich’s value rests solely on where David Quinn elects to play him. Buchnevich could skate anywhere from the top-line with Zibanejad and Panarin to the fourth-line. Buchnevich has been a good play driver throughout his career but has never been given the ice-time to breakout. He’s worth a late-round flier in the hopes that he plays on the first line but has no value if he doesn’t.
Ryan Strome (C)
- — Strome went from looking like a total bust to rejuvenating his career in 2019. He started the season in Edmonton and had just two points (1G / 1A) in 18 games before being traded to New York and scoring 18 goals with 15 assists (33 points) in 63 games. As good as he was, there’s no way that Strome shoots 22.5 percent in 2020, but he’s worth monitoring on the waiver wire if he ends up between Kreider and Kakko.
Vitali Kravtsov (RW)
- — Kravtsov was the No.9 overall pick in 2018 and is coming over from the KHL. He had 21 points (8G / 13A) in 50 games last year and is coming off of an impressive showing in the Traverse City Prospects Tournament.
This assist by Vitaly Kravtsov last night was something else. pic.twitter.com/TwlMmw28Kf
— Alex Nunn (@aj_ranger) September 8, 2019
- They also experimented with him on the left-side in the tournament and the ability to play both wings should help him make the Rangers this fall. He is nothing more than a keeper/dynasty target at this point but he oozes with offense and could make a fantasy impact if he plays in New York’s top-6.
The Rangers blueline got substantially better this off-season. Trouba is the kind of defensemen that they haven’t had in recent years. He can log massive minutes on the top-pair while also chipping-in offensively. He is capable of quarterbacking the top power-play but with Fox and Tony DeAngelo also on the roster, he might not have to.
Jacob Trouba (D)
- — Trouba put durability concerns behind him in 2019, playing all 82 games for the first time in his career. He registered a career-high 50 points (8G / 42A) and should play nearly two more minutes per game in New York. He was always limited on the PP behind Dustin Byfuglien, so the presence of Fox and DeAngelo won’t negatively affect his value. He is a low-end No.2/high-end No.3 fantasy defenseman.
Tony DeAngelo (D)
- — DeAngelo’s first full NHL season was a moderate success. He had 30 points (4G / 26A) in 61 games but couldn’t get Quinn to trust him fully. Despite playing well, he was scratched with regularity. If he plays a full 82-game season, DeAngelo has double-digit goal and 30-assist upside.
Adam Fox (D)
- — Fox will turn pro after his Junior Year at Harvard University. Fox is an electric offensive-defenseman, who led Harvard with 48 points (9G / 39A) in 33 games. Fox had a five-point game in the Traverse City tournament, showcasing just how big of a game-breaker he can be. If Fox lands on the first power-play unit, he deserves to be rostered in standard leagues. We’ll have to see how that shakes out though.
Lundqvist is entering his age-37 season with two years left on his contract. Lundqvist is starting to show signs of aging, posting career-worsts in SV% (.907) and GAA (3.07) a season ago. 23-year-old Alexandar Georgiev is back to serve as Lundqvist’s backup and top prospect Igor Shestyorkin signed an entry-level contract this summer. Shestyorkin was a fourth-round pick in 2014 and is coming off of a superb season in the KHL. The Russian netminder was 24-4-0 with a 1.11 GAA and .953 SV% in 28 games with St. Petersburg SKA and projects to be the heir to King Henrik’s throne.
Henrik Lundqvist (G)
- — Despite the below-average splits, Lundqvist was still leaned on to start 52 games a season ago because Georgiev wasn’t much better. It’s not a question of Georgiev being a threat to Lundqvist’s workload, but rather how many games can he play in his 15th NHL season? With a drastically improved team in front of him, Lundqvist should be motivated for at least one final playoff run. He should start 50-plus games and his GAA/SV% should improve slightly, making him a mid-level No.2 fantasy netminder for 2020.
Alexander Georgiev (G)
- — In his first full NHL season, Georgiev was 14-13-4 with a 2.91 GAA and .914 SV%. The results were decent but he isn’t a reliable enough source of starts or wins to be considered for anything more than the occasional spot-start.
Projected Scoring Leaders
|K. Kakko (34)||A. Panarin (54)||A. Panarin (85)||M. Zibanejad (9)||A. Panarin (21)|
|A. Panarin (31)||M. Zibanejad (37)||M. Zibanejad (67)||K. Kakko (9)||M. Zibanejad (19)|
|M. Zibanejad (30)||J. Trouba (33)||K. Kakko (63)||A. Panarin (8)||K. Kakko (16)|
Rangers in the DFO Top 300
- 19 — Artemi Panarin (LW)
- 62 — Mika Zibanejad (C)
- 83 — Kaapo Kakko (RW)
- 90 — Henrik Lundqvist (G)
- 118 — Chris Kreider (LW)
- 147 — Jacob Trouba (D)
- 227 — Pavel Buchnevich (RW)
- 264 — Tony DeAngelo (D)
- 271 — Adam Fox (D)
- 289 — Ryan Strome (C)
- 300 — Vitali Kravtsov (RW)
|3||CAROLINA HURRICANES||41-30-11||93 PTS|
|5||NEW YORK RANGERS||40-32-10||90 PTS|
|6||NEW JERSEY DEVILS||40-34-8||88 PTS|
|7||NEW YORK ISLANDERS||39-33-10||88 PTS|
|8||COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS||37-35-10||84 PTS|
As much as the Rangers improved this off-season, the path to the playoffs is going to be a difficult one. The Capitals, Penguins, and Hurricanes all have playoff-quality rosters and there should be four teams coming out of the Atlantic Division. That means there is one playoff spot for the Flyers, Rangers, and Devils. They’ll be close, but 2021 may be the year.