The New York Rangers are among the most proficient playoff teams in the NHL, in a way. They’ve played 98 post-season games since 2011, the most in the league, but they don’t have a lot to show for themselves.
What’s more, the club is getting older and the window of opportunity to win it all may be closing. That makes 2017-2018 all the more important when it comes to slipping a Stanley Cup win into the books.
To that end, the Rangers made a few adjustments. They bought out defenceman Dan Girardi, signed free agent Kevin Shattenkirk and traded Derek Stepan to the Coyotes. They also shifted goalie Antti Raanta to Arizona, picking up defenceman Anthony DeAngelo and forward Lias Andersson in the process.
Mats Zuccarello put together a 59-point campaign in 2016-2017 and seems a reliable fit for the 60-point mark, give or take. He posted 15 goals, a major step back from his 26-point season in 2015-2016, but he’s generally a safe bet for fantasy owners. The 29-year-old from Oslo is a terrific setup man and has learned to take a few shots on goal, so he could find more goals in 2017-2018.
Mika Zibanejad missed two months of his first season with New York due to injury, but he still scored 37 points in 56 games. The centre should chart for more in 2017-2018, especially now that he’s the undoubted top pivot. In Stepan’s absence, it’ll be up to Zibanejad to bring the points down the middle. And the Swedish forward is up to the task, with a well-rounded skillset to match his NHL-ready size.
Chris Kreider scored 28 goals last season for a total of 53 points in 75 games. He posted 186 shots on goal and averaged 17 minutes of ice time a game. In the post-season, Kreider was good for four points in a dozen games. The Boxford-born winger is speedy and should see some time on the top unit, which will line him up for another solid season.
24-year-old Jimmy Vesey made an impressive debut with the Rangers in 2016-2017, scoring 27 points in 81 games. New York is expecting more from him in 2017-2018 and he could take the reigns. The NCAA star was a minus-13 last season, but he averaged 13:38 of ice time a game and had 116 shots on goal. He has plenty of top-tier talent and can play in high traffic areas, so he might be worth a look for some fantasy owners.
The Rangers effectively doubled their offensive fortunes on the back end with the signing of Shattenkirk. The 28-year-old scored 13 goals for a total of 56 points last season between the St. Louis Blues and Washington Capitals. He averaged 19:56 of ice time a game and posted 161 shots on goal. He’s a slick transition skater and he’ll prove a robust addition on the power play, where he’ll likely pile up more points.
Captain Ryan McDonagh posted 42 points in 2016-2017, including six goals. He added seven points in a dozen playoff games and logged 27:20 of ice time in the post-season. The St. Paul native may see a dip in production on the power play due to Shattenkirk’s arrival, but he should benefit on the top pair and will see similar totals down the stretch.
Brady Skjei is in the final year of his entry level deal, so it’ll behoove him to put on a good show in 2017-2018. The 23-year-old had 39 points in 80 games last season and averaged 17:27 of ice time a game, with 127 shots on goal. He skates well and can play a shutdown role, but the book is still out on his offensive upside.
Henrik Lundqvist is still the king in New York, but that may change soon. The 35-year-old netminder saw a decline in save percentage as of late and posted a career-worst .910 save percentage last season, but he still won 31 games in 55 starts. He also only posted two shutouts, his lowest shutout total since his debut season.
Ondrej Pavelec was signed by the Rangers as a free agent and may absorb more starts than anticipated. He’ll replace Raanta in the backup role and will revel in the position after being waived by the Jets in October of 2016. He’s had to earn his way back to the NHL and appeared in just eight games last season. His second chance may come on Broadway.