Big training camp questions that will define the New York Rangers season (Part 1)

After months of speculating if or when the 2020-2021 season would begin, the New York Rangers find themselves days away from the start of training camp.

This iteration is going to be unlike any camp the coaching staff and the players have endured. A two-week process with no exhibition games that will lead right up to their Jan.14 opening night against the Islanders at MSG. 

The team’s success in making the Qualifiers last season becomes an added burden to the organization this season. In Part One of a Two Part series, I tackle some intriguing questions that should be addressed throughout training camp.

Is David Quinn Ready For His toughest season Behind The Bench?

Head coach David Quinn is entering his third season behind the bench. This season may be his most difficult with all the new faces, and some favorites no longer here. 

new york rangers training camp
Rangers bench boss, David Quinn – Getty Images

Replacing the likes of Jesper Fast, Marc Staal, and Henrik Lundqvist at the same time is a daunting task. The Blueshirts head coach was applauded for his efforts in handling the three goalie monster last season which eventually ended up with a buyout of the King.

This season Quinn will have to show he can handle one of the team’s most important pieces in their history. That is how to successfully transition Alexis Lafreniere to the NHL level without hurting the game that earned him the number one overall status.

Quinn touched on this endeavor last season with Kaapo Kakko, but he and the teams will need to do better this time around if the club wants to continue to build itself to a championship-caliber organization.

Where does Alexis Lafreniere fit in the lineup?

Lafreniere brings a new level of excitement and optimism to the Blueshirts this season.

Quinn has to find a balance where the 19-year old Lafreniere can find a comfort level without feeling like he is carrying the entire team on his shoulders. 

alexis lafreniere
NYR select Lafreniere (Getty Images)

In a regular 82 game season, the team could be extremely patient with their rookies and help guide them along the way. 

This season is far from regular, the team and the player will have to find their mojo early on if they want to exploit the offensive power he is certain to display early on in his career. In order for him to be at his best, the coaching staff will need to determine where to play him early on in the season and when is the best time be to unleash his raw talent?

Can Kaapo Kakko be the player that was drafted #2 overall?

Kaapo Kakko did not have the season he had hoped for when he arrived in New York. His 10 goals and 23 points in 66 games was just a shell of what his potential can be.

The 19-year-old came to the “Big Apple” last season seemingly overwhelmed and tired coming off an extraordinary large amount of hockey games played at the international level.

Kaapo Kakko
Kakko needs to shoot more – Getty Images

Kakko showed that he had the hockey smarts to succeed at the NHL level, but he seemed a step behind early in the season.

Now in his second Rangers training camp, Kakko needs to show his teammates and the organization he deserves to be on Broadway. He will need to show the great shot and skill that is needed to be a top-six forward in the league.

This training camp he and the coaching staff need to get him to drive to the net more, make quicker decisions, and stop overthinking while on the ice. The addition of Lafreniere should take some of that weight of his shoulders and allow him to be the player the team desperately is hoping to see.

Does Pavel Buchnevich Have More To Offer The Team?

Pavel Buchnevich is coming off a career-high in points (46) and his second-best season in goals scored (16) as he enters his fifth season in New York.

This preseason he has to find a way to get to the top of his game faster than he has done the previous four seasons. He has to find his scoring touch along with his defense skill early on so that Quinn can keep the line of Mika Zibanejad, Chris Kreider, and himself together as they are one of the most dynamic lines in the NHL over the last three seasons.

New York Rangers rumors
Pavel Buchnevich on the move (Getty Images)

Buchnevich is in the last year of his contract in which he will be a restricted free agent. Time is running out for him to prove he is worth a long-term extension with so much depth in the organization.

The 25-year-old will feel the pressure on him with players like Lafreniere and Kakko looking to grab a spot on the team’s top line. He will need to have an outstanding training camp to hold on to his position. Let’s not forget, Vitali Kravtsov is waiting in the wings.

Another slow start would be detrimental to the team overall and to his standing with the club on a personal level. He has to focus on his game and stop the defensive mistakes that have haunted him throughout his time with the team.

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