Don’t Sleep On The 2018-19 New York Rangers
Heading into their first full season after being sellers, many expect the Rangers to flop big time. Flopping would mean missing the playoffs by a large margin and continuing the rebuild well into next offseason. However, with young prospects getting their shot and the handful of NHL guys on the roster to start the season, this Rangers team is one that can shock the world.
Starting off with the man who has been the backbone of this team for the past decade, Henrik Lundqvist is still the man that we all fell in love with from the start. I highly doubt that Hank will have any fall off, given what he’s shown over the past few years. The King still has it, and with Alexandar Georgiev expected to be the full-time backup this season, Lundqvist will probably be relied upon less than usual throughout the 2018-19 season.
Moving on to the Rangers forward group, there are a lot of intriguing things to consider. For starters, the Rangers should have a strong core of NHL-experienced guys who know what it’s like to play multiple seasons in New York. Guys like, Chris Kreider, Mats Zuccarello, Pavel Buchnevich, Mika Zibanejad, Jesper Fast and even Vladislav Namestnikov, who signed a two-year contract on July 1, have all shown that they can produce on a high-level.
All of this is great, but the Rangers still have RFAs in their forward group that need to be dealt with. Kevin Hayes, for instance, who is still an RFA, put up career numbers last season and if/when he re-signs, those numbers are expected to keep on climbing. The same can be said for Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad, two guys that are expected to play at a high level throughout the season and lead the pack up front. For Mats Zuccarello, the trade rumors seemingly have slowed down, and we know what he brings to the table each and every game. Heart and the will to win, which all of these guys will be determined to bring next season while playing with a young squad.
Defensively is where the Rangers can see some possible changes, along with some unknowns. What’s known is that Brady Skjei, once re-signed, and Kevin Shattenkirk will lead the way, along with veteran Marc Staal. The rest of the defense will be established in training camp, and the Rangers have plenty of young guys to choose from, along with some veterans like Brendan Smith. Young guys that saw some playing time at the end of last season who could be in the lineup in October include John Gilmour, Rob O’Gara, Tony DeAngelo and Neal Pionk, who stood out the most at the end of last season. Some more defensive help also came in free agency, as the Rangers signed former Ottawa Senator Fredrik Claesson, who is just 25-years-old. The defense for the Rangers, which has been suspect over the last few seasons, is definitely the biggest question mark heading into this season.
Lastly, the recent acquisitions by the Rangers can give this team the push they need. 2017 first-round picks Lias Andersson and Filip Chytil should be with the Rangers for a full season. These guys got called up for the last handful of games last season and have Rangers fans really excited about what they can do over a full season. Andersson and Chytil lead a pack of prospects that could easily get their shot at the opening night roster if they show up big in training camp. Guys like Ryan Lindgren, Brett Howden, Libor Hajek, Ty Ronning and many more can potentially give the Rangers the firepower they need.
I like to look at these young guys in the best way possible, and in doing so I compare this upcoming year for the Rangers like the Golden Knights of just last year. A few veterans leading the pack, but mostly young guys who haven’t been given a shot to reach their full potential at a high level. Not saying the Rangers are going to come anywhere close to a Stanley Cup Final, but it’s just a nice way to think of this upcoming season.