Early Prediction: New York Rangers opening night roster
The Rangers 1st exhibition game is Sept 27th and 1st regular season game is on Oct 13th (both against the Islanders at MSG). Which means the roster above could change via a signing and/or trade…so let’s just pencil this one and discuss.
It’s becoming increasingly unlikely that Rick Nash will be traded before the season starts, and that’s a good thing. After trading Derick Brassard, the Rangers have one less proven scorer in the lineup. Now don’t get me wrong, Mika Zibanejad could exceed Brassard’s scoring ability but he may also struggle to match it.
There is a possibility for balancing purposes that Mats Zuccarello and J.T. Miller could switch lines. As of right now, the first two lines should look close to what is above on opening night. The key to the second line is going to be Chris Kreider. He has to become more consistent and break the 30 goal plateau.
The most interesting aspect of the Rangers forwards is their bottom six. If Pavel Buchnevich can be a 40 point player and Kevin Hayes be more reliable defensively, the Rangers could surprise many teams in the East. Michael Grabner will play a key role on that line as its defensive conscience. His speed will be needed to likely cover up quite a few Buchnevich defensive gaffs.
On the 4th line, I believe Josh Jooris will start at center until Oscar Lindberg recovers from hip surgery. Jesper Fast will be the mainstay on that unit all year, plus could be double shifted in games where Buchnevich looks lost defensively. When Lindberg returns, I believe Jooris will earn the wing spot and Gerbe will be the Rangers extra forward.
Finally, I expect Tanner Glass to be in Hartford and Nicklas Jensen to get a crack at the 4th line early in the year.
On The Back End
Dan Girardi can have a rebound season. Jeff Gorton and the rest of the staff have publicly stated their support for him too. Here’s the problem, if they play him as a top pairing defensemen, they are not doing him or themselves any favors. However, as the defense is currently constituted it really looks like he will start with Ryan McDonagh.
When it comes to the 2nd unit, Kevin Klein is rock solid. If the Rangers are truly going to be successful, Marc Staal needs to find his game from 2014. It’s just that simple. The odds of both Staal and Girardi finding their old selves is unlikely.
As far as the third pair, Brady Skjei will likely be a lock to play all season and will probably move up during the year. McIlrath will get his shot and likely platoon with Nick Holden early on. The bottom line is this, the player who outshines the other will get the most playing time going forward.
And In Goal…
Henrik Lundqvist. That is all.
Oh, and Antti Raanta is a good back up. There are no problems for the Rangers in net. Tell me what I got right or wrong in the comments section below.