First Line Season Recap and Grades
The line of Chris Kreider, Derek Stepan and Mats Zuccarello was together for just 12% of the Rangers 2016-17 campaign, but when they were, they were very effective. The distribution of Stepan, who racked up 38 assists during the regular season, the speed of Kreider and the playmaking and vision of Zuccarello, who himself had 44 helpers, made this line very dynamic. Each player went through their personal hot and cold streaks, but when the Rangers were in need of a goal, this line was almost always on the ice.
Mats Zuccarello – The diminutive Norwegian forward continued his stellar play on Broadway, with a 59-point season including 44 helpers. Zuuc was one of the most consistent point producers all year, racking up the assists despite a 14-game goal scoring drought. In the postseason, Zuccarello posted seven points in the Rangers 12 playoff games. Grade: A-
Derek Stepan – It was not the type of season the Rangers, or their alternate captain would have liked from the 26-year-old center. Stepan was third on the team in points during the regular season with 55 but really struggled after the All-Star break putting up just 18 points over the final ten weeks of the regular season. And those struggles continued into the postseason. Stepan picked up six points in the playoffs but was a -3 overall and a -4 against the Senators. Stepan has been amongst some of the discussion about players potentially leaving Broadway in the offseason. He has a full no-trade clause that kicks in before the 2017-18 season. So, if Jeff Gorton does find a team willing to take the native Minnesotan, it would have to be before the season starts.Grade: B-
Chris Kreider – After a boiling hot start to the season, Kreider cooled down a little bit, but could make his presence felt on almost a nightly basis. The power forward posted career highs in both goals and points, with 28 and 53, respectively. But as positive as Kreider’s regular season was, his postseason was just as unforgettable. He picked up just four points in the Blueshirts twelve playoff games, only one of which came against the Canadiens in the first round. Overall, it was a very good year for the Boston College alum. But his struggles in the postseason took his season from a career year, to just a very good year. Grade: B+
With the possibility of Derek Stepan leaving Broadway this offseason, this could be the last time these three long-time Rangers are dressed in the red, white and blue together. Stepan has had many memorable with the Blueshirts: the first NHL game hat-trick back in 2010, his penalty shot goal at Yankee Stadium, and of course the game seven winner to eliminate the Capitals in 2015. If this indeed was Stepan’s final year at MSG, he will leave the Blueshirts having played 515 regular season games, an additional 97 post season games, and 24th on the franchise’s all-time points list with 360. Stepan is a very solid centerman, and if the Rangers decide to move him, will get back something of value.