New York Rangers could be one of the NHL’s best surprises

panarin fox
Nov 7, 2019; Raleigh, NC, USA; New York Rangers defenseman Adam Fox (23) is congratulated by center Artemi Panarin (10) and right wing Kaapo Kakko (24) after scoring a third period empty net goal against the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena. The Rangers won 4-2. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

As the 2021-22 NHL season draws near, training camps will be opening. The New York Rangers are already looking like one of the more intriguing teams to watch.

Sure, the usual favorites are taking center stage with the oddsmakers for the Stanley Cup.

The Colorado Avalanche, Vegas Golden Knights, and Tampa Bay Lightning lead the pack of top Cup contenders. They are followed by teams like the New York Islanders, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Carolina Hurricanes to name a few.

However; the Blueshirts could surprise us all.

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New York Rangers will be tougher to play against

The Rangers will certainly be tougher, but will they be better?

On top of firing coach David Quinn and hiring Gerard Gallant, the Rangers traded for Barclay Goodrow (from Tampa Bay) and Ryan Reaves (Vegas), which certainly adds grit. They also had to trade RFA, Pavel Buchnevich to the St. Louis Blues for more cap space, so that’s a big offensive weapon gone.

“He’s a guy that we targeted and obviously went out and made a deal with Tampa early to get a jump on it,” Drury said of Goodrow via “I think he’s pretty versatile. I could see him do all different things for Gerard (Gallant), whether that’s more time in the middle, whether it’s face-offs in the d-zone. But we think he’s got a pretty complete game. He’s going be able to help a lot of different areas.”

Adding Goodrow not only strengthened the team’s bottom six, it diversified the way they will play. The additions of Sammy Blais and Ryan Reaves further speak to that. When the top two lines jump over the boards, teams will scurry to get their defensive specialists out there. When the opposition sends out their top lines, they are likely to be met with a lot more crash and bang than they are used to playing the Blueshirts. This revamped roster fits perfectly with what Gerard Gallant likes to do.

New York still boast the talents of superstars, Adam Fox on defense, along with Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad at forward. Yet, they will sorely need their young talent to produce secondary scoring. They also have plenty of cap space to add a top line forward if they choose.

It seems unlikely at this time they will add another expensive player to the lineup before the season starts via a trade. The Rangers are likely better off waiting to see what they have before making a move.

Blueshirts have high end prospects

Lafrenière finished last year with 21 points in 56 games but managed 13 of those points in the final 25 games of the season. He also scored 8 of his 12 goals in the team’s final 23 games. That strong finish has new coach Gerard Gallant considering him for a top six role, either at left or right wing.

“I’m definitely hoping for that,” Gallant answered a question regarding if Alexis will play on one of the top two lines. “I’ll talk to the kid and sees where he feels most comfortable playing and try to get him over there. You can put him with different lines and different people. I don’t think he’s got one spot where he wants to play – he’s like any other kid, he wants to play a lot.”

New York Rangers
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Kaapo Kakko was selected second overall in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. The 6-3 winger is now 20 years of age and must take a giant leap forward in his development. He finished the 2020-21 campaign with 17 points on the strength of 8 goals in 48 games.

“Of course I would like more points,” Kakko told YLE News. “When I played in Finland, it was all working for me. Now the last few seasons (in the NHL) have been quieter for me.” Still, Kakko views last year as a step in the right direction. “I’m pleased with [how I played]. I was able to improve my game.”

The Rangers defense will finally get to see young Nils Lundkvist next season, but the most important blue-liner to the team’s success may be K’Andre Miller.

There is no denying that Miller had an amazing rookie season. It all culminated for the 21 year-old budding star with a spot on the NHL’s All-Rookie Team. In his first season fresh out of college he recored 12 points, a +9 rating in 53 games while averaging 21:07 a game.

If these three young stars all elevate their play, and Vitali Kravtsov along with Filip Chytil make strides, this Rangers team is extremely dangerous.

The Czar; Igor Shesterkin

Igor Shesterkin, who just signed a 4 year extension needs to play to his potential. The Rangers have enough talent to make the playoffs and do some damage, but will need the 25 year-old to take it to the next level.

This past season, he made 35 appearances wan won 16 of those games. Shesterkin was tied for 7th in the NHL in SV% (.916), and 11th in GAA (2.62) for all goalies having played at least 25 games. When you use that same minimum games played among rookies, Shesterkin was the top backstop in SV% and ranked second in GAA to only Dallas Stars netminder Jake Oettinger (2.36).

The Czar owns a 26-16-3 record with two shutouts, a 2.59 GAA and .921 save percentage in 47 career games with the Rangers. It will be those kind of numbers and better that can get the Rangers to contention.

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Anthony Scultore is the founder of Forever Blueshirts and has been covering the New York Rangers and the NHL... More about Anthony Scultore

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