New York Rangers left wing options for 2022-23
Our examination of the New York Rangers roster for the upcoming season continues with a look at left wings.
Yesterday, we took a deep dive on the options for the Blueshirts at right wing. The key factor there is the likely switch of Alexis Lafreniere moving from his natural left side to the first line with Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider.
If that move wasn’t on the table, this would be a pretty short and straightforward article.
Everyone knows that Kreider and Artemi Panarin are locked on the left of the top six. That leaves a serious battle for how the bottom six will shake out.
Let’s dive in.
New York Rangers lineup: LW
Gerard Gallant has it pretty easy at left wing, at least for the first two lines.
Kreider scored 52 goals last year and Panarin is a lock for at least 90 points in a full season. Things do become much harder when trying to determine the best mix for the third and fourth lines. That’s where players like Barclay Goodrow, Sammy Blais, Dryden Hunt, and possibly Will Cuylle will battle for two spots.
Panarin, 30, set career highs for assists (74) and points (96) in 75 games during the 2021-22 campaign. While he isn’t listed as the team’s top line LW, Panarin is undoubtedly their best offensive player.
Scoring has never been an issue for the talented winger, who makes everyone around him better. It can be argued that he elevated Ryan Strome to new heights, but this season he has a new center in Vincent Trocheck. It will take time for them to gain some chemistry together and when it does they should feed off each other well.
Kreider, 31, recorded 52 goals (tied with Adam Graves second all-time) and 25 assists for 77 points in 81 games. He also broke the team’s single-season record for most power play goals (26) and game-winning goals (11).
Expectations are high for the veteran entering his 11th season on Broadway. It’s unlikely he’ll hit 50 goals this upcoming season. However, it’s certainly possible if Lafrenière comes into his own on that line that he’ll hit 40 goals. So long as Zibanejad is his main set up man Kreider will be a force for the Rangers.
How will the bottom six left wings shake out?
I mentioned earlier in the article that the battle for the final two left wing spots would come down to four players.
Goodrow, 29, has been a great fit for the New York Rangers after a trade and sign last summer. In 79 games, he recorded 13 goals, 20 assists, for 33 points. All being career highs for the rugged forward. His presence in the lineup was instrumental in a very young team’s ability to take a giant leap forward that led to a trip to the Eastern Conference Final.
The reason I believe Goodrow takes the spot on the third line is to support Filip Chytil for defensive face-offs. However, I could see a scenario where both Blais and Cuylle may make the starting lineup sending Goodrow to center the fourth line.
Blais was part of the return from the St. Louis Blues in the unpopular trade of Pavel Buchnevich. Unfortunately, he only got to play in 14 games with the Rangers after tearing his ACL back in November.
The 26 year-old posted 4 assists in those contests, but showed excellent passing ability to go along with his penchant for heavy hitting. He signed a one-year deal this summer and the Rangers must see what they have in the youngster.
Hunt, 26, performed admirably for the Rangers when called upon last season. Which was probably far too often.
A solid forechecker that looks great with limited minutes on the fourth line was thrusted into middle six minutes when Kaapo Kakko and Sammy Blais went down with injuries. The forward is in the final year of a cap friendly deal with an AAV of $762,500. I believe he has a good shot to play as the extra forward in 2022-23.
New York traded away Lias Andersson to the Los Angeles Kings in order to select the 6-3, 212 lbs forward in second round of the 2020 Draft.
Cuylle, 20, posted 43 goals and 80 points in 50 games for the OHL’s Windsor Spitfires. He added another 15 goals and 31 points in 25 playoff games. In 7 games at the World Junior Championship in August, he posted 4 points to help Canada capture Gold.
There’s a chance that Cuylle could have such an impressive camp that the team won’t be able to send him down right away. Still, I believe the best place for him is in Hartford for a full season, then a chance to play more minutes on the third line in 2024.
Here’s how I see the Rangers left wing slots filling out:
- Chris Kreider
- Artemi Panarin
- Barclay Goodrow
- Sammy Blais
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