New York Rangers lineup projections for the 2023-24 season
After a frustrating preseason, it’s finally time to look ahead to the games that will count in the standings. Thankfully for the New York Rangers, their 1-5-0 record is back to even and ready for a fresh start when their season begins on October 12th.
After recent transactions, the 22 Rangers who will start the season are locked in. Brennan Othmann was sent down to the AHL Wolf Pack and both Jonny Brodzinski and Ben Harpur were placed on waivers for the purpose of assignment to the Pack as well. This means that Will Cuylle and Zac Jones have made the cut after impressive training camps.
New York Rangers lineup projections
Throughout training camp, there were many lineup combinations that were used, with some more promising than others. Let’s take a look at the projections for the Blueshirts opening night roster before they hit the road to take on the Buffalo Sabres.
We will begin with the four forward lines, followed by the defensive pairings, and finally the goalies.
Line 1: Kreider – Zibanejad – Kakko
This top line looks like a guarantee for the opening night lineup. While head coach Peter Laviolette experimented with numerous forwards to complement number one center Mika Zibanejad, the chemistry he has with Chris Kreider is undeniable. Kappo Kakko has looked great on this line as well, especially after seeing him score the lone tally for the Rangers versus Boston on Thursday.
Kakko feels comfortable in this role. “I feel we know what to do out there. I know my job. They know what I can do. I think it’s just easier for me. They trust me and let me do my job,” He explained after Thursday night’s game.
Line 2: Panarin – Chytil – Lafreniere
This line certainly has the most amount of question marks surrounding it coming into the regular season. Artemi Panarin is a lock on the left wing, that much is certain. We are still waiting for confirmation on the status of Filip Chytil, although signs are pointing to him being ready to go for the first game of the season. The biggest question mark here revolves around Alexis Lafreniere. The 21 year-old winger had just one assist through four exhibition games and registered a plus/minus of -4.
It is safe to say that the transition to the right wing has not been a smooth one thus far. That being said, Laviolette is committed to giving his younger players a top-six role. Lafreniere will get his fair chance in the regular season to prove himself. It will be interesting to see how long of a leash he has if the same kind of performances continues.
Line 3: Cuylle – Trocheck – Wheeler
This comes as one of the bigger surprises coming out of camp, as Will Cuylle has now officially made the roster. After a strong showing in the preseason with 2 goals and 3 points on 12 shots with a +1 rating, the 21 year-old forward seemingly forced his way onto the team. He will pair nicely with Vincent Trocheck who is coming off a solid 64 point season for the Rangers. Having a seasoned veteran in Blake Wheeler on the line will also help Cuylle learn and adjust to consistent big league action.
Line 4: Vesey – Bonino – Goodrow
To round off the forward group is a very solid fourth line. New addition Nick Bonino brings a ton of experience and leadership to the team. He is a solid shut down forward who can also generate offense at times and knows what it takes to win championships. Barclay Goodrow and Jimmy Vesey will work nicely on the wings here.
Tyler Pitlick may start the season as the Ranger’s 13th forward, however, he also had a very strong training camp. With Goodrow having experience at both wing and center, it would not be out of the question to see a fourth line of Vesey – Goodrow – Pitlick at some point during the season.
1st pair: Lindgren – Fox
While Laviolette experimented with many defensive pairings throughout the preseason, the chemistry between Ryan Lindgren and Adam Fox cannot be overlooked. There is a reason these two have been so successful over the last several years. Expect this to be the Ranger’s top defensive pairing once again.
2nd pair: Miller – Trouba
Similar to the first defensive pairing, K’Andre Miller and Jacob Trouba have had undeniable success since they have been together. The two big-bodied defensemen will most likely remain a unit coming into this season. Laviolette tried these two with several partners throughout preseason. Despite this, it will probably be business as usual on opening night.
3rd pair: Gustafsson – Schneider
Erik Gustafsson has had a very strong training camp, earning himself a spot on the third defensive pairing. The puck-moving defenseman has impressed since reuniting with Laviollete, scoring 1 goal and 2 assists along with a +2 rating. Braden Schneider will have another veteran defenseman alongside him to learn from as he continues to mature into a top-pair player.
Zac Jones will be the 7th defenseman to start the year. He had a strong camp as well. There was a lot of speculation as to whether or not the Rangers would trade him since he was not waivers exempt. They have decided to hold onto him and he will get the first call if changes are needed.
This goes without saying. Igor Shesterkin will need to be the backbone of the Rangers once again. The Vezina-winning goaltender made 42 saves on 46 shots in the preseason registering a .913 save percentage and a 1.88 goals against average.
The play of Jonathan Quick has some fans concerned. The veteran netminder had 46 saves on 57 shots for a save percentage of .807 and a goals against average of 5.08. The Rangers definitely will want to see his play improve once he is called upon in the regular season.
New York Rangers Special Teams
This may be the biggest area of concern coming into the regular season for the Rangers. After seeing multiple combinations of special teams, here are the projected units for opening night.
Powerplay unit 1: Kreider – Trocheck – Panarin – Zibanejad – Fox
Powerplay unit 2: Chytil – Wheeler – Lafreniere – Kakko – Miller
Penalty kill unit 1: Kreider – Zibanejad – Lindgren – Fox
Penalty kill unit 2: Bonino – Goodrow- Miller – Trouba
In the preseason, the Ranger’s penalty kill was 60% going 6-15, last in the NHL. The powerplay was 4.8% going 1-21, second to last in the league. There is quite a bit of room for improvement in this aspect. Expect the team to work hard on this leading up to opening night.