The Rangers tilt against the Colorado Avalanche may or may not have been their last game of the season. Depending on the trajectory of the COVID-19 outbreak, we could see the season resume or even though unlikely cancelled in its entirety.
But just as we would at a normal season’s end, now is a good time to evaluate some of the teams best players. Here are some awards for the 2019-20 New York Rangers.
Most Improved – Pavel Buchnevich
This was a tough one to award. So many Rangers had better seasons this season than in prior seasons. Filip Chytil was a good candidate since he reached his same point total as last year but in 15 fewer games. But at the end of the day, it has to be Buchnevich.
Buchnevich has 46 points right now, a career high. If the season were to continue normally then he would be looking at between 50 and 55 points based on his current projection. But eclipsing his career high is not why he wins most improved.
Yes, Buchnevich did have some moments where he looked lost or undisciplined. However, no player had worse puck luck this season than Pavel. Game after game we could see his visual frustration as he would get prime opportunities without being able to capitalize. This luck has turned around a bit recently. But if Buchnevich capitalized on even just half of those prime chances he has had, he is looking at closer to 60 or 65 points.
Buchnevich seemed to find the right areas of the ice all season and was just extremely unlucky most of the time. But his offensive positioning and surpassing of his career-high point total make him worthy of Most Improved.
Best Rookie – Adam Fox
This should not come as surprise whatsoever. Adam Fox has been absolutely fabulous this season and deserves to be in the Calder conversation. Not to win it, but to at least receive votes.
Fox played in every game this season, scoring 42 points. That is an 82-game pace of almost 50. The Rangers knew how good Fox could be offensively, but I don’t think anyone expected to see how good he was defensively. He was legitimately one of the Blueshirts best offensive AND defensive defensemen.
Whether it was a two one one, fast break, or just board play in the D-zone, Fox had no difficulty making the right play to keep the puck out of the net. He broke up a remarkable number of odd man rushes this season and really solidified himself as one of our best blueliners.
But then offensively, he was ridiculous. In my years of watching hockey, I am not sure I have ever seen a player with better ice vision than Fox. He can make any play or any pass from anywhere on the ice and doesn’t even have to look to know where his teammates are. It is like he has eyes attached to every area on the ice and in the stands because he knows where everyone is always.
Adam Fox is, without a doubt, the winner of the Best Rookie award. Kakko showed flashes and Lindgren was solid, but there is no debate here.
Best Goalie – Igor Shesterkin
This is a tough one simply because of playing time. Obviously Shesterkin is the Rangers’ best netminder. However he started the fewest games this season. If he had started just a few games fewer than he did, I would say he just didn’t play enough to win the award over Alexandar Georgiev. But with 12 starts in the books, I think that’s enough to give him the award. Besides, Shesterkin’s play was a primary reason that the Rangers made a late season playoff push.
In those 12 games, Igor went 10-2 with a 2.52 GAA and a .932 save percentage. What is even more impressive is that 6 of those 12 games were against teams currently in a playoff position. He went 5-1 in those 6 games. Prior to being injured in a car accident, he was 5-0 against non-playoff teams.
Based on these numbers, I think it is appropriate to label Igor Shesterkin as the Rangers’ best goalie of 2019-20.
MVP – Artemi Panarin (Honorable Mention – Mika Zibanejad)
This was an exceptionally difficult call to make. Panarin has 95 points in 69 games, an 82-game pace of 112. Zibanejad has 75 points in 57 games, an 82-game pace of 107.
The difference, however, is that Panarin was likely going to reach that projection or come close to it. With Zibanejad having missed games early in the season, he was not going to come close to his projection. If you consider the games remaining in the calculation, Zibanejad would only be projected to score around 90 to 95 points. This number is still amazing considering his time missed, but it is not the 112 that Panarin was on pace for.
Panarin is a top five player in the league. Yes, TOP-FIVE. This man can do anything. He is a fantastic skater and a great shooter, but most importantly he is the best passer I have ever seen. He can make the most ridiculous connections with ease, especially in the offensive and neutral zones. Expect at least 120 points next season.
Best Performance – Mika Zibanejad’s 5 Goals against the Caps 3/5/20
This is the easiest decision by far. Enjoy.