Panarin and Trouba lead revamped Rangers powerplay
The Rangers have taken the term ‘rebuild’ and turned it upside down. Essentially turning around their roster, coaching staff, prospect pool and even the front office into a whole new franchise in a matter of a year and a half. If the Rangers can compete next season is the rebuild over? Would it be considered the fast rebuild in league history?
Personally, there is no way this rebuild is over after year one with all the growing pains and development that needs to occur for the younger guys, but a big step into competing for the playoffs once again will most likely be led by a new and improved powerplay.
The Rangers’ powerplay wasn’t awful last season, but it wasn’t amazing either. Sticking in the middle of the pack at 17th in the league with a modest 19.4% conversion rate (44 goals in 227 attempts), the Blueshirts could use some improvement for the man advantage. As for the players’ individual contributions, the best powerplay contributor was none other than Mika Zibanejad. With 11 powerplay goals and 23 total powerplay points, Zibanejad showed some slight improvement from the previous year where he plotted 21 on the powerplay. Compared to the rest of the league, Mika was tied for 38th in powerplay points.
Given the success rate of the rest of the Rangers’ roster on the powerplay, this is a good position to be in. In case you’re wondering, the next two players that lead in scoring on the PP were Zuccarello with 14 points and Neal Pionk with 13 and we all know where they are now. Don’t fret, the Rangers have the answers to these missing contributors.
Changing of the Rearguard
Officially, as of the first day of August, Kevin Shattenkirk was bought out by the New York Rangers. This doesn’t bode well for the powerplay at all, does it? Although he only had 7 points on the PP, the offensive hit the Rangers will take on the man-advantage will still be a significant one, but it will not be a lasting one.
With additions of right-handed shots in Jacob Trouba and Adam Fox, who were both acquired via trade this offseason, it’s safe to say that the loss of Shatty might be forgotten by Rangers fans awfully quick. Trouba managed to accumulate 50 points (8G, 42A) for the season, which is good for 13th in the league for defensemen. His 18 points (3G, 15A) on the powerplay doesn’t seem significant compared to the four players ahead of him, but looking closer it becomes clearer that he is a force on the man advantage.
Compared to the next best powerplay producer, Kyle Connor (11G, 8A), Trouba surprisingly contributed at a better rate during his attempts on the PP. Connor, along with Patrik Laine, Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler all played over 285 minutes on the powerplay, with Wheeler almost hitting 300. Trouba only played 169 minutes, over 117 minutes LESS than Conner and only trailed him by 2 points. Now we all can say that this is a product of his teammates and that the Jets’ powerplay is significantly better than the Rangers (4th in the league with 25.9%) but Trouba will be in some good company with his new team so the drop off might not be as bad as you may think.
One of those new teammates is Artemi Panarin. Panarin was in the same boat in Columbus that Mika Zibanejad was in with the Rangers. With one of the worst powerplay units in the league during the regular season with a dreadful 15.4% success rate, it’s a surprise Columbus not just beat but swept the best team in the NHL last year. Panarin led his team with 18 points on the powerplay (6G, 12A) and a total of 221 minutes on the ice during those man advantages. Columbus scored a total of 34 powerplay goals during the regular season. 52.9% of those goals Panarin was involved in, and this is only including goals and assists. Panarin has only played 4 seasons in the NHL, two with Chicago and two with Columbus.
During that span, Panarin amassed 320 points in 322 games in which 80 of those 320 have come on the powerplay (30G/50A). A successful player on the powerplay, he’ll fit right in with two rising stars in Trouba and Zibanejad. The sought-after breadman will only need to focus on scoring as both Zib and Trouba feed him pucks.
The Young Gun
Unless the NHL rules changed and all powerplays are 3-on-2, this first unit will need to be rounded out with a few more pieces. Enter the 2nd overall pick, Kaapo Kakko. Many fans believe that Kakko will not just slot into the top 6 immediately, but also the first powerplay unit. His last season for TPS in Liiga, Kakko was 4th in powerplay points with 14 (7G,7A), which was good for 36.8% of his total points that season.
Kakko is the most exciting prospect the Rangers have had in recent memory and poised to be a Calder candidate off the bat, the excitement surrounding this Finnish man-child is well deserved. With his overall size, protection of the puck and creative playmaking, Kakko will help solidify his spot in that first unit game in and game out. There’s a reason he was picked 2nd overall, and the whole league will see why soon enough.
A Fox in Quinn’s Henhouse
This just leaves the last and final piece for David Quinn’s new and improved powerplay. This last piece is slightly tricky and could really depend on how Quinn wants to run his powerplay going into this next season. We could see 4 forwards-1 defensemen, which is typical for a powerplay in the NHL, or we can see the return of 3 forwards-2 defensemen.
So controversial! So outrageous! Unbelievable!
But why not? And why not have two right-handed defensemen on the powerplay at once. If you were already thinking about this guy, then more brownie points for you. Adam Fox could impress the Rangers’ coaching staff to the point that he can be the next powerplay quarterback of this team; Yes, the same team that always promises that they have their next powerplay QB (for references please see Dan Boyle, Keith Yandle and Kevin Shattenkirk).
Fox was the top-scoring player in the NCAA with a whopping 1.45 points per game average. There’s a reason Jeff Gorton traded for his rights and immediately signed him. His play was unmatched this season and he was the first Junior d-man to surpass 100 points for his college career since Justin Schultz did it back in the 2011-12 season with Wisconsin. With the Rangers still in full rebuild mode, this is the perfect opportunity to have Fox show the league what he’s got.
Seriously, go watch some highlights of this kid, he is a great playmaker and knows how to run the PP. He may not be perfect right out of the gate, but it’ll be better for him to get the growing pains out of the way when the Rangers are still out of playoff contention than when they need him most.
The Rangers powerplay always seemed underwhelming. You didn’t get the feeling of ‘oh man they’re gonna score’ each time an opposing player got called to the box but this time it’s different. With a legitimate sniper in Panarin, a dynamic playmaker in Zibanejad, a promising young winger in Kaako, an experienced powerplay d-man in Trouba and a future powerplay quarterback in Fox, teams will be scared to take a penalty.