Predicting The 2018-19 New York Rangers Roster

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The New York Rangers are going to look very different next season both upfront and on the blueline. As you all know, the rebuild is starting soon and many big names will be moved out within the next few months. We’ve written about it quite a bit on the site but today we’re going to look at the ideal Rangers lineup for next season. Now full disclosure: this lineup isn’t based on any rumors or inside info that I have. It’s simply ideas that I have that I think would set the Rangers up best for future success.

We begin with the three trades that will be the basis of our new Rangers lineup. Ryan McDonagh, Rick Nash, and Mats Zuccarello are all traded and have new homes for the playoffs. Michael Grabner and Nick Holden are as well but consider the returns on both of them mid-round picks. Those two aren’t as highly sought after as three aforementioned players, so we’ll begin with Ryan McDonagh.

Ryan McDonagh traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning for defenseman Mikhail Sergachev and a Second Round Pick in 2018

If Tampa Bay wants McDonagh as much as rumors say they do, this is the offer that will get them the Rangers captain. This is a better offer than anything Boston could offer the Rangers because it’s no secret that Long Island native Charlie McAvoy isn’t going anywhere, and neither is David Pastrnak. Sergachev is one of the game’s premier young defensemen, and at just 19 years of age, would be one of the Rangers building blocks for the future and would be our workhorse number one defenseman in just a few seasons.

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Sergachev has eight goals and 22 assists this season for a total of 30 points in 56 games. He’s on the second power-play unit in Tampa Bay and has extremely smart hockey sense. He was highly touted coming out of juniors and the kid has everything to succeed in this league as a number one defensemen. Next season, Sergachev could see top pair minutes but he would most likely stick to the second pair as he filled out more and continued his development. Sergachev would almost certainly see first unit power-play minutes as well.

On Tampa Bay’s side of things, they acquire one of the best shutdown defensemen in the NHL today and a pairing of McDonagh and Victor Hedman would help Tampa Bay compete for the cup for the next few season. It hurts their future a bit since McDonagh is older than Sergachev, but if McDonagh helps them win a cup, I’m sure GM Steve Yzerman and the fans won’t be too upset.

Mats Zuccarello traded to the Winnipeg Jets for prospect Kristian Vesalainen and a First Round Pick in 2018

Now I know this one hurts also folks. Zuccarello is one of the most beloved players on this Rangers roster but if the Rangers could get this offer out of the Jets, they have to jump on it. Zuccarello is a skilled player, no doubt about it, but the upside of Vesalainen is too good to pass up here. This trade was arguably the hardest for me to think of out of the big three the Rangers are thinking of trading, but this trade arguably makes the most sense for both squads.

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The Rangers get a big-bodied player with a massive amount of offensive upside. Vesalainen has already won an SHL title and was the most impressive player at the U18 World Junior Championships back in 2017. His development has taken a massive leap this season as he has 38 points in 42 games for his team HPK in Finland’s top hockey league, Liiga. He only had six goals spread amongst the three teams he played for last season. Oh and he’s only 18 years old.

I could see Vesalainen stepping into a role with the Rangers as early as next season. Where would he fit on the team? Middle six would probably be the best spot for him to land as he would need to get accustomed to the North American ice surface. But make no mistake, with time, Vesalainen is a top-six player for the Rangers and depending on how quickly he adjusts, it could be next season.

On Winnipeg’s side of things, they get one of the craftiest playmakers in the league and arguably become the team with the deepest and scariest forward corps in the league. They would now have a top six of Blake Wheeler, Mark Scheifele, Patrik Laine, Nikolaj Ehlers, Mats Zuccarello and Bryan Little. That top six has it all. Skill, size, and speed dominate that lineup and if we look even further their third line blossoms as well. Mathieu Perrault, Kyle Connor, and Andrew Copp make a great third line. The Jets are already looking like a scary team this season, but with Zuccarello, they would be that much better in their quest for the Stanley Cup.

Rick Nash traded to the Nashville Predators for Eeli Tolvanen (Rangers retain 50% salary for Nash)

Now this one is fun to think about. Tolvanen is one of the best prospects in the game and is currently tearing it up at the Olympics where he has six points in two games. He is also having a breakout year for Jokerit in the KHL, where he has 17 goals and 17 assists for 34 points in 47 games. And by the way, he’s only 18 years old.

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You’ll notice there’s no pick included with this trade and that’s for good reason here. Tolvanen is one of the best prospects in the world and the Rangers should consider themselves lucky if Nashville is willing to part with him for Nash. That being said, Nash is no slouch at all and would instantly make the Predators better at forward and would give GM David Poile that big winger he is looking for at the deadline.

Tolvanen would be on the Rangers roster next year and could possibly see top line minutes. The kid is an absolute stud and for a teenager to be making the impact he is in the KHL is extremely impressive. This is a player who would be an excellent addition to the team and would be one of our top players in the future. I’m talking first power-play minutes and giving the Rangers a player with that fear factor that opponents would have to respect every time he steps on the ice.

On Nashville’s side of things, their top six gets beefed up with the addition of Nash and he would make an imposing presence on a line with Filip Forsberg and Ryan Johansen. That line would be one of the scariest in the league and would further increase Nashville’s chances of winning the Stanley Cup. A top six of Rick Nash, Kevin Fiala, Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen, Viktor Arvidsson and Kyle Turris is scary and would be great for Nashville to have going into the playoffs.

But wait there’s more!

With Zuccarello, McDonagh, Nash, Grabner, and Holden off the team by the deadline, the team calls up the young kids and the growing pains begin and the losses build up. The Rangers fall in the standings but there is hope for the future as they get a top-five pick in the draft lottery. For argument’s sake, they don’t receive the first overall because let’s face it, they aren’t going to be that bad. So who does Jeff Gorton pick with their top five pick? Thankfully there is a bevy of good options.

With a high end pick the Rangers select either Filip Zadina, Andrei Svechnikov or Brady Tkachuk. Any of those three guys would be welcome on the team and all three have amazing potential to do great things in this league. Zadina and Svechnikov are snipers through and through and getting to play with Zibanejad, Chytil or Andersson is tantalizing as those three can set up plays for them. Zadina is currently with the Halifax Mooseheads of the QMJHL where he has 35 goals and 28 assists for 63 points in 44 games. Zadina also played with Filip Chytil at the World Junior Championships on the top line for the Czech Republic, where Zadina had eight points (7G, A), while Chytil had four points (2G, 2A) in the seven games of the tournament. Svechnikov is currently with the Barrie Colts of the OHL where he has 30 goals and 18 assists for 48 points in 32 games.

Tkachuk was an absolute standout at this year’s world junior championship in Buffalo, and although he isn’t the sniper that Svechnikov or Zadina is, his value is in the ability to be hard on the puck and make his physical presence known. This isn’t to say that he can’t score goals, but he is a different type of player than the other two are. Basically, he’s an upgraded version of his brother Matthew, who currently plays for the Calgary Flames. Brady currently attends and plays for Boston University where has 7 goals and 16 assists for 23 points in 30 games.

The 2018-19 New York Rangers

Without further ado, here is the ideal lineup for the New York Rangers next season.

Forwards

Pavel Buchnevich – Mika Zibanejad – Eeli Tolvanen

Chris Kreider – Filip Chytil – Zadina/Svechnikov/Tkachuk

Kristian Vesalainen – Kevin Hayes – J.T. Miller

Jesper Fast – Lias Andersson – Jimmy Vesey

Defense

Brady Skjei – Kevin Shattenkirk

Mikhail Sergachev – Neal Pionk

John Gilmour – Tony DeAngelo

Goalies

Henrik Lundqvist

Ondrej Pavelec

Yes, this team is extremely young and will have some growing pains going forward. The important thing here is that there are some veterans mixed in to show the young guys the ropes in Mika Zibanejad, Chris Kreider, Kevin Hayes, J.T. Miller, Brady Skjei, Kevin Shattenkirk and of course Henrik Lundqvist.

There are more questions of course: will Chytil or Andersson develop into a number one center? Can Mika Zibanejad put it all together and stay healthy? Is the defense good enough to succeed or do they need to add another veteran piece like a Ron Hainsey or a Nicklas Hjalmarsson? Can Hank keep up his stellar play?

One thing to note is that this team will probably not have any issues putting the puck in the net once the rookies get acclimated to the North American ice. A top six of Buchnevich, Zibanejad, Tolvanen, Chytil, Kreider and one of those top 2018 guys would be so skillful and full of potential. If they all developed right it could be the most talented offensive teams in Rangers history.

Now, there is one last thing. The Rangers could also opt to take a defenseman like Adam Boqvist, Noah Dobson or Evan Bouchard and in that case…

Forwards

Pavel Buchnevich – Mika Zibanejad – Eeli Tolvanen

Chris Kreider – Filip Chytil – Kristian Vesalainen

Jimmy Vesey – Kevin Hayes – J.T. Miller

Jesper Fast – Lias Andersson – Vinni Lettieri

Defense

Brady Skjei – Kevin Shattenkirk

Mikhail Sergachev – Boqvist/Dobson/Bouchard

Neal Pionk – Tony DeAngelo

Goalies

Henrik Lundqvist

Ondrej Pavelec

If the Rangers went this route, the defense would have just that much more potential and a puck mover like Boqvist, Dobson or Bouchard would be awesome to add to the d-corps on Broadway. All three are projected to go very high in this draft. Bottom line here is that a top ten pick for the Rangers would do wonders for them as the rebuild pushes on.