Predicting the Rangers 2019-2020 Lineup

Kakko (NBC Screen Cap)

The plan is falling into place. After the addition of “The Breadman,” Artemi Panarin, the New York Rangers are even more deadly up front. Panarin, along with other offseason acquisitions in Kaapo Kakko, Adam Fox, Jacob Trouba and Vitali Kravtsov have pushed this rebuild into overdrive.

Rangers President John Davidson even went as far as taking the “re” off rebuild recently and is now saying we are in a “build.” Clearly phase two of the plan is in motion to get the Rangers back to contender status and we are in for an extremely fun season. So where do all these guys fit in and what will our roster look like opening night? Let’s take a look.

Projecting The 2019-20 Opening Night New York Rangers Lineup

Analyzing the Forward Corps

Panarin – Zibanejad – Kakko

Panarin (NYR)

This is the line that will drive most of the New York Rangers offense next season. Panarin, the elite winger who chose to spend his next seven seasons under the bright lights of Broadway. He joins number one center Mika Zibanejad and the second overall pick and offensive dynamo in Kaapo Kakko.

Now, it is going to take time for these three players to gel. No line comes together overnight but once they figure each other out, the Rangers could possibly have one of the most dominant lines in the entire National Hockey League.

Panarin is a sniper that also knows how to dish the puck. Zibanejad is an excellent playmaker who makes those around him better. Not to mention his cannon from the left circle. Kakko has all the talent in the world to be the next top winger in the league and once he has the puck, good luck even trying to get it from him.

Of course, we need to remember Kakko is only 18 and he will need time to learn and grow but what better way to begin his NHL career than playing with Panarin and Zibanejad. This line will grow into an absolute force in due time. This line could potentially feature two 80 point players and a rookie that gets close to 50 points. 

Buchnevich – Chytil – Kravtsov

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This is going to be one fun line to watch. A lot of people will say that they don’t see Chytil as a center and they would prefer him to continue his career on the wing. Well, Chytil has played center in his career and he has the size to do it in the NHL. With this team searching for a second line center, why not let the talented young Czech kid give it a go? If it works out and he begins to grow into the role that’s even better for the Rangers going forward.

Flanking him are two of the most creative forwards on the team. Buchnevich finally seemed to get it right last season after Head Coach David Quinn’s hard teaching style. He seemed to discover his confidence again and scored over 20 goals despite limited ice time. Buchnevich will continue to be an important part of this team and will be a great playmaker to have on the line.

On Chytil’s other side he has a dynamic Russian winger. Former 9th overall pick Vitali Kravtsov gets to begin his NHL career playing with a seasoned Ranger in Buch and an up and comer in Chytil. Kravtsov will be the finisher on that line and the best part is he is also a fantastic playmaker. This is a young line for sure but it’s a line filled to the brim with potential. Kravtsov, as well as Kaapo Kakko, are going to be locked in the Calder trophy race next year. This line could be very fun to watch. If Chytil for some reason isn’t adapting well to center ice, switch his position with Ryan Strome’s in the lineup.

Lemieux – Andersson – Strome

Brendan Lemieux (MSG Networks)

Last season after being acquired from the Winnipeg Jets, Brendan Lemieux quickly became a favorite at the Garden. His hard nosed style of play and willingness to antagonize and agitate opposing teams was great to see and some people saw shades of Sean Avery in the guy.

Lemieux will fit in great next to Lias Andersson, who will assume the team’s third line center position. Andersson is only 20 and still has time to put it all together. In a third line role, he won’t have to deal with a lot of the intense matchups and will have a little more room on the ice to grow in his young NHL career. Rounding out this line is Ryan Strome.

Now as noted before, if Filip Chytil isn’t performing well at the 2C role, Strome can slot right up there but I’d like Strome to pay with Andersson and Lemieux. That line will be hard to play against with Lemieux’s hard nosed style, Andersson’s tenacity on the puck and Strome’s skill. As far as third lines go, this ain’t bad at all. 

Fast – Howden – Nieves

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Jesper Fast has been the ultimate soldier for the Rangers. He’s played wherever that have asked him whether its first line, second line, third line or fourth line. He is an excellent penalty killer and has shown at times he can be effective in a scoring role.

On this newly revamped Rangers team, Fast will mentor two young guys in Brett Howden and Boo Nieves. Fast is one of the most effective fourth liners in the league and can rub off some of his tenacious style onto Howden and Nieves. This line will hound teams and while they might not be the biggest scorers, this line will pot the odd goal every once in awhile and won’t make life easy for their opponents.

Howden of course has higher than 4C potential and I’m sure if he shows some good signs he will be moved up the lineup. The Rangers are beginning to have an embarrassment of riches with their forward corps and this is a good problem to have if Howden begins to outgrow his 4C role. Nieves is another great guy for the fourth line and at this point in his career that’s most likely where he should be. 

Analyzing the Defense Corps

Skjei – Trouba

Trouba (Reddit)

This will be the New York Rangers number one defense pairing going into next season. Skjei has a tough season last year but then again so did a lot of the team. Skjei is due for a bounce back year and playing next to Jacob Trouba will do wonders for him.

Trouba, who the Rangers acquired from the Winnipeg Jets, is now the Rangers number one defenseman. He has great offensive instincts, can defend against the best players in the game and will be a great mentor to the relatively young blueline. The best part is is that Trouba is only 25 and will continue to grow with the team during this build. He is not over the hill by any means.

Look for this pair to get big minutes and for them to see the best opposing players on a nightly basis. The lefty-righty balance stays intact with this pair as Skjei shoots left and Trouba shoots right. 

Staal – Fox

Adam Fox (NHL.com)

Let’s be real here: Adam Fox is not spending time in Hartford. He is the only defenseman in NCAA history to average a point and a half per game over the course of a season. He consistently put up mind boggling number in the NCAA and he’s considered one of the best defensive prospects in the entire world. He will be in the lineup on opening night.

Playing next to Marc Staal might anger some fans but make no mistake, Staal is there to be as much of a rock defensively as he can so Fox can wheel and deal and take some chances from the blueline. Staal is the veteran voice on the Rangers blueline and while he may not have the skills he used to, he’s a veteran who’s been through some intense battles in the NHL and can be a calming voice on the bench when needed.

This pair will be a nice second unit for the team. The lefty-righty balance stays intact here as Staal is a lefty and Fox shoots righty. 

Hajek – DeAngelo 

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The wild card pair as I’ll be referring to them as. Hajek looked great before he got injured late last season and he even potted his first NHL goal. Hajek will make a huge case to be apart of the Rangers blueline this upcoming season and will hopefully have a strong training camp and preseason. He would fit nicely on that left hand side on the third defensive pairing.

Next to him on the right side is Tony DeAngelo. The controversial dman acquired in 2017 from the Arizona Coyotes had a pretty good season last under in David Quinn’s first season behind the bench. DeAngelo showed he can be an extremely effective dman in the NHL when his head is on straight and the Rangers and us fans are excited to see what he can do as this build carries on. It might seem crazy to keep this two rookies together and they may let up more chances than the other two pairs combined but if they start to develop some chemistry and get things right this is could be an exciting and effective third pair for the Rangers going forward here. The lefty-right balance once again stays intact with Hajek being a left and DeAngelo being a righty. 

Analyzing the Goaltenders

Henrik Lundqvist

Alexander Georgiev

Henrik Lundqvist (USATS)

Henrik Lundqvist will be the number one goaltender. He’s the king, this is still his crease and he will get the majority of starts this season. The real battle here is the backup position.

No longer will Georgiev be unchallenged as uber-prospect Igor Shesterkin will push him for the backup role throughout training camp and the preseason. Shesterkin set the KHL on fire over the past few years and even has a Gargarin Cup to his name. He is a dominant, athletic goaltender who will most likely lead this team into the future one day. If Shesterkin really impresses with his play in the preseason and at camp… will Georgiev may find himself in Hartford or on another club altogether. 

BONUS: The first power-play unit!

Artemi Panarin – Mika Zibanejad – Kaapo Kakko

Jacob Trouba – Vitali Kravtsov

This is going to be super fun to watch. With Panarin ripping off shots from the left wall, Kakko ripping off shots from the right wall, Zibanejad dishing out passes in the middle, Kravtsov floating around finding an opening and Trouba quarterbacking the whole thing this can be one of the deadliest power-plays in the entire National Hockey League once they figure things out. There is size, skills, speed, playmaking, high hockey IQ… Rangers fans should be awaiting that very first power-play opportunity to see what kind of potential the unit has. 

Where are Kreider, Namestnikov, Smith and Shattenkirk?

With the arrival of Artemi Panarin, Kreider will be traded this offseason. The number he will command will be too high for the Rangers and they will look for a good deal and a good landing spot for the 20 goal scorer. Expect picks or prospects back for the power forward.

Namestnikov will also be moved this offseason to free up cap space for the Rangers to sign Trouba, Buchnevich and DeAngelo. Brenden Smith will be bought out or buried in Hartford and Shattenkirk will be looked at for a buyout but the team will push hard for a trade so the dead cap space won’t bite them in the ass in the upcoming years.