Projecting the Rangers “Quinn”tessential opening night forward lines

Pavel Buchnevich (Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

The Rangers will be dropping the puck next week to open the 2018-19 regular season, but with just 2 games left in exhibition, the starting lineup is taking shape. Yesterday, we went through the projected blue-line for opening night, today we address the forwards.

KZB Line will lead the way

If you are looking at this roster for a 1st line, look no further than a fan favorite unit from last year. Chris Kreider, Mika Zibanejad, and Pavel Buchnevich are three of the Rangers most talented forwards and will set the offensive tone on most nights for David Quinn’s offense.

All three players are big and have lethal shots. They also compliment each other well because of their ability to bring something different to that line. Kreider’s physical “crash the net” style, along with Zibanejad’s vision are rounded out with Buchnevich’s creativity and puck possession skills.

Last year, as a unit in 48 games, the KZB line managed a CF of 56.48% at 5v5. When together, they regularly control play and outshoot their opponents. More importantly, they get more high danger chances at 61.06%. This is a line Quinn should reunite and roll with to start the season.

Hayes and Spooner Have Chemistry

Spooner (Getty Images)

Since the day the Rangers acquired Ryan Spooner he’s not only played well, he’s been versatile. Although he prefers center, he plays the wings effectively and has been a gem on the power play. Kevin Hayes has been pretty solid too, although he was moved from wing where he thrived in college and forced to play center to start his career. Hayes has adapted well to the role and grown defensively, but I believe it has hurt him offensively in the long run.

This summer, Hayes was given a 1 year show me contract and will be the Rangers 2nd line center. Jeff Gorton must find out what they have in him before making any rash decisions. Mats Zuccarello will play the right side on this line, but Spooner should get that nod on the left because of chemistry with Hayes.

When together last season, the duo clicked. This was evident on the PP more than at any other time. They were on the ice for 5 power play goals in the 20 games since Spooner was acquired. They both like to hold the puck and allow linemates to get open. Zuccarello is a similar player and this would be by far the Rangers most experienced line to start the campaign.

Chytil and Andersson

Andersson (NY Post)

The Rangers bottom six is all about the two future stars of the organization. Recently, there has been talk of moving Chytil to the wing. This would be a monumental mistake as the Rangers need skilled offensive centers going forward. It is also akin to the mistake I feel they made with Hayes but in reverse. Just don’t do it.

We all know Chytil is creative and explosive offensively, but he is still a liability defensively. That is why Jesper Fast on his right side is perfect. Fast can keep up with him on the attack and help cover for him in the defensive zone. Vlad Namestnikov can also provide some grit and offensive bite to complete that line.

Lias Andersson will then be left to center what could be the best 4th line in the NHL. Flanked by Jimmy Vesey and Vinni Lettieri, the unit should be able to control play with their north/south style and hard nosed play. They are the “Quinn”tessential players the head coach speaks of when he talks about “going through” the opposition.

The extra man will be Cody McLeod. Let’s face it, Quinn likes him as he praises him regularly. McLeod has also been effective and will be inserted over Lettieri or Vesey when Quinn feels the Rangers will need to respond accordingly to physical play.

Final Projection

The season is still a week away, but to me this is the best lineup the Rangers can put out to start the year.

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