Rangers Roundup: Gerard Gallant sees opportunity for young stars, scoring projections, and more

Head coach Gerard Gallant knows the New York Rangers will be going into the season with many of their high draft picks set to play much bigger roles.

Over the course of this offseason, I’ve detailed all the changes expected due to every pending UFA’s signing elsewhere via free agency. However, none is bigger than both Alexis Lafreniere (fist overall 2020) and Kappo Kakko (second overall 2019) playing in the top six.

“We’ve got to put people on the right side that are going to play on the top lines,” Gallant said. “We like those kids [Kakko and Lafreniere]. Both had tremendous seasons. Last season, from the second half on I thought they were excellent. They took big steps. That’s what we’re going to expect from them again. The opportunity is there for them to have big years.”

NHL.com

Lafrenière, 20, scored 19 goals with 39 points in 79 games last season. He added another 9 points (2G – 7A) in 20 playoff contests and brought his physical play to another level. There’s a lot of talk that he will switch to the right side on the first line with Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider.

Kakko, 21, posted 18 points in the 43 contests during a season plagued by injuries. In the playoffs, he finished with 5 points in 19 contests and displayed maturity in all three zones. He’s entering his fourth season in New York after signing a two-year deal with an AAV of $2.1 million.

Gerard Gallant sees opportunity for youngsters

gerard gallant rangers
Jan 6, 2022; Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; New York Rangers head coach Gerard Gallant reacts while in the bench during the first period against the Vegas Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

NHL.com senior writer Dan Rosen provided his inside look at the Rangers. While there will be a serious focus on Lafreniere and Kakko, there are other youngsters who will be given an opportunity to succeed.

Vitali Kravtsov, 22, had a strong 2021-22 campaign in the KHL with 13 points in 19 games. After a tumultuous few seasons between him and Rangers management, he signed a one-year, one-way extension this past summer.

“He’s going to get an opportunity to come in here and be a good player for us,” Gallant said via NHL.com.

Sammy Blais is another interesting youngster that showed promised as a potential middle-six winger before going down for the season with a torn ACL. The 26 year-old was acquired from St. Louis as part of the return for Pavel Buchnevich.

Gallant said that Blais is at full health. The big hard-hitting winger should be ready to build upon the four points amassed playing in 14 games during the 2021-22 campaign. He also signed a one-year extension this summer.

There will be other notable youngsters vying for spots this season, including Zac jones, Nils Lundkvist, and Libor Hajek on defense.

Training camp will open in a few weeks and we’ll have a detailed preview coming soon.

NHL.com Fantasy Point Projections

artemi panarin
May 11, 2022; New York, New York, USA; New York Rangers left wing Artemi Panarin (10) celebrates the goal by New York Rangers defenseman Adam Fox (23) against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the second period in game five of the first round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports

NHL.com is ramping up for next season with fantasy point projections focused on each team’s key players. Here’s how they see some of the Blueshirts biggest stars performing.

Fantasy Points Projections

  • Igor Shesterkin 38 wins
  • Artemi Panarin 97 points
  • Mika Zibanejad 85 points
  • Adam Fox 76 points
  • Chris Kreider 70 points

It’s hard to argue with these projections as they are all basically a slight improvement over last season’s numbers.

I think a 40 win season is possible for Shesterkin if he remains healthy all year. Panarin could struggle if chemistry with new center Vincent Trocheck takes too long to come together. And of all the players listed, Zibanejad is the one that I can see easily blowing past his projections.

Is a 100 point season in Mika’s future? I believe so.

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