Some Rangers are way over performing the back of their hockey cards
There’s an old baseball adage that says, usually no matter how hot or cold a player is, their stats usually finish around what the back of their baseball card reads. I believe that to be true in hockey as well.
Right now the Rangers have the 2nd most points in the NHL. What is really incredible are their staggering offensive numbers. The Blueshirts have scored the most goals in the NHL by a wide margin with 74 (the Flyers have 62 but have played 1 more game). Their goal differential is a mind numbing 32, 15 better than Montreal’s 17.
Playing to the back of their Hockey Cards
Some Rangers are off the charts so far this season. Matter of fact all their top leading scorers are playing at a level we’ve never seen from them. In an effort to visualize this, I created a chart that shows their current points per game average (red) versus their career points per game average (blue). Players listed have played in a minimum of 10 games this year.
The players are listed at the bottom in order from most points to least points on the season (left to right). You will notice that Oscar Lindberg, Adam Clendening and Boo Nieves were left off the list due to playing less than 10 games this year to date.
Uncharted WatersWhen it comes to 3 out of the top 4 leading scorers for the Rangers, there is literally no way to determine if they can sustain this offensive output. Why do I say that? Because J.T. Miller, Kevin Hayes, and Mika Zibanejad are all under 25 and could just be scratching the surface of their offensive abilities.
It’s quite a jump for all three, with Miller currently score .55 points better per game than his career average. Miller is currently on a .94 points per game pace and you have to think that it will come down closer to his career .39. On the other hand, both Hayes and Zibanejad are performing much better than their career marks (.38 and .24 respectively). The margin of improvement for Hayes, and Zibanejad seems a lot more likely to be sustained going forward than Miller’s. We should also note that Jesper Fast who is 24 years old is scoring .26 better than his career mark which is easily sustainable.
Three other Rangers just don’t have any substantial prior information to form any opinion on. Jimmy Vesey, Pavel Buchnevich, and Brady Skjei are all rookies with only Skjei having played 7 games last year and scoring zero points. What you see is what you get right now, and it’s looking really good.
Playing Over their Heads
When it comes to these players, there’s enough information to tell us that this won’t continue. At the top of that list are two defenseman, Dan Girardi and Nick Holden. Neither of them are considered offensive defenseman, but there is no way Girardi will score .21 goals per game when his career average is .05. Same goes for Holden who is scoring .28 points per game better than his career numbers.
Another player who is off the charts right now is Michael Grabner. He is the Rangers 3rd leading scorer and is 2nd in the NHL with 11 goals. That is just not going to continue. He has been in the league since 2009 with over 400 games under his belt. If he were to continue to score at this rate he’d finish with 50 goals and 64 points. His career highs are 35 and 52, back in 2010-11. He’s going to cool down…a lot.
Prime Time Players?
Kreider has cooled down as of late, but his .40 per game increase should be sustainable playing top line minutes and PP. His per game goal scoring pace is even with his career but we should see an uptick there as well.
As for McDonagh, he is also getting top minutes and should easily maintain his .29 per game improvement. Plus, he is below his career per goal mark so expect to see a flurry of pucks find the back of the net soon.
Expect These Rangers to Improve
Derek Stepan and Rick Nash are both underperforming their career points per game averages. Nash has seen the biggest dip at -.18, the worst by far on the team. Stepan’s dip on the other hand is negligible.
Still, like I said at the beginning…these players will usually finish close to what the back of their hockey cards say. Expect both Nash and Stepan to improve.
Is there a more consistent Ranger on the team? Mats Zuccarello, night in and night out is usually one of the Rangers best. He has been a complete player for the Blueshirts since their Cup run in 2014. His current improvements are all sustainable, and I expect Zuccarello to set career highs in goals and points this season.
Editor’s note: Fast is not a rookie…it was late when I wrote this piece so cut me some slack. Thanks.