The Rangers need to let the young guys keep playing
To be a professional athlete, one must be the best of the best. Even the worst athlete on a team/in a league is in the top one percent. Fans many times forget this fact. If given the opportunity, players will live up to or exceed expectations.
During a rebuild, teams typically become rather young. The same can be said for the New York Rangers; with an average age of 27.3 according to Hockey Reference. By no means is this the youngest team in hockey, however, the youth movement is definitely hitting Broadway. Allowing young players to play in big roles and big minutes is vital to their growth.
It was about 18 months ago that the Vegas expansion draft took place, and in case you weren’t paying attention, the Golden Knights took the league by storm. Almost every player that GM George McPhee drafted worked out for Vegas. Why is this? Most would probably call it a fluke, though that argument isn’t all that convincing.
Last season, William Karlsson averaged four extra minutes of TOI than he had the previous year, which helped him to a 53 point increase and a new career high. The team put Alex Tuch in the top six, he scored 37 points. Nate Schmidt doubled his point total due to a seven-minute increase to average time on ice.
The fact of the matter is that when professional athletes are given an opportunity to succeed, they typically do. The same can be seen with the New York Rangers.
Stuck in the Middle
Mika Zibanejad and Kevin Hayes were given bigger roles before last season. Fast forward to present day and Zibanejad is making the most of his role as a number one center. Zibanejad is in the top-20 in assists and is averaging 0.89 ppg, while Hayes is arguably the most consistent and reliable forward on the team.
Before the team asked for more out of Hayes, he was more of a question mark as a player. He was a player that showed moments of brilliance, while other times he was a player that wasn’t able to play to his potential. If that statement sounds familiar it’s because many players have that same problem.
Aging the Youth
Players that aren’t able to get more responsibilities don’t grow. It’s like the entry level jobs that ask for three years of experience. You can’t get experience if you don’t get the job. Same can be said for the players. Chytil in the top-six forward group, and getting power play time has allowed him to show talent. Howden playing in essentially any game situation makes him look like the main piece of the trade with Tampa Bay last February.
In order to evaluate the youth, the rebuild and getting the most out of players, it’s imperative to get them on the ice as much as possible. Forcing players to play more important roles will allow them to grow and reach their full potential.