Third Line Season Recap and Grades
The Rangers third line of JT Miller, Kevin Hayes, and Michael Grabner was together for nine percent of the 2016-17 season and was very productive for the majority of the campaign. The trio played with a combination of speed and skill that caused problems for the opposition. With the potential of Grabner being selected by Vegas in the expansion draft, his year on Broadway was one that saw a lot of successes.
JT Miller – The fifth year Blueshirt made many positive strides this year to the tune of a career-high 56 point season. He played with speed, used his quick shot, and was never afraid to throw his body around. His ability to get in hard on the forecheck and create offense gives him a lot of value to the Blueshirts. He wasn’t able to maintain his level of play as the season entered the “final push”, as Miller only put up seven points (2G, 5A) over the Rangers final 22 games. His career year should not go unnoticed, but if he wants to take the next step in his development, he needs to be able to keep up his production levels throughout a full 82 game season. Grade: B-
Kevin Hayes – Like his linemate, Hayes had a career year with 49 points this year. But unfortunately for the Massachusetts native and the Blueshirts, Hayes’ production dropped off significantly, with the center putting up a measly ten points in his final 37 games of the Rangers season. One of the knocks on Hayes’ game is his decision making; more specifically, his being too eager to make the extra pass or stickhandle. Since he broke into the NHL in 2014, his unwillingness to “be selfish” and shoot the puck keeps his point totals well below where they probably should be. He has the skillset of a 60-70 point player but has not broken the 50 point barrier yet. Hayes has a bright future ahead of him, but he needs to start taking games over and showing why he was such a coveted college free agent in the summer of 2014. Grade: B-
Michael Grabner – When the Rangers signed the Austrian winger during the offseason, they knew the kind of player they were getting; a fast and shifty winger who is good on the PK and will chip in some offense as well. But boy were the Rangers pleasantly surprised. Grabner put up 40 points, his most since 2010-11, and scored 27 goals during the regular season. Grabner’s play slipped toward the end of the season, but he was able to put up six points during the playoffs for the Blueshirts. Grabner is a viable option for Vegas in this summer’s expansion draft, and if he is chosen, the Rangers will need to find a way to replace his speed. Grade: B