We are now well into the second half of the season and there are new storylines all New York Rangers fans should be following the rest of the way. Let’s dive in.
Vitali Kravtsov’s debut
Good things come to those who wait.
The Rangers are not rushing this kid into the lineup just so fans can talk about their shiny new toy. David Quinn and the entire hierarchy want Vitali Kravtsov eased into the lineup and ready to be successful. When it’s time for him to debut he will likely be skating with two other promising kids in Filip Chytil and Alexis Lafrenière.
Here’s what I think we can expect from Kravtsov – a mature and ready to contribute player. The best thing that happened was him exercising his European out clause last season. He wasn’t happy about not making the team and found out the hard way the grass isn’t always greener. This year the Rangers wanted him to play and not just struggle on a third line; so they agreed to let him play out most of the year in the KHL.
This season for Traktor he became a complete player and learned to be responsible in his own zone. His work ethic was noticed and applauded by his teammates and coaches. Now he’s here and I believe ready to make an impact.
Patience Rangers fans.
Igor Shesterkin – the workhorse
There is no doubt who the number one goalie of the Rangers future is anymore. Igor Shesterkin is the man in the pipes and the heir of Henrik Lundqvist’s throne. Of course, there’s genuine concern about his durability. He’s had some injuries; car accident excluded since joining the Rangers.
Last season he had an ankle issue during the regular season and then injured his groin against the Islanders in return to play exhibition. This season, he hurt his groin again so everyone is correct in questioning his durability.
David Quinn is going to help Igor answer that as we can expect him to start a lion’s share of the games for the remainder of the season.
Adam Fox is worthy of Norris Trophy consideration
One thing that can’t be overlooked this season is the continued brilliant play of defenseman Adam Fox. He’s starting to raise more eyebrows around the league as a potential Norris Trophy candidate, and has the attention of the last Ranger to win it – Brian Leetch.
“Usually you read the play a second ahead of the player because you can see everything from up above,” Brian Leetch told Rick Carpiniello of The Athletic. “I would say, with Foxy, he’s making the play as I’m seeing it from up above. It’s not like I see the play a split-second before he makes it. He’s making the same play that I can see from 10 floors up. And he’s doing it while guys are all over him and the play’s going fast, and reading the play in those seconds and making the passes.”
Adam Fox this season has been nothing short of amazing. His 29 points have him third in scoring for blue-liners and is 4 points behind Victor Hedman for first place with a game in hand. It’s been an impressive run for the 23 year-old defenseman, who has 17 assist so far in the month of March. In the Rangers game against the Flyers on March 25, his five assists tied him for the franchise record for assists and points by a defenseman. An impressive year that still has a ways to go. One that should have him considered as the NHL’s best defenseman.
The kids are going to be alright
Kaapo Kakko, K’Andre Miller, and Alexis Lafrenière are all going to be just fine. Miller has been outstanding paired with Jacob Trouba and is only getting better. As to why he’s experiencing early success and Kakko and Lafrenière seem to struggle has a lot to do with the fact that Miller is a 21 year-old and the other two are still teenagers (Kakko just turned 20 this season).
Listen; this is a marathon and not a race. Both Kakko and Lafrenière weren’t drafted by your run of the mill dead to last teams. Both came to a squad that had some really good players on the roster so top six minutes were never going to be a given. It’s a process, so trust it.
Patience – it applies here even more.
Jack Eichel trade watch
I doubt this happens at the trade deadline but this will be the story of the offseason.
The Blueshirts are gunning for Jack Eichel this summer. It’s widely believed that whether the Sabres opt to trade him or not, they are going to explore it seriously. The Rangers are expected to put forth the best package available and it may include highly touted prospect Vitali Kravtsov and much more.
The New York Rangers and Jack Eichel have been linked to each other for quite awhile. That was only reinforced when one of hockey’s top insiders, Bob McKenzie confirmed they called about him this past offseason. At the time of McKenzie’s report it didn’t sound like anything more than a exploratory call took place but Elliotte Friedman dropped a new information that says otherwise.
In a recent episode of the Lead Off, Elliotte Friedman states that the New York Rangers actually had an offer on the table. “Last year they talked – there was an offer on the table I don’t think it included the #1 pick and I’m sure Buffalo asked,” Friedman revealed. “There was an offer on the table I understand was pretty reasonable.”
One team that many believed would be in it are the L.A. Kings. However, Friedman doesn’t think they are interested in making the move. I spoke with a league source who does not believe the Kings want to add another $10 million player to their roster and part with the big pieces in order to complete the trade
“The team with the best combination of the want and ability to do it is the Rangers, but is Buffalo going to be comfortable sending him there,” Friedman explained. “So part of the issue [for the Sabres] is going to be does anybody have the will to beat what the Rangers have to offer.”
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