The 2018-19 regular season has finally come to a close. The New York Rangers have ended the season 7th in the Metropolitan Division, but more importantly 6th last in the NHL. This gave them the second overall draft pick on June 21st. But there are more reasons to look forward to next season.
Russian Trio Coming Over
The Rangers have 3 players that will likely come over from the KHL this summer- Igor Shestyorkin(Goalie), Vitali Kraftsov (Center/Wing), and YegorRykov (Defenseman).
Shestyorkin has developed into a star goalie in the KHL since being drafted in the 4th round by the Rangers in the 2014 draft. He put up a 1.11 Goals Against Average (GAA) and a .953 save percentage (s%) in 28 regular season KHL games this season, as well as a 1.93 GAA but a .897 s% in 8 postseason appearances. He looks to be a very solid goaltending prospect but likely starts next season in the minors.
Kraftsov was the Rangers’ 9th overall pick in last year’s draft. He put up 21 points (8 goals, 13 assists) in 50 KHL games. This wouldn’t normally be super impressive, but he did this as a 19 year old, tying Artemi Panarin’s point totals at this age.
Rykov- Yegor Rykov is in a really odd position. Last season he was one of the pieces traded to the Rangers for Grabner, partly because New Jersey wasn’t sure if he would want to come over from Russia. For parts of this season in the KHL he was demoted and/or benched because he wanted to come over to North America. Will any of this affect the way he plays? The Rangers won’t really know until he comes over. He likely starts next season in the AHL but has potential to come up due to injuries or trades.
The Rangers are Picking Second Overall
Yeah. So when I started this article, it was before the lottery. This is the main reason to watch the Rangers next season, to be completely honest. If things go as expected and New Jersey pick Hughes, this hands the New York Rangers a fantastic Fin by the name of Kaapo Kakko. As long as the Rangers don’t somehow mess up this pick and take someone else, Kakko should be a Calder favorite. He looks more NHL ready than Hughes, and the only question mark I can even think of with Kakko is how quickly he adjusts to the North American ice. Kaapo plays similarly to an ex Ranger by the name of Rick Nash, except he projects to be even better than the retired first overall pick.
Young Players Getting Even Better
The Rangers over the last couple of years have drafted or acquired some decent young players. This section is only going to cover the ones that played in the NHL this past season.
Vinni Lettieri- I want to just get Vinni out of the way. No offence to the guy, but he is not an NHL caliber player. I understand that he put up great numbers in the AHL this season, but the 3 points he put up this season in 27 games just aren’t good enough. He has 8 points (2 goals) in 46 career games. He looks like he should be a power play specialist, but he just isn’t good enough at an NHL level to be worthy of staying there. My guess is he just plays out the rest of his career in the AHL and the Rangers shouldn’t look to turn him into something he obviously isn’t.
Filip Chytil- I just want to start this off by saying I am personally not as high on Fil as a lot of people are. When he isn’t scoring points, he’s invisible on the ice. If he takes this offseason to improve his defending and gets a bit stronger, I think that would help out his game a lot. He put up 23 points in 75 games this season, and with some off season changes he could become a 30-40 point scorer next year. I don’t doubt that Fil will eventually be able to put up at least 50 points in a season in his future, but he has to be more reliable in other parts of the game. He was the worst plus-minus (+/-) in a team full of negative (by a lot) players. He was 6 behind the 2nd worst, but he was only playing about 14 minutes a night. Neal Pionk, tied for second in worst +/- with Howden, played 21 minutes a night on a bad team. His +/- is understandable. Brett Howden(also a rookie) was 6 above him in terms of +/-, and he still played a full minute more than Fil per night. If Fil improves defensively he can become a good middle 6 winger/center. If it were up to me he’d play wing, but the Rangers org really wants him to play C for whatever reason.
Brett Howden- Of course I mentioned him earlier under Fil, but honestly on a better team I think his +/- would be a lot better than it is. Howden looks a lot more reliable defensively than Fil, so honestly that stat doesn’t concern me much in context. Brett also put up 23 points, but in 66 games, 9 games less than Chytil. Howden looks like he could potentially put up 40 next year, depending on his role on the team and who he has as linemates.
Lias Andersson- the so called “bust” put up 6 points in 42 games this year, while putting up near point per game numbers in Hartford. Based on my reaction to Vinni, I have to be about to flame Liasright?!!?! Wrong. Lias is a full four years younger than Lettieri, and while both played about ten minutes a night, they play completely different roles. Vinni is more of a scorer, while Lias looks very good defensively, and honestly, looking at some of the passes he made throughout the season, he was very unlucky to not have more assists. Lias played on the penalty kill, while Lettieri played on the power play. Lias should improve for next season, and he still projects as a solid two-way second line center for me, which is all I was expecting from the draft anyway. I would expect Quinn to give him more ice time next year.
Brendan Lemieux- The man we got in return for Kevin Hayes. Brendan has genuinely looked very good since coming from Winnipeg, and I’d be shocked if he didn’t develop from here. He looks to be a gritty, goal scoring middle 6 winger who gets in peoples faces. He likes pissing people off. Just ask the Boston Bruins.
Pavel Buchnevich- A lot of people likely forgot this guy is only 23 considering he’s already been in the league for 3 seasons. He has 101 points in 179 career games, and considering he was a 3rd round pick, he really looks like a steal. Buch had a rough start to this year, but eventually he turned it around and had his first 20 goal season of his career. I’d be shocked if he didn’t play next season on at least the 2nd line.
Libor Hajek- The young defenseman looks to be a regular on the team next year, after unfortunately getting his season ended with an injury after playing just 5 games. Those 5 games were enough for him to record his first NHL goal, and he seems to be a good top 4 guy.
The Rangers Are Looking to Make a “Big Signing”
Even before the Rangers got the second overall pick, the Rangers seemed to want to make a splash in Free Agency this summer. The 2 named linked the most to the Rangers are two of the biggest names without a team next year.
Erik Karlsson- Erik Karlsson, the face of the Ottawa Senators, until he was traded to the San Jose Sharks. Instead of just trading Hoffman due to the incidents between his girlfriend and EK’s, the Sens decided to trade BOTH. Funnily enough, both were traded to the Sharks, but the Sharks flipped Hoffman before eventually getting Karlsson. The only reason this would make sense to me is because, honestly, Karlsson seems like he could go to any team in the league with the cap to sign him. Hell, maybe he stays in San Jose. EK is a very hard free agent to judge, but honestly I just don’t think he’ll come to New York to be a Ranger. Obviously this would greatly improve the roster, but it just seems like a dream that wouldn’t come true.
Artemi Panarin- This one seems more likely to happen than Erik Karlsson. Panarin seems like he’s walking this summer, no matter what the Blue Jackets do in the playoffs. The main destinations for him would be returning to Chicago, Florida, or New York. Artemi would greatly improve the Rangers’ top 6 and it would give Zibanejad a phenomenal player to work alongside of.
How They Likely Line-Up Next Year
While this was primarily an article on reasons to be hopeful and to pay attention to the Rangers, I’ll still take a shot at guessing how they look next year. I’ll do another one of these during pre-season, when we can be more knowledgeable on what the Rangers have. This is assuming the Rangers don’t make a free agent signing and New Jersey takes Hughes and the Rangers don’t mess up and take someone other than Kakko.
Lemieux- Howden- Buchnevich
Chytil- Namestnikov- Kraftsov
Nieves, Vesey (trade?)
Thank you for reading this insanely long article on the Rangers, as I mentioned I’ll look into the team and have a better understanding on what they do from here during pre-season. Maybe I’ll project where they end up at the end of the season, we’ll see what happens.