Puck Drop Preview: 2021-22 New York Rangers

2021-22 New York Rangers
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Welcome to our latest series here at Last Word on Hockey. The Puck Drop Preview series takes you through each team as the season is fast approaching. The preview will focus on the narratives surrounding the team ending last year, during the offseason, and heading into the 2021-22 season. Puck Drop Preview also focuses on what the season has in store for each team from a roster and expectations perspective. Join us, as we look at all 32 teams before the season starts. Today, we take a look at the 2021-22 New York Rangers.

2021-22 New York Rangers Puck Drop Preview

2020-21 Season

The COVID-19 crisis saw the 2020-21 season undertake an unprecedented restructuring. New protocols split the league into four divisions. The New York Rangers entered the East Division with a reduced 56 games finishing 27-23- 6. Although the Rangers performance appeared worthy of a playoff spot, they faltered particularly in the latter part of the season they disappointingly finished fifth behind the New York Islanders. The East Division proved to be the toughest division of the season. The Rangers were tasked with facing the hard-hitting Washington Capitals, Boston Bruins, and Pittsburgh Penguins. This season also marked the first season without “The King” Henrik Lundqvist between the pipes. However, it also marked a positive, with the Rangers receiving Alexis Lafreniere in their first-round draft lottery pick since the 1970s.

2021 Offseason

The offseason brought a hive of activity for the Rangers organization. Both general manager Jeff Gorton and president John Davidson were relieved of duties, replaced by former Ranger Chris Drury. Additionally, the team’s failure to make the playoffs resulted in coach David Quinn joining the others on the cutting block. Eventually, he was replaced by former Vegas Golden Knights Coach Gerard Gallant.  This offseason saw the departure of players like Pavel Buchnevich and the arrival of grit. Barclay Goodrow, Ryan Reaves, and Sammy Blais. In addition, they finally said goodbye to Tony DeAngelo; his buyout relieved a major headache within the team.

Lineup Projections

2021-22 New York Rangers Forwards

Top Six

Chris KreiderMika ZibanejadAlexis Lafreniere

Artemi PanarinRyan Strome –Kaapo Kakko

Gallant will rely heavily on this top six for offensive numbers.  Zibanejad, now a Rangers veteran, will continue to provide security both offensively and defensively. Last season, he achieved 24 goals, 26 assists for 50 points, making the Swedish two-way forward first in the team for goals and second for points and powerplay goals. Panarin, while an expensive asset, remained dominant, contributing 17 goals and 41 assists for 58 points. Both Blueshirts provide skill and leadership that assist linemates to develop their hockey game. Kakko, a slowly-rising prospect, is steadily settling into the faster-paced NHL. While Strome is not at the level of Zibanejad, the 28-year-old provides much-needed faceoff prowess for the second line. First-rounder Lafreniere, despite his youth, has performed well in his rookie season at New York. Still, it remains unclear as to where Kreider fits into the equation as of yet.

Bottom Six

Barclay GoodrowFilip ChytilVitali Kravtsov

Sammy BlaisKevin RooneyRyan Reaves

The bottom six continue to remain a work in progress. The majority of the bottom six are newcomers, which means it will take time to develop chemistry. Picking up Barclay Goodrow from the Tampa Bay lightning will provide some valuable veteran experience. The move also puts pressure on many of the younger players who are trying to carve out a larger role with the team. Although the Rangers continue to lack centre depth, Filip Chytil has the most experience and is the most logical choice to take the reins at 3C. Sammy Blais joined the Rangers as part of the Pavel Buchnevich trade. It is unclear the reasoning behind this acquisition as Blais is not to the same offensive standard. However, with Rooney and Reaves, it’s clear that Drury’s goal is to build a physical team. Kravtsov has potential but has very little experience in a fast-paced league. He may need time in the AHL to condition himself. Other notables that will likely receive some game time are rookie Brennan Othmann along with Greg McKegg and Julien Gauthier

2021-22 New York Rangers Defence

Top Four/Bottom Pair

Ryan LindgrenAdam Fox

K’Andre MillerJacob Trouba

 Patrik Nemeth- Nils Lunkdvist

The Rangers have developed a very solid defensive core. In the past, their defence remained a consistent issue. The Lindgren and Fox line will continue to headline Broadway’s top pairing. Fox was rewarded for his efforts by receiving the Norris Trophy last season. Lindgren compliments Fox well, providing grit and determination to the team.  K’Andre Miller is another rookie who surprised many during his first season. While he might need further polish, the 21-year-old is a positive addition for the Rangers again this season. Paired with now healthy Jacob Trouba will only enhance his endeavours. Depending on his efforts in training camp, Libor Hajek might get to see some game time, too.

Goalies

Igor ShesterkinAlexandar Georgiev

Extending Shesterkin’s contract is one of the smarter decisions made by the Rangers during the off-season. The loss of Henrik Lundqvist was stabilized by Shesterkin’s performance. Georgiev has run hot and cold during the season despite having more NHL experience. An ideal scenario for the Rangers would be for the 25-year old can step up his game this season. The Rangers also have Keith Kinkaid who will get some game time. How much – and how frequently – will depend on Georgiev’s performance.

Players to Watch

Kappo Kakko

Despite his slow start, Kakko is flourishing as a Ranger. This season will likely find the young forward continuing to steadily produce solid offensive numbers. Kakko’s strength on the puck and skating ability will continue to flourish as he earns more ice time. Placing him in the top six will only improve his performance as the season continues to unfold.

Alexis Lafreniere

This first-round pick deserves plenty of attention this season. In 202-21, Lafreniere tallied 12 goals and nine assists for 21 points in 56 games. The 19-year-old is poised to take another huge step in 2021-22. He also has demonstrated the ability to be versatile and can switch to either wing if needed in this ever-developing Rangers roaster.

K’Andre Miller

The American native was drafted by the Rangers in the 1st round, 22nd overall in the 2018 NHL Draft. He played 53 games of his rookie season during the COVID-19 restructure and made a case for himself in the top-four. Miller provides much-needed physicality to the Rangers. His biggest asset is muscling attacks out of the zone and creating offensive rushes. While the young defenceman has much to learn, he is definitely worth watching to see how his development pans out.

2021-22 New York Rangers Team Predictions

It is difficult to predict what’s in store for the Rangers in this 2021-22 season. Last season, they displayed a far stronger rebuild process and still failed to obtain a spot in the playoffs. The Rangers continue to struggle with centre depth and the bottom six currently looks underwhelming. However, the Rangers have plenty of young, talented players to develop. It’s entirely possible that quite a few will step up this season. The team have a much-improved defence and special teams and can rely on the top six forwards to produce offensively. Extending Shesterkin’s contract provides some stability in the goaltending department, but it’s unclear how his backups will perform. The Rangers do have an added physical aspect this season, which will be an advantage against harder-hitting teams.

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