With a few weeks left until the start of the season, here is how the New York Rangers coach Peter Laviolette’s lines are shaping up after week one.
The New York Rangers will look to jump a few hurdles that stood in their way last year. One of those dreaded obstacles is even strength scoring. Last year, the Blueshirts put home 206 goals during 5v5 play. However, it was teams like the Seattle Kraken, the Boston Bruins, and those pesky New Jersey Devils who made it to the podium.
How Peter Laviolette‘s Lines Look After Week One of Training Camp
Under a new regime and with a few items from the clearance rack, New York will look to find four lines that can overcome that recent struggle. Here’s a look at how Coach Laviolette has been lining up his forwards since the start of training camp.
First Line: Chris Kreider – Mika Zibanejad – Alexis Lafrenière
Watching the X feed from home has been a fun way to keep tabs on what has been going on in Tarrytown. My fellow Rangers beat reporters have done an outstanding job so far providing quality information for myself and their followers. Although Laviolette has come out and said that he’s testing different combinations, the first line seems to have Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad on it no matter what.
The Rangers escaped a nightmare scenario after Zibanejad went down in pain during practice this past Sunday. However, Laviolette confirmed later that day that it was an upper-body injury and that the first-line centre would be out day-to-day. Zibanejad is no longer in a non-contact jersey as of today and should be ready to go for the start of this season.
Silky smooth. ? pic.twitter.com/HxFGJh4i8e
— New York Rangers (@NYRangers) September 26, 2023
The surprise member of the first line has to be Alexis Lafrenière. In one of my latest articles, I mentioned that Lafrenière would be more productive on the left side rather than the right. Then again if he is getting first-line minutes then that would be ideal for his growth. Zibanejad playing in between two strong, in-your-face wingers could be as dominant of a first line The Garden has seen in almost a decade. The first line goes down as a win in my book for Laviolette.
Second Line: Artemi Panarin – Filip Chytil – Blake Wheeler
This has been the home of Artemi Panarin since he signed his $81.5 million contract back in 2019. With a new haircut, Panarin and his “aerodynamic” self (as described by Vincent Trocheck) stay put on the second line. This time, however, he has been playing alongside Filip Chytil and new signing Blake Wheeler.
Now, will I miss Panarin playing next to Trocheck if Laviolette breaks them up? Of course, I thought these two just clicked last season. Yet, the idea of Panarin linking up with Chytil is exciting, to say the least. Chytil has been living the Ranger lifestyle for a while now. He’s arguably been their most successful draft pick in the last decade.
He centred the famous “Kid Line” with Lafrenière and Kaapo Kakko. Laviolette even gave him an “A” in their first preseason game along with Lafrenière and Jimmy Vesey. As a player who is now under a contract extension, I believe that we have yet to see the best of Filip Chytil. If he can win a few more draws, especially in the offensive zone, this line can make a lot of noise, especially in terms of even-strength goal production. Another slight win marked down for Laviolette in my book.
A special night for Filda. pic.twitter.com/1Qfn6nptTC
— New York Rangers (@NYRangers) September 25, 2023
Third Line: Barclay Goodrow – Vincent Trocheck – Kaapo Kakko
This is where I started to get a bit concerned with the selections. I am a fan of Kakko playing with veterans like Trocheck and Barclay Goodrow, but why not start him on the second line? Kakko is one of your best puck-moving forwards and on a line with Panarin and Chytil can become a household this season if they start producing points.
I am torn between Barclay Goodrow and Jimmy Vesey for this spot on the third line, so it seems that Laviolette will favour Goodrow in this scenario. I don’t mind; however, I would not be surprised if Vesey ends up on the third line next to Trocheck due to their chemistry both on and off the ice.
Fourth Line: Jimmy Vesey – Nick Bonino – Tyler Pitlick
Now, this is what I would call a shutdown fourth line. This has been the only prediction that I have gotten right so far. This is what the Rangers were known for: having solid third and fourth lines that can be just as impactful as the top six.
Now, I am well aware that statistics will show the top six, and Adam Fox, will dominate in points this season. However, I am interested in seeing Vesey on a line with Nick Bonino. Bonino is such a well-respected veteran who still has plenty of game left in him. If Bonino can find that extra pass and find the tape of Vesey, the former Harvard standout could be on his way to a 10-15 goal season. Peter Laviolette’s lines, although not set yet, show promise through the first week of training camp.
Main Photo Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports