Our New York Rangers 2021-22 Preview is a part of our 2021-22 NHL Team Preview Series. Starting September 9th, we have covered one team per day in the leadup to the 2021-22 season. After a crazy busy offseason with a ton of player movement we need something to help summarize what happened and give an outlook of the impact on each team. Make sure to check back each day for the next team in the list!
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The Rangers were in a tough division last season and managed to finish in 5th place with a 27-23-6 record and 60 points. They were sort of middle of the pack for a lot of things last season. It looked like they knew how to score with 177 goals for, which placed them at 11th in the league. They were middle of the road for goals against at 157 on the season, 14th in the league. Their powerplay was 14th in the league at 20.7% effective, and their penalty kill was 82.3%, which was good enough for 10th in the league. Not too bad overall, but not too bad won’t get you a playoff spot in a division with Boston, Pittsburgh, Washington and the Islanders. The Rangers missed playoffs, but they really did look like a team on the up and up. That is…until they blew up their front office and changed course.
The Rangers played the Capitals near the end of the season, Tom Wilson did Tom Wilson things and Artemi Panarin ended up getting injured. Wilson got a fine, the Rangers released a statement effectively calling for head of player safety George Parros to be fired, and the team got fined $250k. Two days later general manager Jeff Gorton and president John Davidson were fired, apparently unrelated…yeah okay. Chris Drury became the new general manager and it wasn’t long before he fired head coach David Quinn.
In the offseason the team got tougher, adding guys like Barclay Goodrow, Sammy Blais and Ryan Reaves. It sure doesn’t look like Tom Wilson triggered any dramatic changes within the club. No, not at all. Adding guys like this came at the expense of some skill up front. Pavel Buchnevich was traded out for Blais, and I really don’t like the move for the Rangers. They seemed to be a very talented offensive team, and now they’ve swapped out some talent and brought in more grit. To be honest that wasn’t their problem outside of a single isolated Tom Wilson incident. Otherwise the team looked to be a couple seasons away from truly being a contender. The added muscle may be good to protect young players like Vitali Kravtsov, Kaapo Kakko and Alexis Lafrenierre, but it seems like a move backwards to many who enjoyed the style the team had been using.
The positive storylines to take into next season for Rangers fans is the explosion of Adam Fox. With Tony Deangelo being a problematic person and effectively being told he wouldn’t play for the team anymore last season, Fox was able to seize sole ownership of the first powerplay unit. He earned 47 points with 23 coming on the man advantage. Oh and he won the Norris trophy for best defenseman in the league. He was a force for the team, averaging 24:42 minutes a night, all at the age of 22 and 23 during the season. The other major bright spot was Igor Shesterkin’s official rookie season after playing only 12 games in 2019-2020. In 31 starts he had 16 wins, a 2.62 goals against average and a 0.916 save percentage. He got himself some calder votes for his play in one of the league’s toughest divisions last season.
So this team has a new general manager in Chris Drury and brought in Gerard Gallant as new bench boss. Gallant hasn’t worked since getting fired by Vegas and he should bring a dynamic new look to the team. It’s kind of interesting to see Ryan Reaves follow Gallant to New York, and I think his hiring may have had something to do with that trade. Gallant did really well with a skilled lineup in Vegas during his tenure there, with the Rangers shedding some skill and bringing in hard working and physical guys I’m curious to see how they mesh together. Let’s take a look at their moves.
- Barclay Goodrow
- Sammy Blais
- Ryan Reaves
- Patrik Nemeth
- Greg McKegg
- Jarred Tinordi
- Pavel Buchnevich
- Colin Blackwell
- Phillip Di Giuseppe
- Anthony Deangelo
- Brett Howden
- Brendan Smith
The top six of the team should look pretty close to last season, with the exception of Pavel Buchnevich no longer being around. Kreider, Zibanejad and Buchnevich was the most consistently matched up line for the team at even strength all season, although near the end of the year Alexis Lafreniere actually was inserted into this line and Kreider moved off the line. Lafrenierre had a very slow start to the year but looked a lot better in the last third of the season. He ended up with 21 points and will surely be looking to exceed that total in a full year. I think he probably gets the first nod to join the top six on a line with Zibanejad and Kreider. The Rangers will be hoping he settles in quickly, because Buchnevich was 4th on the team in points with 48 points in 54 games.
The other top line would be Ryan Strome and Artemi Panarin, who have great chemistry together, and another young player. It could be Kaapo Kakko or Vitali Kravtsov, both of whom play a skill game. Colin Blackwell actually played a lot of time with Strome and Panarin and I think his compete level will be missed. The young kids will have to earn a spot on this line because there isn’t a shortage of guys looking to play with Panarin.
Between Lafrenierre, Kakko and Kravtsov, one of them will end up on line three with Barclay Goodrow and Filip Chytil. This could be a decent scoring third line. Goodrow will add a lot to the bottom six I think, but will he look as good without linemates of Blake Coleman and Yanni Gourde and limited minutes Tampa Bay could provide. There will be more of an expectation for Goodrow on the Rangers, and with the contract they gave him it’ll be tough to live up to it.
The fourth line could be one of the most physical in the league. Sammy Blais and Ryan Reaves play a physical game and Kevin Rooney will centre. Reaves had 141 hits last season, Blaid had 103 and Rooney had 110 hits last season too, so isn’t afraid to throw the body around. It should be an effective fourth line. Julien Gauthier and Gregg McKegg can jump in if needed.
I think the Rangers have lost the ability to have guys play up and down the roster with some of the moves they’ve made. However, they undoubtedly have top end talent available, and some young players that could really take a step. They are more geared for a playoff run sure, but making playoffs will be hard in the division they are in.
The defense is where the rubber hits the road on this team. The top pairing is set to be Norris winner Adam Fox and Ryan Lindgren. They played a lot of time together last season and played extremely well together. Lindgren provides some stable defending in their own zone, and Fox has an amazing first pass and offensive ability. These guys could lock down the top pairing for a few seasons together.
The 8 million dollar man Jacob Trouba will be on the second pairing. He has completely been surpassed by Fox at this point and his contract will surely look even worse unless he can return to his Winnipeg Jets form from 2018-2019 when he hit 50 points. It’s unlikely given he won’t be on the number one powerplay, but his 12 points last season in 38 games isn’t good enough. He’ll likely be paired up with K’Andre Miller, who he spent most of his time with last year. The now 21 year old defenseman made his NHL debut last year and got his first taste of pro hockey after playing the previous season in the NCAA. Miller looked okay, but definitely has some development still to do.
Beyond this top 4 the team has a solid option in Libor Hajek for the third pairing, and Patrik Nemeth. Anthony Bititto will be the seventh and Jared Tinordi or rookie Nils Lundkvist could see some time too.
Overall this defense is good but not great. Barring some huge steps forward from some players I can see them having a tough time containing some of the stars in the metro and around the league. They were mediocre at stopping scoring last year and haven’t improved over the off season.
Goaltending will be exactly the same tandem as last season. Igor Shesterkin and rumoured trade-bait Alexandar Georgiev. Shesterkin is the guy, he got the majority of starts last season and had better numbers. Georgiev held his own though with a 0.905 save percentage and a 2.71 goals against average. There’s rumours he wants out and I could see the team flipping him if it looks like a stretch to make playoffs this year. For the mean time I think the Rangers are pretty set in net and it won’t be a problem area.
New York Rangers 2021-22 Prediction
4th-6th Metro Division
I don’t think the Rangers did quite enough to improve and overcome the best teams in the Metro. To me they aren’t better than the Islanders, Hurricanes, Penguins or Capitals. The team has brought in toughness at the expense of some top end talent. Reaves, Blais and Goodrow all enter the team and Buchnevich exits. They lost a top six player and will be looking to have the young promising players on the team step up and deliver this season. Kravtsov, Lafrenierre and Kakko will all be leaned on to produce this season. To me thats a tall order. If it pans out they have a shot, and if not they will be stuck behind the other teams in the metro. There’s an outside shot at this team making playoffs, but I’m not betting on it.
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