New York Rangers 2021-22 Season Preview

Most of the Rangers’ moves this summer were so very obvious. After Washington’s Tom Wilson attacked Pavel Buchnevich and Artemi Panarin at the end of the season and was not suspended, a statement calling for NHL Department of Player Safety head George Parros’ dismissal was released, the team’s GM and President were fired, and the new approach was clear: this cannot happen again. The young and skilled Rangers are no more. They want the grit.

Offseason additions: F Barclay Goodrow, D Patrik Nemeth, F Ryan Reaves, F Sammy Blais, D Jarred Tinordi, F Dryden Hunt.

Offseason subtractions: F Pavel Buchnevich, F Colin Blackwell, D Brendan Smith, F Brett Howden, F Phillip Di Giuseppe, D Tony DeAngelo, D Jack Johnson.

Forwards

Artemi Panarin only played in 42 games last year, missing time after allegations that were quickly deemed to be politically-motivated from his old Russian coach. Despite that, Panarin still scored 17 goals and led the team with 58 points. He showed in his second season with the team why he is one of the league’s best players and arguably the best winger. Mika Zibanejad kept up his goal scoring prowess after an insane 41 goals in 57 games the season prior. He played in one less game this past year, although was not as proficient. Zibanejad scored a team leading 24 times, with 26 assists for 50 points, second on the team to Panarin. He has lost one of his normal line-mates in Pavel Buchnevich. Chris Kreider reached the 20 goal plateau for the sixth time, and for the third consecutive season. Kreider combined his 20 goals with 10 assists. The big, fast veteran had 115 hits with 34 penalty minutes, showing off his physicality. Alexis Lafreniere’s highly anticipated rookie season was not exactly what Ranger fans hoped it would be, as he did not receive any Calder votes. Of course, committee-based vote totals are not the best way to judge a 19-year-old. Still, New York hoped for more than 12 goals on a 17.9 shooting percentage with nine assists. Ryan Strome must really enjoy playing with Panarin. Since joining the Rangers, he has transformed into a much better player on the scoresheet. Strome averaged over 18 minutes a night last year, while scoring 14 goals with 49 points. He was third on the team in the latter. Strome has played center for most of his career, although he won just 43.2 percent of draws in 2020-21. If there is any disappointment regarding Lafreniere, at least he has been better than Kaapo Kakko. The 2019 second overall pick has been a good defensive winger, but has failed to produce anything offensively. In his sophomore season, Kakko scored nine times with 17 points. Playing more with Panarin can help him. Also, he’s just 20, so it is not wise to give up on Kakko when he is four years younger than last year’s Calder winner. The expectations are high for Vitali Kravtsov, the ninth overall pick in 2018. He started the season in the KHL, scoring 16 goals in 49 games. When he came to North America, Kravtsov had just two goals with two assists in 20 games. Filip Chytil had an encouraging rookie season as a 19-year-old in 2018-19, but has plateaued out since then. His 22 points in 42 games last year was his best pace by far. He’s still just 22, but Chytil seems to be just a third line center at best. After winning two Stanley Cups with the Lightning, the Rangers absolutely paid Barclay Goodrow, giving him six years. The main question for Goodrow is that he will now play away from Yanni Gourde and Blake Coleman. Goodrow was the pure checker of the line, as he had 111 hits last year. He had six points in 18 games with 68 hits for Tampa Bay in the playoffs. Kevin Rooney’s first year as a Ranger resulted in a career high eight goals, six assists, and 54 games played. The fourth line center was third on the team in penalty minutes with 54, behind the departed Brendan Smith and Brendan Lemieux. That does not necessarily mean that Rooney will be first in penalty minutes this year, as Ryan Reaves is now a Ranger. In the most obvious Wilson-repellant move, the Golden Knights’ enforcer was brought in. Reaves only played in 37 games last year, with five points, 27 penalty minutes and 141 hits. He joins New York with 2322 hits over 11 seasons. Coming from St. Louis for Pavel Buchnevich, Sammy Blais rode an insane 25.8 percent shooting rate to a career high eight goals in 36 games. What is more notable than his goal scoring prowess is his grit, as Blais had 103 hits last season. Former first-round pick Julien Gauthier could be the odd-man out. Gauthier played in 30 games last season, with eight points. He scored just two goals on 38 shots. Former Cornell star Morgan Barron provides center depth. He played in five NHL games at the end of the season. Before that, Barron scored 10 goals with 11 assists for 21 points in 21 AHL games.

Defensemen

Is Adam Fox the best Ranger defenseman since Brian Leetch? After how good he was in 2020-21, there is a serious case for it. Fox not only won the Norris Trophy, but he also finished 13th in Hart voting. He had 47 points, 42 of which were assists, in 55 games while averaging 24 minutes and 42 seconds on ice per game. Fox also blocked 102 shots. The best part? Fox is only 23. The Rangers extended Fox’s partner, Ryan Lindgren, for three years in the offseason. He is a much more defensive-oriented player. Lindgren had 16 points with 98 hits while averaging exactly 20 minutes a night in 50 games. Lindgren is exactly six days older than his partner. Jacob Trouba is a good player, although his $8 million AAV through 2025-26 is still looking ugly. Trouba only played in 38 games last year, but that did not stop him from recording 84 blocks and 111 hits. From a guy who had 50 points in his last season before coming to New York, Trouba’s 39 points in 108 games with the Rangers is very disappointing. K’Andre Miller showed flashes of his talent in his rookie season, but also reminded viewers that he is only 21-year-old. He finished 12th in Calder votes after posting 12 points in 53 games with 77 blocked shots and 93 hits. The six-foot-five lefty has a bright future. This year’s former first rounder to debut on defense will be Nils Lundkvist. The small righty scored 14 goals with 32 points in 52 games for Lulea HF in Sweden last year. The Rangers brought in a veteran partner for Lundkvist in Patrik Nemeth, who struggled his way out of Colorado last postseason. Nemeth was very solid for Detroit at the start of the year, and he combined to have ten points in 53 games. Another gritty addition is Jarred Tinordi. The six-foot-six defender had an assist with 56 hits in 21 games for Nashville and Boston. Child Ranger fan Anthony Bitetto was impressive in 14 games for the team, scoring a goal with three assists in sheltered minutes. It was his first NHL goal since 2017-18.

Goalies

In what was still considered to be his rookie season, Igor Shesterkin was very solid. He finished fifth in Calder voting with a .916 save percentage and a 2.62 GAA. Shesterkin also had a 7.9 GSAA in 35 games, 31 of which were starts. He has a solid backup in Alex Georgiev, who had the worst save percentage of his career in just 19 games last year. Georgiev posted a .905 percentage with -1.2 GSAA. His 2.71 GAA was a career best, though. Veteran Keith Kinkaid got into nine games last year. He had just an .898 save percentage, but his 2.59 GAA did lead the team.

Projected Lines

Chris Kreider – Mika Zibanejad – Alexis Lafreniere

Artemi Panarin – Ryan Strome – Kaapo Kakko

Barclay Goodrow – Filip Chytil – Vitali Kravtsov

Sammy Blais – Kevin Rooney – Ryan Reaves

Extras: Julien Gauthier, Morgan Barron

Ryan Lindgren – Adam Fox

K’Andre Miller – Jacob Trouba

Patrik Nemeth – Nils Lundkvist

Extras: Anthony Bitetto, Jarred Tinordi

Igor Shesterkin

Alex Georgiev

Extras: Keith Kinkaid

Prediction

If the Rangers left their team from last year alone and only added health, they could be in a better position than they are now. But still, this is a very good team. The Metropolitan Division is tough, but they are good enough to break through. A fourth place finish, which they could certainly obtain, should be enough to make it to the postseason.

Published by carterhud

Carterhud.com. SI Kids Kid Reporter, Prime Time Sports Talk writer

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