Hey guys! My top 50 rankings have taken a little longer than expected, it’s getting pretty lengthy, so I will finish them up today and post them first thing on Tuesday morning. For now, I’ll do the next team in my season preview series, the New York Rangers. This works out well because they won the Jimmy Vesey sweepstakes over the weekend. More on what that entails later. The Rangers are in a tough position after years of being a viable contender. They were absolutely demolished by the Penguins in the first round of the playoffs. Jeff Gorton made one trade to switch the core and with the addition of Vesey, they have a plethora of forwards with fantasy value. Defensemen, not so much, but the King stay the King. Here’s a look at the Rangers roster and top 5 prospects:
Let’s put in perspective just how good Henrik Lundqvist is. He just had his worst goals against average of his career and it was only a 2.48. It’s been 7 straight years where his save percentage was at least a .920. Lundqvist has won at least 30 games every season he’s been in the league take away the lockout shortened season where he won 24 in only 43 games. Simply put, Lundqvist is as consistent as any goalie in history and is a clear #1 fantasy goalie despite the weak defense in front of him. He’s worthy of a third round pick in 12’ers.
Antti Raanta remains the backup for the Blueshirts. He played very well last season with a 2.25 GAA and .919 sv% in 25 appearances (18 starts). Raanta is someone who should be streamed virtually every time he starts and would be an elite option if Lundqvist was injured.
It wasn’t long enough that the Rangers had one of the best defensemen cores in the league. The decline of Dan Girardi and Marc Staal (neither of whom are fantasy relevant) really thinned this group out so they’ll be counting on Ryan McDonagh for huge minutes. He averaged the lowest time on ice since his rookie season at 22:21; that number is going to drastically increase. It wouldn’t surprise me if McDonagh played 27+ minutes a night. McDonagh’s numbers were almost identical the last two seasons besides a drop in his shot rate but I expect him to take a fairly big leap this season. The biggest thing besides the minutes increase is that Keith Yandle is gone. The Rangers don’t have anyone else worthy of playing on the first power play unit so McDonagh will be on it by default. No Yandle should also get his shot total back up to where it was in 2013-14, 177 shots in 77 games. McDonagh has also been +11 or better in all 6 of his pro seasons, including a career best +26 last season. I think McDonagh sets a new career high in points this year and closes in on 50; I want him as a third defensemen on most of my teams.
The rest of the Rangers defense aren’t worthy of being rostered in 12 team leagues barring an injury to McDonagh or a role bigger than anticipated. Kevin Klein could come close if he gets power play time but his penalty minutes are low and his shot rate is one of the worst in the league. Same exact thing goes for Nick Holden as well. In deep leagues that count hits, Dylan McIlrath will provide them and penalty minutes in spades. For dynasties, I’m a big fan of Brady Skjei going forward. It shouldn’t be too much longer before he has a regular top 4 role including power play time. The problem is that the first round pick may be in the AHL to start the season so he’s off the radar otherwise.
Rick Nash had the worst season of his career by a long shot in 2015-16, scoring only 15 goals a season after tallying 42. He had only 21 assists and 6 PPP and while his shot rate was still elite at over 3 a game, it was a big step back from approaching 4 in the past. So which Nash are we going to see this year? I think it’s closer to 2 years ago but not at that truly elite level. His shooting percentage was the worst of his career so with a regression back to his career average and staying healthy, Nash would be looking at 25-30 goals. He’s been a plus player every season in New York and as mentioned before, the shot rate is elite despite the dropoff. The assists haven’t been good in New York so even if you give him 25 assists, you’re only looking at 50-55 points. That sounds about right to me slightly towards the higher end. He’s probably going to crack the top 100 but it’s going to be pretty close; your team build will depend a lot on whether Nash is worth taking. You need to be able to stomach the lack of PPP and assists while you have a need for goals and shots.
Derek Stepan had an up and down season with a poor first half and strong second half, including a huge hot streak to close the season that made a big difference in the fantasy playoffs for head to head leagues. His totals ended up in line with the past with 22+31 but the best thing was a career best shot rate at over 2.5 per game. At this point, we are pretty certain of what Stepan is from a fantasy perspective. He’ll be outside of the top 100 but definitely in the top 150 being an above average contributor everywhere but penalty minutes.
I was on the Mats Zuccarello bandwagon last season and he ended up doing better than I even thought. The Norwegian Hobbit set a new career high in goals and points with 26 and 61 respectively. The one concern is that his shooting percentage was much higher than in the past which will surely bring that number down this year. Expect him to be more towards the 20+35 range instead which makes him a middle round selection in standard leagues.
I really wish Chris Kreider had any semblance of hockey IQ because he’d be one of the best players in the league. Instead, he’s all tools but no toolbox. His goals and assists stayed in line with his first two seasons with a decrease in penalty minutes in shots. The problem is that he’s not a good player on the power play so he doesn’t rack up the easy points. In 12’ers, Kreider should still be drafted but not until the later rounds if you need goals and penalty minutes. That way, you can have lower expectations instead of being suckered into thinking he’s finally going to breakout.
Mika Zibanejad was the big trade acquisition for the Rangers this offseason coming in from Ottawa for Derick Brassard. The former 6th overall pick is coming off his best season setting career highs in goals (21), assists (30), and shots (184). He should get the chance to play with Nash to start giving him a nice opportunity for even more assists. I expect him to take another slight step forward this year at 23 years old which would put him right around where Stepan is in my rankings; their numbers are virtually identical.
J.T Miller became a mainstay in my daily notes last season as one of my favorite streamers until he played so well that he became a hold. The former first round pick scored 22 goals and added 21 assists despite only 4 PPP and only 15 minutes a game. I hope that he gets a bigger chance this season but with the depth the Rangers have, that’s far from a guarantee. Since the shot rate is below average and that opportunity is in question, I don’t love Miller this season but I think at the least last season is repeatable. I would look to take Miller with one of my last picks that could turn into a streamer spot if he doesn’t start well. Give him a decent boost in dynasty leagues.
One guy that I whiffed on last season was Kevin Hayes. After a terrific rookie season, I expect him to take a step forward in his sophomore campaign but instead he took a step back. He averaged only 13:40 a game and I’m not sure it gets any better. Add in a below average shot rate with weak penalty minutes and I’m looking elsewhere in 12 man leagues; I’d start taking the chance on anything deeper though. I expect him to be a regular streamer though depending on his power play time.
I can’t make any sense of it but Jimmy Vesey decided he wanted to play in the Garden. The Hobey Baker winner has received so much hype over the last few months that he’s certain to disappoint. Vesey could end up getting second line and second unit power play time but I can’t see him getting more than say, 20 goals and 20 assists. He had only 6 PIM in 33 games last season so he won’t contribute there either. I expect to be much lower on him than elsewhere; I wouldn’t draft him in a 12 team redraft. There’s just not much upside for Vesey; he’s going to stick around for a while and should be a top 6 winger but he’s not going to be a 30+ goal scorer.
TOP 5 PROSPECTS
1) Pavel Buchnevich (love him for dynasties)
2) Brady Skjei
3) Igor Shestyorkin
4) Nicklas Jensen
5) Robin Kovacs
If you want to include Vesey, he’d be third. The Rangers prospect pool is a mess and desperately needs to be restocked.
That’s all for now guys. I’ll be back tomorrow with my top 50 overall, I promise! My next season preview will be out on Wednesday for the defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins. As always, feel free to ask any questions or leave any comments below. Take care!