Last season for the New York Rangers was both a success and disappointment. The Rangers were the 4th team in a 4 team race in the Metro division last season but that was a huge boost to their playoff chances since that meant they would cross over into the Atlantic Division. After beating the Canadiens in the first round, the Rangers were upset by the Senators in Round 2. A few big offseason moves give the Rangers a different feel than in the past. Off went mainstays Derek Stepan and Dan Girardi, in comes Kevin Shattenkirk. A few forwards will be placed into bigger roles giving us a few potential value forwards that I really like. Let’s take a look at what Alain “The Brain” Vigneault has to work with:
Must Draft – I think you can make a legitimate case for five different players to be the best forward on the Rangers this season for fantasy. If I had to pick one, it would be Chris Kreider. Last year before the season, I repeatedly said I didn’t want to fall into the Chris Kreider trap. That is, I didn’t want to buy into the hype after multiple years of disappointment. Well, he finally made a big jump, scoring 28 goals and adding 25 assists in 75 games. Add in a +6 rating, 58 PIM and an average shot rate and you have a very good fantasy asset. The one reason I’m torn on where to rank him is the power play. On one hand, adding Shattenkirk gives the other four players in his unit massive power play upside. Shattenkirk is the best PPQB in the league over the last few seasons and nobody on the Rangers topped 18 PPP last season. That part is going to apply to all of the forwards in this segment because at this point, we don’t know who will be with Shatt Deuces (I have my guesses). The problem is that Kreider’s skill set isn’t necessarily what you’re looking for on the power play outside of being one of the best tipped shot players in the league. Could they use him in front of the net? Sure, but they haven’t used him that way in the past. I’ll give Kreider a little upside to improve from last season’s numbers making him a fringe top 100 player.
I feel pretty safe in saying that Mats Zuccarello will be with Shattenkirk on the first power play unit. A long time favorite in these parts, the Norwegian Hobbit scored 15 goals and 44 assists last season. More importantly, his shot rate was a career best and he was +15. It’s assist heavy but Zucc should go in the middle rounds of all drafts. Getting in the 65-70 point range isn’t out of the realm of possibility.
We know what Rick Nash at this point of his career. If you need goals and shots, take him in the middle to late rounds. He’s also been at least +8 in all five seasons for the Rangers and adds in average PIM. Again, if Nash can produce some more on the power play (the main question for all of these forwards), he could be a surprising value as a player who is generally overlooked.
Now we move into the Rangers centers. I feel safe saying Mika Zibanejad will be the man in the middle of the first line. His first year in New York was mediocre posting 14+23 in 56 games with low PIM and below average shots. However, I’m optimistic on Zibanejad’s potential this season. One, the minutes should be going up with Stepan traded to Arizona. I also like his chances of being on the first power play unit with Shattenkirk. In his last year in Ottawa, Zibanejad had 21+30 with a better shot rate. I think he gets at least to those totals this year. Take him in the later rounds.
Kevin Hayes should finally have a top six role. He’s one of those players that always leaves me wanting more; maybe we finally get it this year? Hayes was solid last season scoring 17 goals and adding 32 assists. Like Zibanejad, the problem is the lack of shots and penalty minutes. On the plus side, Hayes barely played on the power play last season so no matter what unit he’s on, he should see a boost there. I suspect you’ll be able to get Hayes very late in drafts and as long as you’re solely looking for points, he could be a surprise. 60 points isn’t out of the question.
I put J.T. Miller here only because I don’t know if he’ll be a winger in the top six or centering the third line. Either way, Miller should be able to produce. In fact, I’d argue that in real life, Miller was the best Ranger forward last season. The young American scored 22 goals and dished 34 assists with a +17 rating. Like the other potential centers for New York, Miller doesn’t give you penalty minutes and he’s the worst of the bunch in terms of shot rate. That said, he has the highest points upside of the bunch. Take him with a later pick in your drafts solely for points.
Streamers With Upside – I’m a big fan of Pavel Buchnevich, not only because of his excellent nickname but for his offensive ability. The Butcher showed flashes as a rookie scoring 20 points (8+12) in 41 games. Yes, the shot rate needs to take a big jump, but that’s not uncommon for a sophomore player. Look for him to get ample power play time and an offensive role at even strength. I don’t think the full breakout is this year but it’s certainly possible. I expect him to have stretches of being a hold and other times where he’s a drop in redraft 12’ers.
Safe Streamers – Michael Grabner was one of the biggest surprises of last season. Grabner scored 27 goals and 13 assists to go along with a +22 rating and slightly below average shot rate. The problem is that almost everything went right for Grabner last season. His shot rate was by far the highest of his career and while he did generate a ton of breakaways, it was still an outlier. The biggest issue I have is there’s no chance he plays on the power play. I’m not counting on a repeat of last season but I would still stream him when he’s a hot schmotato.
After a hot start, Jimmy Vesey went colder than liquid nitrogen in the second half. His final stat line was 16 goals and 11 assists which isn’t really moving the needle. The 24 year old was massively overhyped last season but that doesn’t mean there’s no room for improvement. Since he’ll either be on the first line with Nash again or in an offensive role on the third line, he could stumble into enough points to be fantasy relevant. I don’t think we see more than say, 20+20 on the year from him, but that also wouldn’t surprise me. When the Rangers have a busy stretch of games, Vesey becomes a viable streamer.
Elite Talent – Getting Kevin Shattenkirk at that price was one of the best moves of the offseason. Sure, he’s not great in his own end, but few players make the offensive impact he does from the blue line. Between the Blues and Capitals, Shattenkirk had 56 points, 27 of which were on the power play. His shot rate fell which is a bit of a concern but it went back to his norm when with the Capitals. There’s a good chance Shattenkirk is a plus contributor across the board given his propensity to accumulate penalty minutes as well. He’s a bottom end #1 defenseman who will make my top 100.
Must Draft – I expected McDonagh to have a big 2016-17 with Keith Yandle out of his way and while he didn’t set the world on fire, McDonagh was more than solid. Mac Truck scored 6 goals and 36 assists to go with a +20 rating, 36 PIM and almost exactly 2 shots per game. McDonagh has been +20 or better each of the past three seasons and a double digit plus every season of his career giving him some real value in a category that’s hard to predict. And to think the Rangers got him for Scott Gomez. Anyways, I don’t think Shattenkirk coming kills his value, it just caps his ceiling a bit. Treat McDonagh as a #3/4 depending on your team needs.
I was a big fan of Brady Skjei‘s game last season. The rookie scored 5 goals and 34 assists with a +11 rating and 42 PIM. He should be on the second power play unit all season giving him slight upside from these numbers. It’s pretty assist heavy and the shots are poor making Skjei a bottom end guy based on team needs but he should be drafted in all 12’ers. I hope that he plays more minutes this season because he certainly earned it.
For the first time in his career, Henrik Lundqvist posted a below average save percentage at .910. His goals against average was also the highest of his career by a wide margin at 2.74. So why am I optimistic about his chances of bouncing back? Well, the Rangers defense should be much improved with Girardi off the roster. The Rangers were among the worst teams in the league at preventing high danger area shots. Bring that number down and now the King could stay the King. Don’t reach for him based on name value but if you can get him as your #2, I’d be ecstatic. My main concern at this point is that the injuries are starting to build up and it’s harder to recover at 35 years old.
With Antti Raanta moving to the Desert with Stepan, the Rangers signed Ondrej Pavelec to be Hank’s backup. Pavelec has been a below average goalie in all but one season of his career. I’m not expecting anything from him but the Rangers do have a history of having successful backups. Watch how his first couple starts go before streaming him.
HITS / FORWARDS / BLOCKS LEAGUES
Skjei makes himself a clear hold in this format with big hits and decent blocks. Miller and Zucc contribute nicely in both categories. McDonagh has been a beast in blocks although that may go down without Girardi being there. I wouldn’t take the chance on Butcher in these formats with his low hits and blocks.
All of the centers (including Miller) get a boost being 25 and under. Buchnevich becomes a very nice high upside play. Lundqvist slides down quite a bit in value unless your team is a contender.
Blue Chip – I’m going to discount Buchnevich as a prospect since I’ve already talked about him. Igor Shestyorkin (also spelled Shesterkin) is one of the best goalies not in the NHL. The 21 year old posted an absurd 1.64/.937 line for SKA St. Petersburg in the KHL last season. He has two more years on his deal in Russia but I fully expect him to come over at that point and either take over as the main goalie immediately or start behind Lundqvist eventually and get the job. If you can wait it out a couple years, drafting Shestyorkin in a dynasty could really pay off.
Lias Andersson was the first first-round pick the Rangers have made since Alain Vigneault became the head coach. Pretty crazy to think about. Andersson was considered by some to be a slight reach at #7 overall. I have no doubt that Andersson will be an effective player in the NHL for years. The question is whether or not his offense fully develops to become a strong fantasy option. He has plenty of skill with the puck and never takes a shift off so I think it’s possible. I do put him behind a few of the players drafted after him in terms of fantasy value (e.g. Owen Tippett) but I do like Andersson plenty.
I might be slightly reaching putting Anthony DeAngelo in the blue chip category but those who read my posts and listened to the podcast last season know how much I like him. DeAngelo came along with the #7 pick to the Rangers and he brings a history of producing points with him. While he had only 14 points in 39 games for Arizona last season, he did add 37 PIM. DeAngelo has produced throughout his career at all levels and I think he will in the NHL when he gets a chance. It wouldn’t shock me if he plays his way into the Rangers opening day lineup. I can easily see a guy who gets 40-50 points on a regular basis with big penalty minutes. That has plenty of value in all leagues so I’m targeting DeAngelo in dynasties.
High Upside – Filip Chytil was barely old enough to be draft eligible this year. Like Andersson, Chytil was seen as a slight reach by the Rangers at 21st overall. However, there’s no denying his upside. His speed is elite and despite being slightly undersized, he plays a very heavy game. It’ll take him a few years to be NHL ready but I’m very intrigued by his puck handling and skating.
That’s all for now guys; I wasn’t expecting to write this much but it turns out that the Rangers are one of the most interesting teams for fantasy this year. Reid and I are recording a podcast on Tuesday previewing the entire Metro Division so look for that to drop on Wednesday. My next team preview, the Islanders, will be on Thursday. As always, feel free to ask any questions or leave any comments below. Thanks for reading, take care!