Hey guys! Today we head to the Big Apple for 31 in 31! Over the next month, I will be taking a look at each team’s players to watch out for going into the 2018-19 fantasy hockey season: The 31 in 31 daily segment. This analysis features everything from surefire studs, to sleepers, to prospects that may make an appearance at some point this season. Please let me know if you guys enjoy this type of material! Reminder that the stat totals are from last season.
Mika Zibanejad – 72GP 27-20-47. The 25-year-old former first round pick will look to headline this Rangers team that a number of people will have their doubts about. Though I definitely think he is ready to be a #1C, Zibanejad will likely coast right around 45-50 points for most of his career. There is potential for an increase depending on how he and his line mates click, but I see Zibanejad as a late-draft safe pick as he will receive top-six ice time as well as a good amount of PP time.
Chris Kreider – 58GP 16-21-37. In playing around 20 less games than 2016-17, Kreider coincidentally recorded around 20 less points in 2017-18, matching his career-low from his rookie season. Though he is most known for knocking Carey Price out of the 2013-14 playoffs, 27-year-old Kreider can still put the puck in the net. I think he is capable of getting back up to the 45-point mark, but his rank of 153 by ESPN is a little high for me. Much like Zib, with top-six ice Kreider is a safe late pick.
Mats Zuccarello – 80GP 16-37-53. The Norwegian veteran’s production will entirely depend on where he fits in this young Rangers lineup this season. There is a very good chance he will still be within their top-six, and will hope to get some PP#2 time. The mid-teen rounds of most drafts is where I anticipate the 5’7” Zuccarello getting drafted, but there is some risk associated with his spot in the lineup.
Vladislav Namestnikov – 81GP 22-26-48. After a very good October-March with Tampa Bay, 25-year-old Namestnikov had a hard time finding his game after being traded to the Rangers, recording just four points in 19 games. Though capable of playing centre, I anticipate Namestnikov will have a #2W position this season and will hopefully be able to find his game again. Ranked fairly low (181) by ESPN, I see Namestnikov as a legitimate sleeper target purely based on what he was able to do with Tampa during last season. Keep in mind playing on an offensive powerhouse boosted his stats, but I believe he will be able to put together a great season in a new scene.
Pavel Buchnevich – 74GP 14-29-43. A 2013 third-rounder, Buchnevich put together a respectable sophomore season for the Rangers last year. Likely to compete with Zuccarello for the #1W spot with Zibanejad, Buchnevich could be on the cusp of a breakout year. This Rangers team seems to be building around speed, and Buchnevich is a player that fits right into that system. An 82-game season from Buchnevich could easily surpass 50 points, with even more upside if he is on the Rangers’ top line.
Kevin Hayes – 76GP 25-19-44. Four seasons removed from a successful NCAA career, Hayes has averaged 45 or so points in each of his NHL seasons. Likely to play in a top-six role again, Hayes’ consistency so far in his career is an attractive attribute from a fantasy perspective. Much like some of his teammates, Hayes is a safe late-round pick.
Kevin Shattenkirk – 46GP 5-18-23. Injuries limited Shattenkirk to just 46 games last season, but the 29-year-old veteran will look to headline a very young Rangers’ defensive corps this season. He will fly under a lot of fantasy team owners’ radars, as there are very low expectations for this Rangers team this year. That being said, Shattenkirk is their consensus #1 guy, which means big minutes and lots of PP time. Ranked 148 by ESPN, a redemption season for Shattenkirk could make him the steal of your draft.
Brady Skjei – 82GP 4-21-25. I feel bad for anyone that took the chance with drafting Skjei last season, as he suffered heavily from the Sophomore Slump (yes that is an S, a K and a J all next to each other so that’s a no). Ranked outside of ESPN’s top 300, we have seen what Skjei is capable of. Likely to receive top-pair minutes paired with Shattenkirk, I expect Skjei to have a bounce-back season of around 35 points. If your league requires a lot of defencemen, he is worth taking a look at late.
Neal Pionk – 28GP 1-13-14. Three games past rookie eligibility, Pionk was able to impress down the stretch for the Rangers once they sold at the deadline. With the potential for top-four minutes, Pionk will have a solid season but is a streamer at best. The only opportunity for PP time will come via an injury to Skjei or Shattenkirk, and I’m not sure how many goals this Rangers team will be able to put up.
Anthony DeAngelo – 32GP 0-8-8. Now three seasons removed from excelling at the major-junior level, DeAngelo will have to return to that form if he wants to crack this Rangers lineup out of the gate. He has struggled to find full-time NHL reps since being drafted in the first round of the 2014 draft, and may need another season of splitting time between the Rangers and Wolf Pack (AHL) to gain some consistency.
Henrik Lundqvist – 63GP 2.98GAA 915SV%. At 36 years old, Hank’s days of being lights out are likely behind him. That being said, he is still a fantasy asset as he will likely have another heavy workload this season in front of backup Alexandar Georgiev. That being said, there will be plenty other goalies available that will have better fantasy numbers purely because of their team in front of them being much better than the Rangers. Lundqvist is a solid target for a backup if you are late to the goalies.
Lias Andersson – AHL: 25GP 5-9-14. If there’s any positive to take away from the WJC Team Sweden captain throwing his silver medal into the stands, it’s that the Rangers have a tremendous competitor in their system that works hard and wants to win. Drafted 7th overall in 2017, Andersson is a dynamic two-way forward that the Rangers should be able to mould into whatever role in their forward corps. Likely to centre their third line this year, I’m excited to see how Andersson pans out given the intangibles he has displayed to me already. I don’t anticipate a good rookie fantasy season, however keep your eye out for him.
Filip Chytil – AHL: 46GP 11-20-31. One of the few rookies to be ranked by ESPN, Chytil will look to make the jump onto the Rangers’ third line after a solid season in the AHL. Chytil’s draft stock reflects his higher offensive upside compared to Andersson, however both rookies likely won’t receive much more than middle-six ice. With a very evident killer instinct for burying goals, I’m not sure if Chytil is one of my top rookie picks however he will likely pan out into a prominent NHL player.
Ville Meskanen – Liiga: 48GP 24-20-44. Meskanen completes the trifecta of Rangers European rookies looking to crack the roster this year. Signed out of the Liiga after posting impressive numbers, the 22-year-old Finn has blossomed into a goal scorer. With decent size and a killer shot, I wouldn’t be surprised if Meskanen pushes for a roster spot this season. That being said, a transition year in the AHL wouldn’t hurt him.
Ryan Lindgren – NCAA: 35GP 2-7-9. Lindgren is a 2016 second-rounder that joined the Wolf Pack (AHL) for ten games after finishing his tenure at Minnesota (NCAA), recording four points in that stint. He appears to be a crafty defenceman with decent size that he isn’t afraid to use. I am very excited to see how he pans out, and a full season in the minors while the Rangers clear up room for him to make the jump will only help the 20-year-old.
Libor Hajek – WHL: 58GP 12-27-39. Acquired in the McDonagh/Miller deal from Tampa Bay, Hajek is a very impressive defensive prospect that will graduate from major-junior to the AHL this season. Hajek looked very impressive at the WJC this past year, an offensive mind with good size and he does not shy away from trying to create. Much like Lindgren, he will only benefit from a transition head and I see the two being very good NHLers for years to come.
Tim Gettinger – OHL: 66GP 33-36-69. Gettinger is a towering winger that the Rangers drafted fifth round in 2016. Following a very successful major-junior career with Sault Ste. Marie (OHL), the 20-year-old will begin his pro career in Hartford. Though a PPG season in the OHL is no joke, it should be noted that Gettinger was surrounded by very good teammates in his final season. That being said, the Rangers will look for him to continue to use his size in front of the net.
Ty Ronning – WHL: 70GP 61-23-84. Ronning’s offensive numbers speak for themselves: 61 goals in 70 games. That is stupid good. Despite being undersized, the 2016 seventh-rounder is a speed demon with excellent hands and hockey sense. If he is able to put up 60 goals in his first full AHL season, I will eat my hat.