Season Preview: Rangerstown

The BEARD Hockey Dispersal Draft has come and gone, as has the Entry Draft. It is now time to look at how the New York Rangers stack up to their competition.

In doing so, we will review the expected lines and defensive pairings, and evaluate how the team will play 5-on-5 and on special teams as well as predict where they sit within their division.

Line 1: Chris Kreider / Connor McDavid / Jakub Silfverberg

The top line has the top player on planet Earth. That’s a good start! However, the impressive part of this line is that Silvferberg and Kreider can skate with McDavid and offer fantastic complementary skills. Kreider in particular will be expected to fly down the ice beside McDavid and supply a finisher who goes to the front of the net. Silverberg is no slouch physically either and has good playmaking and finishing. This should be one of the top lines in the league.

Line 2: Jonathan Drouin / Nico Hischer / Filip Zadina

The second line is nicknamed the “Kid Line” as it is short on experience but oozes skill. Again, skating is a premium asset for this trio. While there may be higher rated forwards than Zadina lower down in the line-up, management wants to ensure the high-end prospect gets premium minutes to aid his development as he, and line-mate Hischer, have major potential. Don’t expect this trio to be on the ice late in the game with a lead and they will likely feature mostly offensive zone starts as the Rangers maximize their offensive prowess.

Line 3: Andrew Cogliano / Nick Foligno / Artem Anisimov

The third line is a veteran group that could make up for Line 2’s lack of defensive zone starts. Foligno is one of the team’s better faceoff guys and checkers, while Anisimov is a good complementary scorer that keeps this trio offensively relevant. Cogliano is a the type of versatile 200-foot veteran player that every championship team needs. This line looked more offensively gifted before the Nolan Patrick trade, but more on that later.

Line 4: Alexander Holtz / Vinnie Hinstroza / Chris Stewart

The fourth line currently has the Rangers top prospect without NHL time manning the wing in Alexander Holtz (pending his creation). Depending how he rates, we could see him jumped to the third line to get a little more quality development time. If he is better suited to the AHL to start, Alexander True could team up with Hinstroza and Stewart. Stewart gives the team some veteran toughness while Hinstroza adds some versatility and a little offensive oomph.

Defense Pairing 1: Mikhail Sergachev / Eric Johnson

Johnson is a hard hitting anchor on the backend with high defensive ability and a simple, but effective, offensive element to his game. Sergachev is also physical, is a smooth skater, and has an improving offensive element to his game with good passing skills. His high potential should see him develop into the Rangers top rearguard for years to come.

Defense Pairing 2: Filip Hronek / Olli Maatta

While Sergachev should develop into the teams best all around defender, Hronek could be the most gifted blueliner as his solid passing and scoring skills are paired with elite skating and a sneaky physical presence. Maatta is a 'steady eddy' type that can chip in offensively but takes care of his own zone first and foremost, and he is also physical and tough to play against.

Defense Pairing 3: Brendan Dillon / Adam Boqvist

Brendan Dillon’s overall ability appears to be wasted on a third pairing unit. But the steady, hard-hitting, blueliner will be mentoring one of the most gifted offensive defensemen in the game in Boqvist, who has sky-high potential and impressive offensive skills already.

Power Play 1: Kreider / McDavid / Silfverberg / Sergachev / Drouin

The first thing you will notice on this unit is Drouin is the fourth forward with Sergachev being the lone D-man. Expect the team to set-up with McDavid and Drouin manning either half-wall and Kreider as a net-front presence. Silfverberg will pivot between the offset point position to down below the goal line as the play dictates. McDavid coming off the half board is expected to create serious movement on the defensive box, where there should be a lot of open ice - even against the best penalty kills.

Power Play 2: Anisimov / Hischer / Zadina / Hronek / Boqvist

At first, you would look at this unit and think it is the traditional 3-2 formation - but not so. Boqvist is expected to man the half-wall with Hronek being the blueline pivot in an umbrella formation. Look for Zadina to be the high-slot trigger man, Hischer to be the poor man's McDavid on the other half-wall putting pressure on the defense, and Anisimov to be playing net-front while pivoting to below the goal line (in a similar role as Silvferberg but with slightly less range).

Penalty Kill 1: Foligno / Hischer / E. Johnson / Maatta

Hischer has surprisingly good defensive acumen and pairing him with Foligno gives the Rangers two decent guys on draws, while Johnson and Maatta are two very responsible defensemen. Hischer’s usage will have to be monitored as he shows up on the PP as well, but he can be spelled by Andrew Cogliano if necessary on this unit.

Penalty Kill 2: Silfverberg / McDavid / Sergachev / Dillon

I know what you are thinking - isn’t this the first PP unit? Well no, Dillon is there. Silfverberg actually is one of the best defensive forwards on the roster and McDavid isn’t far off. Currently, most NHL power plays have their first unit featuring four forwards and they stay on the ice for 90 seconds. How would you feel having a four-forward unit on the ice at the tail end of the PP and see McDavid coming over the boards, fresh to kill the last 30 seconds of the PP? The Rangers are guessing that opposing teams play it conservative and remove their best offensive players for the back half of penalties - or risk McDavid and crew taking advantage of the situation.

Obviously balancing ice time will be critical but expect the Rangers to be aggressive here. If Sergachev gets over taxed on the back end, seventh defenseman Slater Koekkoek could get some minutes, and Cogliano could spell either Silfverberg or McDavid if necessary as well.

Goaltending: Semyon Varlamov/Chris Dreidger

Varlamov will do the heavy lifting while Dreidger will split back to backs. Connor Ingram is expected to get most of the development minutes in the AHL, but could be pressed into NHL duty if there is an injury.

Overall Summary

GM Sean McAndrews is very happy with the team he has constructed. Having McDavid gives the Blueshirts an undeniable star player to build around, but the roster skill and youth should also provide a contender now and into the future.

A big part of their success will be Hischer’s ability to play a key role on the team, but also continue to develop into a franchise cornerstone. The same could be said for Sergachev, Zadina, and Hronek to a lesser extent.

The Rangers have recently highlighted that they could be in the market for a depth forward. This will be especially important if Holtz starts the year in the AHL. The team could also potentially look to improve their backup goaltender spot. But if Varlamov can stay healthy (no given considering his history), it may be less of a need.

The depth up front was depleted by the Nolan Patrick trade, but the assets that were brought back were significant.

The Pipeline

The Rangers currently have seven players on their opening day roster aged 23 or younger. Even if you exclude Holtz, having McDavid, Sergachev, Hischer, Boqvist, Hronek, and Zadina as a young NHL capable core is enviable.

The farm team also averages under 25 years old and has plenty of potential, so there could be some good depth coming through as well. However, based on the trade of Patrick and the nearly forgotten trade of Jason Zucker, the prospect pipeline is very well stocked.

Top 10 up-and-comers for the Rangers

1. Alexander Holtz, LW/RW: A primely gifted sniper with excellent hockey IQ