As the NHL playoffs are underway, the New York Rangers are home watching, so let’s give out some awards for the 2017-18 season.

The NHL award season isn’t until late June, but with the New York Rangers out of the playoffs, we decided to put together some awards to take some positives out of a disappointing year.

This season clearly did not go as planned for the Rangers. You surely didn’t need to hear that statement again.

The team struggled throughout the season losing several games that they should have won. Despite that, there were still some players who stepped up this season and contributed to whatever success the Rangers found.

Awards being given out are the most valuable player, rookie of the year, comeback player, disappointing player, a player who made a great first impression in their first year and the most surprising player.

In selecting the winners of these awards, we asked the Elite Sports NY Rangers team for their input. Those writers included:

Team MVP

Henrik Lundqvist was voted by the media for the team MVP this season and he was selected the ESNY’s Rangers MVP.

Despite how the numbers looked this year, Lundqvist was without a doubt the most valuable player for the Rangers. He went on an absolute tear in the months of November, December and January with a 16-6-2 record where he had a save percentage of .933 and a goals-against average of 2.26.

Lundqvist brought the Rangers out of a 4-7-2 start and had the team in the top 15 of the league come February first. He did all of this while facing over 30 shots in almost every game he played. There was a stretch at one point in the season where he made 100 saves on 106 shots in two games. He won both of those games and showed exactly why he is the MVP of this team.

Rookie of the Year

Of all of the young players that the Rangers brought in this season, there were plenty of candidates to chose from. But the obvious winner of this award here though is Neal Pionk.

Pionk showcased an impressive training camp with the Rangers but it was decided that he needed seasoning in Hartford and was left off the roster to start the year. But disappointing seasons from Brendan Smith and injuries to Kevin Shattenkirk and Ryan McDonagh provided Pionk an opportunity to showcase his skills.

There is no denying that Pionk has a place in the NHL and on this Rangers roster in 2018-19. The kid scored 14 points in just 28 games in the NHL and led all rookie defenseman in points since being recalled in February. He had a seven-game points streak where he scored 10 points during that span. The offense is there, but there is still room to grow for Pionk. Nonetheless, the future is bright for the 22-year-old defenseman.

Comeback Player

After having a couple of tough seasons, Marc Staal proved to be an important player for the Rangers this season.

Staal had never been the same player since battling injuries in the 2012-13 season where he only played in 21 games. But something clicked this past season where he emerged as one of the teams top defenseman. Paired with Pionk for the latter part of the season, the Rangers couldn’t be more impressed with what they saw from Staal.

This season Staal played in 72 games where he had 76 hits averaging 1.1 hits per game. He also averaged 1.3 blocks per game which were crucial with the Rangers buying shot blocking machine Dan Girardi this past summer. 2:49 of his 15:40 average ice-time was seen shorthanded where he helped lead the 10th best penalty kill in all of hockey.

First Year Impressions

This award is there were some disagreements within the ESNY staff. After the votes were tallied though, the winner of the first impressions award is Neal Pionk.

But when a rookie is making plays like the one above, it is kind of hard not to be impressed with what Pionk had to show. He would be given his chance later in the season and continued to impress Ranger fans.

Pionk should be given the chance to continue his progression in the NHL next season.

Most Surprising Player

If any player came out and gave us a wow did he just do that moment, it was Kevin Hayes.

Hayes arguably enjoyed the best season of his young career despite not matching his career high in points. He was challenged to play more of an all-around defensive type game this season and took that with great pride.

Even though he focused on his defensive game, Hayes was able to score a career-high 25 goals this season. Perhaps this was because he had a career-high 172 shots on goal this season. He also elevated his face-off percentage winning 50.54 percent of the draws he took. Hayes might be a restricted free agent this season, but it looks like he has a future with the Rangers.

Disappointing Player

After an impressive rookie season, Jimmy Vesey was voted the team’s most disappointing player.

Although he scored a career-high 17 goals and 28 points, Vesey was expected to do so much more for this Rangers team. He didn’t record a point until the teams ninth game of the season on Oct. 21st and only recorded three points in the month of October. There were stretches this season where Vesey seemed almost invisible.

Vesey will be a restricted free agent this summer and will most likely be given a chance to continue to grow as a Ranger. If he can play the way he played after the trade deadline where he scored six goals and four assists, the Rangers will be in good shape. It’s up to Vesey though to become more of a factor for the Blueshirts.

Those are the winners, but you might be wondering how the ESNY staff voted. Those results can be seen in the table below.

ESNY WriterMVPRookie of the YearComeback PlayerDisappointing PlayerFirst ImpressionsMost Surprising
DominickHenrik Lundqvist Neal PionkMarc StaalBrendan SmithRyan SpoonerKevin Hayes
FrankHenrik LundqvistNeal PionkMarc StaalPavel BuchnevichNeal PionkJesper Fast
NealChris KreiderNeal PionkMarc StaalJimmy VeseyFilip ChytilRyan Spooner
BillyHenrik LundqvistNeal PionkMarc StaalVladislav NamestnikovNeal PionkKevin Hayes
BrendanHenrik LundqvistNeal PionkMarc StaalJimmy VeseyFilip ChytilRyan Spooner

This season didn’t go the way the Rangers wanted it to, but there were still some positives to take away from it.

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Dominick is a graduate of Canisius College. He has covered the Rangers for the last seven seasons and the Yankees for the last four.