The 2018-19 New York Rangers left wingers had an up and down season, but still were able to show great potential for 2019-20.
Entering the 2018-19 season, one of the bigger question marks around the New York Rangers was, “Who would provide scoring on the left wing?”
Chris Kreider entered the year coming off an injury-stricken 2017-18, while Jimmy Vesey still remained a major question mark based on his consistency. The team delt Mats Zuccarello at the trade deadline, and while he’s listed as a right-winger, his absence would become a huge factor in generating production from the left side of the ice. Filip Chytil, a natural center, even saw himself out of position based on need. This was thanks to the lack of depth the Blueshirts had and he fit in just nicely.
Despite all of these question marks, the Rangers were able to surprise with the production they saw from their left wingers. Trade deadline acquisition Brendan Lemieux seemed to fit in just perfectly, while Kreider put up perhaps the best season of his career. It truly was one of the more surprising positions for the Blueshirts considering they came into the season with little to offer at the position and came out of it pretty encouraged.
Grades are determined based on impact to the team, performance, and consistency. Some players might have an incomplete due to the fact that they left us wanting more or had their opportunities taken away.
Jimmy Vesey’s 2018-19 season was one of the most important seasons in the kid’s young career to prove he can be a top-six forward on a team. He was given every opportunity early on to prove his worth, but could never really find the consistency needed to be an impact player in the top-six for a contending team.
Vesey got off to a decent start, scoring three points in seven games looking like he could break out for a career year under first-year head coach David Quinn. But what we would see from the third year forward was more of the same, confirming where he really should fit on the team moving forward. He finished the season with a career-high in points (38) while adding 17 goals matching last season’s number.
Like the video above shows, Vesey still has potential offensively to make plays and be more of a factor offensively. The problem that just continues to linger is his inability to do it on a consistent basis. Once he is able to do that, he does have the potential to be an above average player in the NHL.
Overall, we still saw the splashes of talent that got fans excited when Vesey signed with New York. He played relatively solid defense for most of the year but just continued to disappear too much especially leaving fans wanting to see more from the 25-year-old.
Chris Kreider entered 2018-19 looking to rebound from a disappointing 2017-18 season where he missed most of the year with a career-threatening injury. Despite his solid numbers after coming back from the injury, Kreider was still looking to prove he can be the go-to player on a team, after being a solid secondary player over the last few seasons.
To start the year, Kreider took his game to a new level scoring four goals in the team’s first seven games while giving fans the hope that this was the year he could put it all together. As the season progressed, Kreider continued to score goals at a 30-goal scorer’s pace and entered the All-Star break already at the 22-goal plateau. He and Mika Zibanejad formed a great one-two punch alongside Mats Zuccarello giving the Rangers one of the more dangerous lines in the league.
21 seconds in.
Chris Kreider barely needed any time to get things going. pic.twitter.com/yU00bikXQq
— NHL (@NHL) February 24, 2019
Even with the early success, Kreider only finished the year with 28 goals even after the strong start and simply was not the same player after the trade deadline. Part of that issue has to do with him playing through an injury for a few games which without a doubt had some impact on his game but for the most part of the year, he really was one of their more consistent forwards.
Kreider is an important piece to this Rangers’ team even with though he cooled off a bit down the stretch. If 2018-19 showed anything, it showed how he can be a legitimate first line winger for New York. He answered almost all of the questions surrounding his game and entering 2019-20, the only question is if he’s getting a contract extension.
Despite being drafted as a center, Filip Chytil spent the majority of his rookie year playing on the wing and opened some eyes doing so.
Just like any other 19-year-old who doesn’t have generational talent, there is going to be plenty of growing pains. Chytil would start off strong, but the results in the box score just weren’t there to start for him. He would finish the year with 11 goals and 12 assists, but five of those goals were scored in a five-game span from Nov. 12 through Nov. 21.
— MSG Networks (@MSGNetworks) November 22, 2018
When looking at a player that young, you can’t really judge his season based off of his final numbers. You have to take a look at his game all around, how he plays defensively if he’s making the right reads, and along with how he’s handling playing against grown men. There is still plenty of work for him defensively, but he’s shown he has the skill to make it in this league in a top-six role down the line.
It might take a couple of more years for him to put it all together, and that’s fine, but the Rangers really do have a nice looking prospect in him.
After his acquisition at the trade deadline, no one really knew what the Rangers had in Brendan Lemieux. His last name makes you think he’s just a hard-nosed grinder destined to be a career fourth line player, but he showed he’s so much more than that in his short time on Broadway.
Playing in 44 games with Winnipeg, he only scored nine goals but those goals came with a major asterisk next to them. Those goals came while seeing limited ice time. He was blocked by an extremely talented forward group and the Rangers thought they could get something out of him in an expanded role. They did just that as he went on to score six points in 19 games with New York, but his game is so much more than putting the puck in the back of the net.
— Dom Renna (@drennaESNY) March 2, 2019
He quickly became a fan favorite, causing havoc all over the ice getting under the skin of the opposition, something David Quinn really appreciates. The only issue Lemieux really faced was his conditioning, an issue that Quinn cited as a direct result of playing in a limited role in Winnipeg. Outside of that, Lemieux really did impress in his short time on Broadway but like any young player still needs plenty of work before he becomes an NHL regular.
Considering the limited sample size for Lemieux, we don’t know exactly what he can do over a full 82-game season. For that, we have to give him an incomplete, only until that sample size grows over the next year.