Training camp is quickly approaching for the New York Rangers. Here’s a look at what could go right and what could go wrong in 2019-20.
The NHL offseason has hit the month of August, when news is hard to come by.
For the New York Rangers, all of the talk surrounds Chris Kreider’s next contract, potential line combinations and a crowded defensive unit. Instead of going on that route for probably the one-millionth time this summer, let’s take a look at what could possibly go right for the Blueshirts along with what could go wrong this upcoming season.
Obviously, the best-case scenario for New York would be to make it all the way back to the Stanley Cup Final, lifting their first championship since 1994; but let’s keep that out of this piece. Instead, let’s dive into roster performance along with prospect development along the way.
Best Case Scenarios
1. Kaapo Kakko and Vitali Kravtsov Deliver Right Away
Most of the talk surrounding Madison Square Garden this winter will be about the development of the Rangers’ top two prospects: Vitali Kravtsov and Kaapo Kakko.
The absolute best-case scenario for New York in 2019-20 would be for the two of them to establish themselves as legitimate impact players in the NHL without major hiccups. Of the two of them, Kakko looks like he’ll have that type of impact right away, and based off his performance prior to the draft, everything leads you to believe his game will translate to the NHL immediately.
Kravtsov continued to impress scouts around the league last year after the Rangers surprised the hockey community drafting him ninth overall two years ago. If he can continue that development in the NHL without having to see time in the AHL, the Rangers have to like what they have in their two prized prospects in their first years.
2. The Blueline Becomes A Strength Again
When the Rangers found the most success in their quests for the Cup, it was when their blueline was the best facet of their game. Over the last three years, it went from a strength to a major liability at times.
For New York to go anywhere next year and beyond, they are going to need players like Brady Skjei and Tony DeAngelo to take the next step in their development. If they can do that successfully next year, that would perhaps be the absolute best-case scenario New York could envision. Imagine the two of them living up to their potential after adding the likes of Jacob Trouba? That could be a very productive blueline for years to come.
While the development of Skjei and DeAngelo will be important, so will that of rookie defenseman Adam Fox. The rookie comes with a boatload of talent, wants to play for New York, and will hope to not fall into the Jimmy Vesey trap—hype without the production necessary.
Worst Case Scenarios
1. Lias Andersson’s Development Stalls
The hype around Lias Andersson‘s game is slowly starting to disappear. He’s seen the ice for extended stretches, but never took control of his own destiny, making 2019-20 a make-or-break year for him.
Should Andersson put forth another disappointing year, the pressure of playing in New York might start to creep in and become a major distraction for him. The talent is there but at some point, the talent needs to translate to the ice and it still hasn’t done that for him.
Another down year from Andersson just gives the Rangers another name to the list of poor draft choices, and in a time where they need to hit on every single one of them, they simply just can’t make that mistake.
2. Goaltending Trio Never Syncs
In all likelihood, the Rangers will employ a goaltending trio next year with Henrik Lundqvist leading the way along with Alexandar Georgiev and Igor Shestyorkin. We haven’t seen a situation like this pop up too often, leaving questions to how will all three netminders find the appropriate amount of playing time to stay in a groove.
Should the Rangers find themselves in a spot where Lundqvist, Shestyorkin and Georgiev struggle to get acclimated to this system, they could find themselves in trouble. We’ve seen what long layoffs do to Lundqvist, while also seeing how Georgiev’s game translates differently to the NHL compared to the AHL.
Where deploying a trio hurts New York most is if it hurts the development of Igor Shestyorkin. There is no denying his talent has him as the heir to the throne of Henrik Lundqvist for the future, and New York can ill afford to interfere with his development. Should they do that, it would be fair to question why they even decided now was the time to bring him over.