Kaapo Kakko, Igor Shesterkin
ESNY Graphic, Getty Images, AP Photo

As the 2019 calendar ends, the New York Rangers newest decade begins with much promise and sky-high optimism. 

Frank Curto

Another decade has passed for your beloved New York Rangers. Ten years of ups and downs with the club and its fans are still looking for their first Stanley Cup since that glorious spring of 1994.

This team is filled with plenty of promise and optimism as the calendar turns from 2019 to 2020.

Fans are discussing the past decade by way of the greatest teams, players and moments that have graced Broadway. But instead of looking back in time, let’s take a look at what lies ahead for the Rangers.

We begin with the prospects. The club is stacked with highly-skilled players from all across the country and throughout the international hockey world.

Igor Shesterkin

Starting closest to Broadway, we must first look at goalie Igor Shesterkin, who is playing in the AHL with the Hartford Wolf Pack. The Russian goalie is enjoying a great start to his professional career by posting an 11-4-3 record along with two shutouts. His 2.14 goals-against average and 0.925 save percentage has him ranked fifth in the AHL.

Vitali Kravtsov

Vitali Kravtsov has had a rocky start to his Rangers career. His story has been well documented this season, beginning with a training camp cut to his decision to head back to the KHL. Things became worse when he was sent to the VHL and his recent return to the AHL.

Make no mistake about it: Kravtsov is a diamond in the rough. He will be focused on what he needs to do to reach the NHL level, and when that time comes, he will represent a long-term achievement for the Rangers.

Joey Keane

Joey Keane is making a strong case to be called up by Jeff Gorton and the Rangers. The right-handed defenseman has recorded 21 points (six goals) in 26 games this season for the Wolf Pack. His 21 points rank him third in the AHL in points and second in goals scored.

The College Way (NCAA)

Taking the college route to the Rangers organization are two players currently vying for a roster spot with Team USA at the World Junior Championships. The tournament takes place in Ostrava and Trinec, Czech Republic, from Dec. 26, 2019 through Jan. 5, 2020.

K’Andre Miller

K’Andre Miller plays for the University of Wisconsin under head coach and former Rangers player Tony Granato. He is currently in his sophomore season for the Badgers. Miller was the Ranger’s first-round pick in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. This will be the second time he has played for Team USA at the World Junior Championships and is expected to take more of a leadership role with the teams this season.

The defenseman has recorded six goals with 11 points in 18 games for Wisconsin this year.

Zac Jones

Another defenseman playing for Team USA is Zac Jones. He is in his first season playing for the University of Massachusetts Amherst. The 19-year-old has scored three goals along with 12 points in 17 games this season.

The final cuts for Team USA should be made by Christmas Eve, but both are expected to make the team.

Kaapo Kakko, RoboKaapo T-Shirt

International Play

Lauri Pajuniemi

On the international level, fans should become familiar with the name Lauri Pajuniemi. He was selected in the fifth round (132 overall) of the 2018 NHL Draft and has been on fire this season while playing for TPS-Turku in the SM-Ligia.

The 20-year-old Finnish native has appeared in 29 games so far while finding the back of the net 19 times this season. He has recorded 21 points (14 goals, seven assists) over the last 14 games, which included a hat trick against Yukuri earlier this week.

Prospects are not the only players the team has to look forward to.

Artemi Panarin, Jacob Trouba, Mika Zibanejad and Brady Skjei are all contributing to a strong season that has the head coach looking for a postseason spot when April comes around.

The team will need contributions from the rookies in today’s lineup if they want to succeed in the future. Adam Fox, Kaapo Kakko, Libor Hajek and Ryan Lindgren all look to be the pieces that help guide the Rangers to its Original Six traditions.

The Upcoming Draft

The Rangers currently possess nine draft selections in the 2020 NHL Entry draft. If Gorton plays a good trade deadline game, as he has in the past, the number will surely increase.

Along with Shesterkin, the Rangers have Alexandar Georgiev and Henrik Lundqvist standing tall in the net for the organization; and, naturally the goaltender conversation has become more prevalent with the play of Georgiev this year.

Georgiev’s future with the team is unclear. The restricted free agent has been part of rumors that have him being traded with Shesterkin appearing to be the club favorite with the end of Lundqvist’s contract 18 months away.

When discussing the future, some farewells will be in order. Aside from the situation with Lundqvist, veteran defenseman Marc Staal will also be bidding New York a farewell.

Staal’s contract expires at the end of next season. The warrior has given the Blueshirts 13 years of service, but the team probably won’t renew his contract since they need to clear a spot for younger players to join the team.

John Davidson, Jeff Gorton and head coach David Quinn have the team headed in the right direction. A team that endured so much over the past two years looks to be on the path to the playoffs if not this season, certainly in 2020-2021.

Farewell to the last 10 years. The Rangers’ vision is crystal clear, as new opportunities to win the elusive Stanley Cup will again enter the hockey conversation in Manhattan.

Prospects, present players and plenty of drafts picks next year have the New York Rangers viewing 2020 as an exciting opportunity to see a great show on Broadway.

A graduate of St. John's University class of '91. I have been a fan of the New York Rangers since the days of Peter Puck. Founder of Ranger Proud, the Facebook page that covers all news, notes, pre /post-game stats, and player quotes. I can be reached at Nyrfc12@gmail.com