After the fire sale in Manhattan at the trade deadline, the New York Rangers have officially closed the window on what was more or less a decade’s contention for the Stanley Cup. Though the ultimate prize was once in sight and unfortunately lost to the Los Angeles Kings, the time has come for the organization to look toward the future and hand the reins to the youth. With Alain Vigneault no longer calling the shots from behind the bench, new coach David Quinn will allow for the kids to cut their teeth on the big stage. An organization long known for overpaying talent past their peak and essentially ending careers, general manager Jeff Gorton is going in the right direction with a young team that may have more fantasy relevant pieces than most believe in 2018-19. Let’s take a look at some players either on the roster already or soon to be, that could assist you in the quest for your league title. Any and all listed will be attainable at a fair draft price as people may stray from the Rangers in the coming campaign.
An unknown commodity for everyone, Neal Pionk came onto the scene late in fantasy seasons and proved a solid fill-in for those in need of injury help on their blue line. Personally I had the pleasure of not having Erik Karlsson IR eligible on ESPN at the most crucial of times in the championship match with undroppable status. Picking up Pionk and Thomas Chabot helped to remedy this rather irreplaceable hole. He donned the Rangers sweater 28 times last year posting one goal, 13 assists, 54 shots, and 49 hits while seeing over 22 minutes per night on average. His production came hot and heavy at the start of his call up and tapered off as the regular season winded down, but Pionk showed that he can produce in this league. Going into next season his role is certainly going to be diminished as Kevin Shattenkirk is set to return. He will have a place on this blue line though and it could easily be in the top four given his high-end skating ability and right handedness. Pionk would make for a sneaky good depth defender that you can take with your last pick or most likely scoop on the wire afterwards.
As of this moment in time barring the Rangers don’t swing a deal at the draft for an established player, this kid is the focal point of the rebuild in Manhattan. Rangers GM Jeff Gorton was responsible for the Bruins drafting the likes of Phil Kessel, Brad Marchand, Milan Lucic, and David Krejci, he knows skill when he sees it. Chytil is young but he possesses deceptive size with elusive puck skill. His first season in the AHL saw him post 11 goals and 20 assists in 46 games at 18 years of age. The Czech pivot only saw seven games of NHL action this year but managed to post one goal, two assists and 21 shots averaging over 15 minutes per game. Plain and simple this kid is going to produce and potentially at a high-end level. It’s a matter of when not if so be on the lookout for whether he makes the opening night roster, because if so he is absolutely worth a late round gamble.
I’ve drafted Mika Zibanejad every year since 2014-15 waiting on the breakout campaign. The star-type production has been there the past two seasons before he unfortunately goes down to injury. Both times he’s never been able to recuperate the offense prior to hitting the IR making him a frustrating own. Essentially owning Zibanejad is much like the David Krejci experience, the points are there but when will he go down is always on the back of your mind. Now 25, the young Swede needs to put the healthy campaign together for the Rangers. With three 20-goal seasons in the past four seasons, his floor has been established but there is potential for so much more. If you count shots and face offs his value skyrockets as he put 212 on net and won 654 draws. Do not sleep on Zibanejad, everyone does every draft. Last year I drafted him in Round 19 in a 12-team league, that is way below where he should be going. Guaranteed top-line center duty as well as the trigger man position on the primary power play unit makes him a bargain bin forward you should consider.
Essentially a throw in on the Rick Nash deal at the deadline, Spooner’s hot start in Ranger blue showed just how deep the Bruins are at forward. Posting two goals and 11 assists in his first 10 games after the trade, Spooner showcased his offensive flair meshing well in seemingly any line deployment. Spooner posted a 2.7 PTS/60 between the Bruins and Rangers last year with a 1033 PDO which is quite impressive along. Sure, much of that is from his time in Boston but you cannot avoid his searing start as a Ranger and the potential for production in 2018-19. Spooner could very easily find himself dealt as part of a package at the draft for a more prominent name but if he stays in Manhattan he’ll certainly be a piece looked to for offense in this transitional period of the Rangers rebuild. Spooner ended the season solidly on a line with strong finishing Zibanejad and Chris Kreider. Should he find himself on the top line at even strength and centering the second power play unit once again, you couldn’t be questioned for selecting the 26-year old Canadian in the later rounds.
The Rangers are hoping this kid turns into another seventh-round steal for them and, based off the eye-popping goal scoring in the WHL, such just may be the case. Scoring 61 goals in 70 games and peppering the goalie 339 times, Ronning bested his prior season goal total by 36. A team in great need of a high-scoring winger, especially a right-handed one, Ronning may make an impact as soon as the coming campaign. Blessed with game-breaking speed and natural goal scoring instinct, the winger now 20 years of age is signed to his entry-level deal and will see time in the AHL to start. His first stint saw him post 5 points in 12 contests, so the ability has been flashed. The NHL is certainly a tremendous step up from the AHL so hopefully being the son of the 869-point Cliff Ronning translates to offensive proliferation for the diminutive forward. At the end of the day Ronning has 127 goals in 285 career WHL games and he needs to be given an extensive look for that finishing ability. Look out for his progress this summer and see if he cracks the roster. Should this happen a speculative grab off the wire is not out of question.
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