The New York Rangers made some pretty big personnel changes this offseason. Up front, gone are top center Derek Stepan, Brandon Pirri and Oscar Lindberg. On the blueline, stalwart defensemen Dan Girardi and Kevin Klein are no longer on the roster. Solid backup goaltender, Antti Raanta left as part of the Stepan deal.
On the plus side, the Rangers signed much sought after unrestricted free agent defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk to a long-term deal. Coming back in the Stepan-Raanta deal was a high-end defense prospect in Anthony DeAngelo. They also brought in goaltender Ondrej Pavelec to replace Raanta as Henrik Lundqvist’s understudy.
Looking at last year’s roster versus this year’s roster, there have been some significant changes. The forward corps isn't as deep, especially at center with Stepan gone, but on the back end, the addition of Shattenkirk and DeAngelo who replace the weathered Girardi and Klein are a net gain.
All things considered, the Rangers are likely still a playoff team. Although weaker up front than last year, they still have decent forward depth, their defense is arguably stronger with a legitimate top six, and they have adequately replaced Raanta.
The addition of Kevin Shattenkirk negatively affects McDonagh the most (well, it probably affected Girardi the most, but I digress). McDonagh averaged a team leading 3:05 minutes per game on the power play. That ice time is now Shattenkirk’s without question.
There's no doubt McDonagh will still lead the Rangers in overall ice time, but with Shattenkirk eating up a couple of those man-advantage minutes, he’ll be a little fresher for the playoffs. Ratchet down your expectations for McDonagh this year to somewhere slightly north of the 30-point mark. He remains a great defenseman in the real world, but now less so in fantasy circles.
The 23-year-old burst onto the NHL scene in a big way with a surprising 39 points during his rookie campaign. In the previous year, his first as a professional, he had 28 points in 68 AHL matches. Even in his final season of college hockey, Skjei only scored 10 points in 33 games.
The addition of Shattenkirk will affect Skjei less than McDonagh, but there is now more competition for second-unit minutes on the power play. That said, of Skjei’s 39 points, 32 of them were at even-strength, so Shattenkirk’s arrival should not adversely lower Skjei’s point total significantly, but it will probably limit any potential increases.
Entering the final year of his entry level deal, Skjei will be motivated to show that last year’s breakout success was no fluke, but he will be in tough to repeat. Look for a slight decrease in points this season.
Sticking with the defenseman theme, the highly touted prospect, DeAngelo will not be gifted ice time. The Rangers look set on defence, so he’ll need to force his way into the top six at training camp.
The 21-year-old has put up some impressive offensive numbers at every level so far. In his final year of junior hockey, he notched 25 goals and 89 points in 55 games and he followed that up with another 16 points in 13 playoff contests. In his first professional campaign, he recorded 43 points (and 84 penalty minutes) in 69 AHL matches. Last season, he split the year between the AHL, where he had 16 points in 25 games and the NHL, where he recorded 14 points in 39 contests.
DeAngelo is likely to start the season as the Rangers seventh defenseman, and he will have to perform well when the opportunity arises in order to have any fantasy impact this season. If the Rangers deal one of their defensemen, then DeAngelo is someone to watch.
It’s been two down years since Nash registered 42 goals and 69 points in 2014-15. The question is, can the 33-year-old winger break his slump heading into a contract year? Make no mistake, Nash will miss Derek Stepan, they were paired together quite often last season.
With both Stepan and Pirri out of the picture, there is room for Nash to get back onto the No. 1 power-play unit. Mika Zibanejad will take one of those spots, which leaves Nash to duke it out with most likely Pavel Buchnevich for that coveted position.
Staying healthy will be Nash’s biggest concern. If he can keep out of the infirmary, he has the added motivation of playing for what could be his final NHL contract. If everything breaks right (pun not intended), he could post 50-plus points.
The kid has unquestioned talent, but will it be enough to help your fantasy squad this year? Now 22-years-old, he has shown his skill in the KHL and in his only AHL action, recording five points in four games. Last season, he scored 20 points in 41 NHL contests in his rookie campaign.
He lined up with Zibanejad and Nash for 30 per cent of his even-strength shifts last season, and the departures of Pirri and Lindberg help clear a path for playing time for the young Russian.
Buchnevich has made it clear that he’s not here to play in the AHL, so it’s boom or bust for your fantasy squad. I’m leaning towards the boom side.
In his last two seasons of college hockey, Vesey scored 56 goals and 104 points in a combined 70 games. Coming off of his best college season in 2014-15, he was invited to play for Team USA at the World Championship. The then 21-year-old didn’t look out of place registering three points in nine games.
Last season was his first in the NHL, so 16 goals and 27 points in 80 games was a pretty good start to an NHL career. Vesey was in the mix for power-play ice time, receiving an average of 1:32 minutes per game, the ninth most on the team. He added five points in 12 playoff matches.
Vesey is a lock to play in the Rangers' respectable top-nine forward group. Expect him to continue to lineup with Nash where he had modest success last year. He should challenge the 40-point mark this season.
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