After a week-long bye week and All-Star weekend, the New York Rangers are back in action Monday night to take on the Calgary Flames to officially kick off the second half of the NHL regular season.
New York currently sits in third place in the loaded Metro division and six points behind New Jersey for second. As the second half of the season is set to begin, it’s fair to point out the top players who have helped the Rangers get to where they currently are.
Adam Fox, Igor Shesterkin, Artemi Panarin, and Kaapo Kakko have been standouts for the Blueshirts throughout the first half of the season.
But there are plenty of players who will need to play a lot better than they did earlier if the Rangers are to reach their goals this season.
Here are the top five Rangers to watch for during this second-half run.
It’s been a difficult season for Lafreniere in his third year in the NHL. Laffy has totaled 22 points with just six goals on the season. While those numbers are just one behind Kaapo Kakko, the former first-overall pick hasn’t had the same on-ice impact as his fellow top draft selection. If the Rangers are to truly make a deep run in the playoffs this year, they will need Lafreniere to improve.
For a first season as Rangers captain, it’s been quite a roller-coaster ride for Jacob Trouba. After dealing with an injury for the majority of the season, the captain’s fiery antics helped turn the slow start of the season around. As the calendar flips to February, New York will need their leader to be better on the ice if they are to match last season’s postseason success.
Trocheck has not been a bad free agent signing by any means. He’s improved the Rangers’ face-off success, is fourth on the team in points and has helped solidify New York’s defensive presence as well. The issue? The Rangers’ powerplay has struggled in several key spurts and his chemistry with Artemi Panarin hasn’t gone as smoothly as people would have hoped. Trocheck needs a big second half of the season here.
You can’t really blame the former first-round pick for his lack of production this season. The Rangers haven’t really given Kravtsov a fair shot to perform as an everyday player and it’s hurting his development. The healthy scratches don’t help a player like Kravtsov. Nevertheless, the Russian forward needs a big February and beyond to show that he not only belongs in the NHL, but that he belongs in New York as the deadline draws closer.
Chris Drury has done a good job of keeping the Rangers’ key core intact while trying to improve the team over the last year. How he handles the trade deadline this year will determine if New York gets bounced early in the playoffs, or if this team is really close to making a championship run. Whether it’s Timo Meier, Patrick Kane, or other depth pieces, New York needs more firepower and it will be up to Chris Drury to supply that for the rest of the roster.
For the last month of the season, the New York Rangers have played some really good hockey. That being said, they still have a ways to go to match some of the teams above them as they look to make a final push in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
As one of the youngest teams in hockey, the continued development of their young players is important, but as a contending team, everyone will need to chip in to get the Blueshirts where they need to be.