Veterans report to the Rangers practice facility for the first sign that the 2022-23 season is almost upon us.
With practices set to begin tomorrow, and Chris Drury expected to speak later this afternoon, it’s a chance to look at what the Rangers roster could be heading into a season of heightened expectations.
After an appearance in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Rangers have new faces, and young talent ready to take the next step and ensure a deeper run then the year prior.
Here’s our latest line projections going into training camp:
Rangers Forward Lines
1st Line: Chris Kreider, Mika Zibanejad, Alexis Lafreniere
This is a huge upcoming season for Lafreniere. The former first overall pick will need to produce like a top selection and give the Rangers added scoring on the top line if the team hopes to compete for a championship. It’s very hard to see Kreider put up a season like he did last year (50+ goals) but he and Zibanejad are key veterans in this lineup. Questions will surround Lareniere but this is as solid a first line as any out there.
2nd Line: Artemi Panarin, Vincent Trocheck, Kaapo Kakko
I would love to keep some remnants of the “kid line” together, but the Rangers now need their young core to grow beyond each other. The Panarin-Trocheck match will be one to watch throughout the season, as Trocheck could be in for a huge scoring season with Panarin’s skillset. Kakko also needs to produce as well. The Rangers have a ton of firepower on their first two lines. If Kakko and Lafreniere are producing like top picks, New York could be in for a special season.
3rd Line: Sammy Blais, Filip Chytil, Vitali Kravtsov
General manager Chris Drury spoke last week about Kravtsov coming early to camp and wanting to be a part of the Rangers this season. His performance alone could make or break the third line. Sammy Blais is returning from ACL surgery and there has to be room for him to get back to full strength, Chytil was excellent in the playoffs but with a new cast around him, it’ll be interesting to see how he gells with others around him that aren’t Kakko and Lafreniere.
4th Line: Barclay Goodrow, Ryan Carpenter, Ryan Reaves
Tyler Motte isn’t walking through the door anymore for the Rangers. There’s quite a logjam here to determine who makes the starting group on the fourth line. Carpenter and Goodrow both seem like safe options. Reaves will be competing with others like Dryden Hunt and Julien Gauthier for the final starting spot, while prospects like Will Cuylle or even Brennan Othmann could make things interesting in training camp.
Rangers Defensive Pairs
1st Pair: Ryan Lindgren, Adam Fox
2nd Pair: K’Andre Miller, Jacob Trouba
3rd Pair: Zac Jones, Braden Schneider
We are keeping the same group from a month ago, but that doesn’t mean there hasn’t been major changes on defense. Nils Lundkvist is gone which means there’s one less player to compete for the final open defensive spot alongside Braden Schneider. It was very noteworthy that Zac Jones was named captain of the rookie team when they scrimmaged against Philadelphia last week. It almost seems like the job is Jones to lose, and it doesn’t look like he’s even close to losing it yet. The Fox-Lindgren, Miller-Trouba lines are pretty straightforward. If it ain’t broke!
Igor Shesterkin, Jaroslav Halak
Same as before: Shesterkin is the reigning Vezina winner and arguably the best goaltender on the planet. Without Alexander Georgiev, there will be an even larger emphasis for the top netminder to stay healthy this season. Jaro Halak is a serviceable backup, but he cannot be relied to win as a set starter anymore. It will be extremely important for Shesterkin to stay healthy, but everything about his game is solid.