The fantasy season is upon us. Another year of tears of joy and heartbreak.
To help you along, here’s your fantasy outlook for the New York Rangers:
2022-23 Fantasy Outlook: New York Rangers
Last season: 52-24-6, 2nd Metro, 7th overall. GF: 17th, GA: 2nd, PP: 4th, PK: 7th.
The Rangers defied all analytical models last season, finishing 25th in 5v5 CF% and 24th in 5v5 xGF%, according to naturalstattrick.com, but made it to the conference finals. Gerard Gallant pushed all the right buttons in his first season, and his 52 wins was one more than his previous career-high set during the Golden Knights’ inaugural season. The Rangers never lost more than three games in a row – in fact, they had only two such streaks all season – and even when they were without Igor Shesterkin’s heroics managed to stay in a groove.
While a lot of credit must be given for the Rangers’ success, the stars certainly aligned for them as well. Their playoff run was as exciting as it was bizarre; the Rangers were put on the ropes in a 3-1 hole against the Penguins before winning three straight, in the following round against the Hurricanes neither team could win on the road until Game 7, and then in the conference final held a 2-0 lead against the Lightning before losing four straight. They stayed healthy for nearly their entire run with 11 players playing all 20 games, and of the three players who missed only one game, only Ryan Strome was nursing an injury. Everyone showed up and there was some added magic with their “Kid Line” of Filip Chytil between Alexis Lafreniere and Kaapo Kakko, who was surprisingly made a healthy scratch in the elimination game against the Lightning.
The Rangers’ playoff run both affirmed the previous notion that you needed a good goalie – or at least one who’s playing well – to go deep, but also rebuffed the notion that only good possession teams can win. On paper, this is a very talented team with a coach that prefers to play up-tempo and aggressive and will certainly be a strong playoff team once again. So, the question begs: can they do it again?
Best fantasy option: Various
There’s no easy way to answer who is the “best” option on the Rangers since it really depends on your fantasy league’s settings. From a pure points perspective, Artemi Panarin is by far the best, projected to score 93 points in THN’s Pool Guide and lead the Rangers in scoring for the fourth straight season. That’s now two 90-plus point seasons from Panarin and only two other players – Connor McDavid and Jonathan Huberdeau – have amassed more assists over the past three seasons.
Mika Zibanejad is easily a top-10 center, and managed to be a point-per-game playing without Panarin on his line. The addition of Vincent Trocheck may cut into his playing time, but even a reduction of faceoff wins from 700 to 600 would rank Zibanejad well inside the top 50 in the league. Linemate Chris Kreider is another solid banger-league option with his goal scoring and hits. His ability to find the soft spots on the power play and bury pucks around the net has allowed him to score at a 20 percent clip over the past two seasons, and while it certainly skews high, note that his career S% is also pretty good at 14.9 percent. Sure, it’s more likely Kreider scores 30 goals than 50, but even that seems like a fairly conservative projection at 200 shots on goal.
On defense, Adam Fox is a premier point producer with a good amount of blocked shots. Scoring goals is not his forte, so in leagues where goals are worth more, he’s not really in the same tier as Aaron Ekblad or even John Carlson even though they all score at roughly the same rates. The real gem, especially in banger leagues, is Jacob Trouba, who was one of just seven players to record over 200 hits and 100 blocked shots. Only one other player on that list, Radko Gudas, is worthwhile in fantasy because of his incredible volume (355 hits to lead the league), but none of them really have the potential to score at the same rate as Trouba. Despite being capped out at around 40 points, Troub’s banger-league potential ranks him in the top-10 among defensemen.
Hidden gem: Alexis Lafreniere, LW/RW
Both Lafreniere and Kakko were mentioned in this space last season with Kakko getting the edge because his possession numbers were stronger and seemed more confident and willing to shoot the puck. That has shifted following their recent playoff performance with Lafreniere showing why he was the first overall pick and Kakko’s benching in Game 6 against the Lightning was a strong hint whom Gallant prefers. In his sophomore season, Lafreniere showed a much higher willingness to take chances and shoot the puck rather than deferring to a veteran-laden squad, and note that his career 17.5 S% suggests he has elite sniping ability. If Lafreniere shoots the puck more often and gets more ice time – which he should after the Rangers declined to bring back a few of their depth forwards – this could be a breakout season. THN’s Pool Guide has Lafreniere scoring 52 points, two fewer than Trocheck and 15 more than Kakko.
Goalies: In just about every format, Shesterkin should – at worst – be the second goalie off the board after Andrei Vasilevskiy. The Lightning seem to be more wary of Vasilevskiy’s workload, but not so with Shesterkin, who would’ve made more starts last season had he not been injured. There was a stretch in the opening round against the Pens where Shesterkin seemed to look a little tired, but he managed to perform at an elite level until the very end. Jaroslav Halak is slated to be the backup but he’s 37 years old and coming off a very poor season with the Canucks. It remains to be seen how effective he can be as the backup, and should he falter, Shesterkin will have to be a workhorse. Projected No. 3 goalie Louis Domingue has played only 20 regular-season games over the past three seasons and his playoff performance showed that he probably shouldn’t be trusted very much, either.
Outlook: One named mentioned above who could be a very sneaky banger-league pick is K’Andre Miller, who is sort of a Trouba-lite with his ability to contribute in hits and blocked shots with a sprinkle of points. Otherwise, the Rangers should be well-represented in most fantasy leagues and offer a wide variety of options depending on your settings. The Knights’ unexpected performance in their inaugural season normalized a little bit in their second season, and we could see the same with the Rangers. Analytically speaking, Gallant’s Rangers punched well above their own weight – a reminder they were one loss shy of a first-round exit – and “regression” will be a word thrown around a lot, but they’re not going to fall off the map anytime soon.