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Developing prospects is key to Rangers rebuild

There was an article by a Rangers blogger that said it doesn’t matter so much if Filip Chytil fails to reach his full potential because the Rangers will bank on Kaapo Kakko becoming a superstar. There is more hype surrounding Kakko than Chytil heading into next year, so it’s understandable why anyone would value Kakko more than any other Ranger prospect. However, what the blogger does not take into account is this; The Rangers have many good prospects, and based on how they develop, they could all mean as much as Kakko probably will to the Rangers future.

Filip Chytil showcased his offensive ability last season. Chytil’s best goal last season was against the Boston Bruins on January 20th. The 19-year-old Czech showed good speed to fly through the neutral zone and head in on a breakaway against Tuukka Rask. He then tucked the puck right under the crossbar, scoring one of the nicest goals of the 2018-19 season.

Chytil and 21-year-old Brett Howden are two young centers, who both have a year of NHL experience under their belt and will compete for the job as the second line center. Ryan Strome was more offensively productive and defensively sound than either Chytil or Howden last season. However, that could change if either Chytil or Howden show they can win face-offs better than Strome next season and play smarter in their defensive zone.

2017 first-round pick Lias Andersson had a difficult season last year. In 42 games the 20-year-old only put up six points. Out of all the Rangers prospects, Andersson has to step up the most and show he can use his physicality and instincts to outperform Chytil or Howden for a bottom-six role.

Brett Howden scored 13 points in his first 25 games last season. The 21-year-old has great size at 6’3, and although he did not play as well in the second half, is one of the Rangers best young players.

At the World Junior Summer Showcase, two young defensemen are impressing Rangers scouts. They are 2018 first round pick K’Andre Miller and 2019 third round pick Zac Jones. Miller registered an assist on the power play in a loss to Sweden, while Jones added an assist and three shots-on-goal in a loss to Finland at the tournament.

On Team Sweden, the Rangers have three prospects, including 2018 first round pick Nils Lundkvist, 2018 second-rounder goalie Olof Lindblom, and 2019 third round pick Center Karl Henriksson.

The Rangers also have two young goaltenders in the pipeline. Alexander Georgiev went 14-13-4 with a .914 save-percentage and Henrik Lundqvist was 18-23-10 with a .907 save-percentage. Last season was the first that the gap has been close between King Henrik and his successor. However, Georgiev will not be alone in vying for the Rangers back-up role next season. This offseason, the Blueshirts inked Igor Shesterkin to an entry-level deal. In the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) , the 23-year-old Russian had a 1.11 goals-against-average and .953 save-percentage. Shesterkin’s numbers were dominant in Russia, but now he is playing in the NHL. Georgiev will be competing with Shesterkin for the back-up role and that may not become clear until Shesterkin competes at the AHL level.

The New Jersey Devils were just as busy signing top free agents this offseason as the Rangers. The Devils signed Wayne Simmonds to a one-year, $5M deal and P.K. Subban to a three-year, $9M deal. Simmonds is a power forward who has earned a reputation for being a physical player in front of the net. P.K. Subban has scored 20 points or more on the power play in each of the last six regular seasons. A new Devil Power-Play featuring Taylor Hall, Simmonds and Nico Hischier as well as Subban will be tough to handle for the Rangers Penalty-Kill and the entire Metropolitan Division come October.

Thanks to three years of drafting well, the Rangers and the Devils have bright futures. Jack Hughes is a great addition to a Devils offense in need of high-end skill, while Kakko will add physicality and scoring ability to the Rangers’ offense next year. However, Rangers fans should temper their expectations, because some of their top-rated prospects like K’Andre Miller and Kaapo Kakko have not played a game in the NHL yet. Rangers fans should be happy that GM Jeff Gorton has built a promising young roster that could compete for a Stanley Cup in the near future.

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Anthony has been a sportswriter at In The Zone since Sept. 2019. He graduated from Montclair State, where he was assistant Editor of the student newspaper's sports section. He also co-hosts a sports-themed radio show on the campus station, WMSC 90.3 FM, which was recently named #1 college radio station in the nation.
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