Who Is This Year’s Surprise?

August 15, 2011, by

Since the dawn of the “New NHL”, the Rangers have dressed a team that may not seem like much on paper, but always has a few surprises up its sleeve to get the job done offensively.  In the 2005-2006 season, it was Martin Straka who stole produced at a level (76 points) that none thought possible after the Rangers signed him.  He followed up that 76 point campaign with a 70 point campaign in 2006-2007, where none of us thought he could do that twice in a row.

In 2007-2008 and 2008-2009 it was Brandon Dubinsky who burst on to the scene with 40 points in each season, showing he can provide some much needed secondary scoring. Then it was Vinny Prospal in 2009-2010 who surprised the critics.  A trio of Dubinsky, Ryan Callahan, and Derek Stepan last season showed that the Rangers just might be on to something here.

Each season the Rangers have had expectations shattered by a single player who surprises the league.  This year the candidates begin and end with the left winger on the line with Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik.  If it winds up being Wojtek Wolski, with his incredible skill (if he plays consistently), he could feasibly hit the 70 point mark.  Dubinsky and his ability to do the dirty work could compliment that line well; and if he’s on that line, he could also hit the 70 point mark.

Looking past that first line, there are really two names that stick out to me as players to watch to have a surprising year: Michael Del Zotto and Ryan McDonagh.  Del Zotto is likely to be the front runner for that point position on the first powerplay unit next to Brad Richards, assuming MDZ remembers how to play the game of hockey.  Just putting him on that unit could potentially rocket him out of the fan dog house (side note: still don’t get all the MDZ hate).

As for McDonagh, he may be more of a defensive guy, but he has some good hands and makes a pretty good first pass.  If he’s given an opportunity –or gains the confidence– to contribute offensively, I think he can really turn some heads with smart passes while racking up the assists.

For the Rangers to be successful, they are going to need the usual suspects to contribute, that we know.  However, a well hidden fact is that the Rangers have been the beneficiaries of surprising seasons from a few players.  These surprises vaulted them from mediocre to playoff contender, and they may need one of those pleasant surprises to take the pressure off of Gaborik and Richards.  After all, that duo has enough pressure on them as is.


  1. Hoggo says:

    This is kinda nitpicky, but Straka had monster seasons in Pittsburgh before he got to NY, so it wasn’t a surprise when he put up 70+ points. He was only 33 when he joined the Rangers.

  2. Zen says:

    I wouldn’t be surprised if McD and Erixon end up together on the 2nd pair and blow people away.

    Other than that, I see a possible surprise coming from a player currently ticketed for Connecticut or Juniors.

  3. jim says:

    MZA is a good candidate. I gotta figure there’s no sense in putting in the bottom 6, so if he makes it it should be on one of the top 2 lines.

    This kid has talent – how great would it be if he ended up playing regularly and put up 25 goals and 30 assists?!

  4. Rickyrants13 says:

    How you can leave out Boyle from last years list is a mystery. He was by far the most improved player in Ranger land. And might have been the most improved in the NHL.

    And there is no reason at all for anyone to have Del Z in the dog house at this point in his career. Its plain foolish..

    • The Suit says:

      Boyle’s production is either going to be the same or go down. Where is the element of surprise in that?

      • Dave says:

        I think he meant that I should have included him in 2010-2011’s surprise list. I just plain old forgot about him.

        • The Suit says:

          Shame on you sir!…..meh.

        • Rickyrants13 says:

          Yes thats what I ment. And so what if it goes down? Most would think that it will given the players in front of him. But if he comes in and plays the same way he did last year from the 4th line and comes anywhere even close to what he did last year Then his play will have improved only it wont show on the score board.

          I will take a 4th line center scoring around 15 goals Then an over paid 1st or 2nd line center scoring. Less anyday. And boy have we had way too many of them right?

  5. Matt J says:

    Prust and Boyle were big surprises last year. Even offensively.

    This year I think Erixon and MZA (if given the chance) could surprise people.

  6. ArtyFan says:

    Agree on Straka, he was very good with Jags. Dubi wasn’t surprise with ~= 40 points. He played top minutes with top players. He got to much extra on ice. Will he hit ~= 70 points next season? I guess not. His minutes on ice 5on5 and PP will be eaten by Richie and plus others raising players. MZA on top 6? Show me how it can be possible… Gabby-Richie-?(not MZA); Dubi-Arty-Cally. Where is MZA? MDZ will surprise me definitely if he starts with a big club( I hope not, he has a lot to improve himself and 1 year in CT will show his attitude to be coachable and creative). Albeit all I love this team and where they are going… to SC soon. re Wolski no doubt, if he consistent player, we are big winner coming season. Boyle was improved, but don’t expect from him repeat last season. First half he had energy… and after 41 was… SOOOO tired and declined, plus, if this team stay relatively healthy he will not get those minutes. I just try to see real scenario and try to stay away from fantasy.

  7. pavel says:

    I could see Wolski being the surprise of the season if he shows up with the drive he didn’t have last year. And because of what we’ve heard this offseason about him, I wouldn’t be surprised if he does (which kinda defeats the purpose of being surprised)
    Del Zotto will be the biggest surprise if he makes the team, because I honestly think he should be in the minors next year learning how to be a smarter and more physical defenseman.

  8. Section 121 says:

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; Del Zotto should be on the 2nd pair this year with Girardi.

    So when he makes the team (again), I guess I’ll be the only one who isn’t surprised. Also, if he plays 82 games, he’ll score more than he did as a rookie.

  9. Walt says:

    I’ve said it before, and I’ll repeat myself, I believe WW will have a big year. I posted before this is his last year on his current contract, and he is looking for a big contract, that is probably the main reason for all of this off season activity on his part. Look, if he can produce, on a regular basis, on the first line, we will be set with four good lines, with scoring ability on all lines, good defensive play, and some grit on three lines for sure. My vote for the suprise will be WW.

  10. frank cerbone says:

    MDZ is is more physical and a better shot blocker than Staal. MDZ was 3rd amongst Ranger defensemen in hits/blocked shots before he was benched. Plus,
    MDZ needed only 20PM to do it. Staal was 4th amongst Ranger in hits & blocked shots & led all Ranger defensemen in PM @ the time MDZ was benched. Staal getting 50 PM and Girardi 37 PM and Girardi fights. Erixon will be a Malik/Staal clone as he had over 40PM last season-doesn’t play the body, doesn’t fight.

  11. amy herman says:

    i think the surprise player this season will be Brian Boyle also Brandon Dubinsky will be there as well.