While everyone who watches the Rangers with any regularity would agree that the Rangers need to address the center position in the near future, the Rangers have got a lot more talent on the wing than many will lead you to believe. It starts but certainly doesn’t end with the current roster.
With Rick Nash and Martin St Louis leading the club from the wing, there is plenty of veteran elite ability for next year. Greater contributions (and consistency) will be expected from Carl Hagelin and Chris Kreider. Both young wingers offer physical tools (speed and/or size) and the ability to score in bunches but Kreider at least, will be expected to take the next step after his promising rookie campaign this year. Hagelin is almost the perfect depth winger given his reliability in his own zone, ability to play on any line and an ability score close to 20 goals at the NHL level.
The Rangers most consistent forward this year has been Steve McDonald Extra Effort Award winner Mats Zuccarello. Whether using his unmatched vision on the powerplay, as a playmaker or as part of the Rangers dangerous third line, Zuccarello has been everything and so much more than even the most optimistic Rangers fan could have expected prior to this season. Without considering the merits of a player such as Benoit Pouliot (who may or may not be kept, or who may seek more on the open market) a quick count suggests the Rangers have at least five quality wingers to begin next year barring significant change.
With J.T. Miller in the mix (yes, he’s still a quality prospect folks) and Jesper Fast – who has progressed well in Hartford, when healthy – the Rangers have another two prospects who have developed well at the minor league level. Both could be ready to take the next step in September (or now, based on Fast’s recent call up), but who are both in the next wave of Ranger prospects in terms of NHL readiness. The Rangers may not have many early draft picks or can’t miss prospects at the early stage of the development, but there’s plenty for Alain Vigneault and the franchise to work with in the short to medium term.
When assessing the age, variety of skill sets and current stages of their respective careers of the Rangers wingers, there should be no reason for panic amongst Rangers fans. While Nash and St Louis undoubtedly need to produce more, the potential beyond them is abundant. Kreider offers size and an elite level release, Hagelin and Fast offer speed almost unequalled around the league, and Miller should eventually provide the Rangers with a hard working, two-way forward capable of impacting games in multiple ways.
Without really scratching the surface or looking with any great detail at all the options beyond the NHL level, the Rangers have significant assets to work with for the foreseeable future. Discounting the veteran St Louis and the ever improving yet still journeyman Pouliot (whose destination beyond this season cannot be guaranteed), of the six players discussed only Nash is above 26 years old while four of the six are 25 or younger. Of all those considered only Fast has played less than 55 games in the NHL so every player discussed has significant NHL experience to fall back on.
While the media assumes the Rangers have entered win-now mode – emphasized by their over analysis of Martin St Louis immediate lack of production – the fact is that the Rangers have plenty of young, established NHL talent to work with. Yes, the Rangers need to make changes to their roster and yes, some of the aforementioned group need to step up their production but the Rangers have reasons for optimism when taking a quick glance at their options on the wings."Assessing the Rangers wingers, long term",