Assessing the Rangers wingers, long term

Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images

Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images

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.

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31 Responses to “Assessing the Rangers wingers, long term”

  1. Walt says:

    The need for certermen isn’t that big a deal. JT Miller is a center, and with Oscar Linderg ready, or close to it, we are well positioned at this time, not even mentioning Moore, and or Boyle!!

    What we need more than anything else is a big, strong power forward, with a scoring touch, about the same size as Kreider, with a mean streak!!!!!!!

    • Puck Luck @Centerman21 says:

      There are 2 players I’ve been keeping my eye on in this up coming draft that fit that bill. One is a LW names Nick Ritchie. His brother is Bret Ritchie drafted by the stars. Ritchie is 6’2″ 231lbs out of Petersborough in the OHL. Hes ranked 7th in Central scoutings list of North American skaters. Very big with a knack for the tough areas around the net and one of those rare players that the puck seems to find in prime scoring areas. I think he’s a kid that can step right in and help next year.
      Another kid I’ve been looking at is a kid named Alex Tuch out of the USNDTP. He intrigues me a bit more because he’s rated so much lower and might be an easier steal. He’s a righty that plays both Center & RW. A position the Rangers need. A righty Centerman. I have a feeling AV will force Sather to finding him more righties for next year.

  2. Leatherneckinlv says:

    I think 1 power forward for the wing and a true number 1 center and the Rangers are in a good position.
    Many may not agree but the diamond in the rough to me is Kyle Beach. He may be that power forward and physical guy to get a spot on the 4th line. With McIlrath and Beach we address the softness issue as I feel it in me that Beach can score 10 goals playing on the 4th line next year.
    Fast was really good last night. So was St Louis. I am still not a believer in St Louis yet. If he gets into form then we will be real good on the wings.
    3rd line should be set for a few years with Zuke, Brass and Benny. They all should be signed for a 3 year stretch.
    Stepan is the ideal 2nd line Center with Kreider and Hags, Richards, Fast combination.
    St Louis getting on board with his talent and Nash just becoming 30% more aggressive will be the wingers on the 1st line, now who should center them? Eric Staal might be the guy but more for another reason, to Keep Marc here
    The 4th line is solid with Boyle, Moore, Dorsett and Beach combo.
    McIlrath replacing Stralman next year would be good playing with Moore and bringing up Klein to play with Marc and Diaz and Allen as the extra D men.

    • svessien says:

      Kyle Beach? He performed poorly in the Swedish Elite league. What makes you think he will be a good NHL-player?

      • Leatherneckinlv says:

        Because it will be the NHL and not the swedish league. 2nd point is I am saying as a 4th liner and physical presence, not to go be Bobby Hull. 3rd reason he is bigger and can take on the bigger guys when it comes to that part of the game and finally he does have soft hands and for a 4th line winger and enforcer that is a bonus….How is that for my reasons

        • svessien says:

          Sounds more like anoter piece of granite in the rough than a diamond in the rough to me, but I hope the guy with the positive outlook is right. Which in this case is you.

    • Puck Luck @Centerman21 says:

      I wish Beach could become an every day NHLer but from what I’ve seen & heard. He’s not a very good hockey player. We we in better shape with Mashinter. I was happy when we got beach because of the background on him. He was said to be a big tough forward able to fight anyone but can also score goals. Goes to the net and creates havok. However at the pro level he hasn’t kept up. Has to learn to play pro game first. Nothing would make me happier than if Beach was on the roster next year. McIlrath too but he has to improve his skating. Particularly skating backwards with forwards trying to gain the zone. During the summer if the NHL is in McIlraths plans. He’ll work extensively on his skating and just maybe at some point towards the end of 14/15 he will make the team. He’s had 2 partial seasons in Hartford due to injury. I hope that’s past him and he develops quick. Strahlman may be gone creating a need for his righty stick and size.
      Zucarello & Pouliot should get extentions at the conclusion of the regular season. Don’t let them get to July 1st. Carcillo as well. Keep as much of this team together as possible. The best teams in the league have players playing together for 3-5 years now. It’s paid off in Stanley Cups!

  3. cv19 says:

    The Rangers have to be in a “win now” mode. They have enough parts and Lundqvist won’t be around forever.
    Since the end of December the only team that looks better than us is Boston. That’s only one upset round in the playoffs. I’ll take it.

    • Puck Luck @Centerman21 says:

      I hope Boston runs out of Juice like we did in 11/12 by ECF. Maybe then an upset is possible. Still may see TB Mon, or Pitt in 2nd round.

      • Chris A says:

        The Rangers can only play the winner of the Pitt series in the second round.

        The NHL no longer reseeds in the playoffs.

      • Rangers Fan in Boston says:

        I really don’t think running out of juice will be the reason Boston is derailed. They’re too deep for that to happen.

        I think any hope for the Rangers to not have to face them in the finals would be a Montreal upset. That’s the team that has been able to get them off their game this year and beat them with consistency. No easy task, obviously.

        • Chris F says:

          If Montreal upsets the Bruins, though, that too poses a bit of a problem for the Rangers as they for some reason can’t play in Montreal.

          • Rangers Fan in Boston says:

            I hear you, but I’d still rather take my chances with Montreal over Boston.

  4. WilliamW says:

    Wing scoring/potential is one of the strong points for the organization. Nash and St Louis will be here for the short term and provide elite scoring/playmaking, Kreider/Hagelin are cost controlled proven NHL players with significant upside and Zuc has been the best forward this year. All 5 will be Rangers for any realistic projection period (assumes no trades to upgrade other spots). I’d like to see Pouliot back and think there’s a good chance he will be too. He provides size/scoring to a good 3rd line. Dorsett/Boyle/Carcilo have proven to be strong 4th line options as well. No issue with the current batch in my mind

    Even beyond Fast, the wings are the strength of the Ranger development pool with Kristo, Buchnevich and Duclair at/near the top of the prospect ranks

    A “star” level first line center and an offensive defenseman are really the only big upgrades that can be argued for

    • Puck Luck @Centerman21 says:

      I agree. I like Carcillo-Boyle-Dorsett on the checking line. Having Dorsett in there instead of D Moore creates a L/R mix and they all bring energy. Keep em. I’d like to See Sather extend Zuc & Pouliot right after the regular season before there’s other teams driving the price up.
      You may not like the idea but since the Rangers have a need for a big Centerman. Why not trade up for one of the top picks in the draft. He’d be on an ELC which is cheaper than paying for say Stasny or keeping Richards. I’m not against keeping him here since MSL came here to play with him. But I think we can get in on a big kid like #7 on Central scoutings list. Ritchie. 6’2″ 230lbs
      Or #20 I think. He’s a big Centerman named Tuch from the USNDTP. STRONG on puck and he may be ready for 2nd line Center in NHL next year. Certainly Ritchie is. His brother Brett is already playing for Dallas. A young kid that produces on ELC is cost effective allowing more room for Sather to spend in Free Agency. The best teams have 1 or 2 producing.

  5. Chris A says:

    Anyone have a guess as to what it would cost to pry Evander Kane from Winnipeg?

    He could be the young power forward that is missing from the lineup.

    I was thinking a package would have to start with J Moore and JT Miller as centerpieces but who knows, maybe WPG could be suckered into taking Talbot as a centerpiece instead? Anyway, do you guys think Moore/Miller is enough to start a conversation with WPG?

    Of course, buying out Richards would have to happen to accommodate EK’s cap hit.

    • Leatherneckinlv says:

      Trust me you would not want him, not because of skill but attitude. He would cave in to the limelight of New York and Hockey would just be a way of income for him.
      Not a good pick up at all

      • Chris A says:

        I would be willing to take my chances. The kid has too much talent. I would assume if the Rangers did deal for him it means his emotional/mental makeup checks out ok. I would trust the Rangers’ scouts and management more than I would trust the rantings of the hockey media.

        I feel like most sports writers are constantly looking to shoehorn players into simple narratives that are easy to write about and easier for their readers to understand. In other words, I’m sure Kane is a fine individual, no better or worse than most NHL-ers.

        • Rangers Fan in Boston says:

          Who knows if that’s the case, but I generally agree with your sentiment that narratives drive storylines a lot of times.

          There is enough smoke here however.

          If the price is right, the talent is worth the risk, I believe.

          • Chris A says:

            There’s some smoke for sure, but look at other young stars that were dealt recently because they were labeled “party boys” by the local writers.

            Joe Thornton
            Mike Richards
            Jeff Carter
            Phil Kessel
            Tyler Seguin

            There is not one player in that group I wouldn’t have welcomed to the Rangers with open arms. Ok, maybe Richards would have been a tough one, he would have needed some time to get the stink of being Flyers Captain off of him first. Furthermore, all of those players, save Seguin because he was only traded past summer and is still only 22, went on to have outstanding careers.

            • Rangers Fan in Boston says:

              Fair enough, and I’m not disagreeing with you per se, but look at the two markets for your examples: Boston and Philly. Winnipeg isn’t quite on those levels as far as media scrutiny and fans loving to hate their athletes.

              Just playing devil’s advocate on this one as I generally agree that for the price, he’s worth the risk.

        • Leatherneckinlv says:

          His flashing of money in Las Vegas is not a good sign

          • Chris A says:

            I chalked that up to a newly wealthy 20 year old being a very silly, newly wealthy 20 year old. Yeah the timing may have sucked, I think Kane tweeted that photo during the recent lockout, but still, who cares.

    • supermaz says:

      Stepan and Hagelin for Kane.

  6. mikeyyy says:

    That pic should be subtitled.

    don’t worry Marty I won’t let them touch your privates ever again.

  7. Chris F says:

    Anyone know if the Metro Divisional 1st Rd Quarter Finals starts on the 16th or 17th?

  8. Bloomer says:

    Jesper Fast is another small player and fits in with the other Ranger smurfs. With no high end picks I can’t see the Rangers stealing any future superstars in the draft. The only young players that I see that have upside are JT Miller and Mcilrath but AV doesn’t appear too keen on them. Maybe the team will surprise in the playoffs, but I don’t have high hopes. Just disappointed with the direction this team has gone, its like they are on the cusp of the 1997-2004 dark age.

  9. cv19 says:

    Since Dec. 29th. 27-11-3. That’s good hockey. Not too many better second halves around the league. Not many better goalies in that span than Lundqvist. We’ll enter playoffs in pretty good health and with some real depth if Fast can cut it. Let’s hope that Charra gets a pretty good battering from either CBJ/Wings and then the Habs. Lots to look forward to.