Breakout candidate? Photo: Getty Images

Breakout candidate? Photo: Getty Images

It’s the dawn of a new season and already we’re full of anticipation, panic and dilemma… What fun it is to be a New York Rangers fan. Anyway, it’s Thursday so let’s have the first Musings of the season shall we? There’s plenty to talk about.

The obvious major talking point in Rangerland is the injury to Derek Stepan. I’m an optimist. Stepan’s injury hurts the Rangers in the short term but his absence shouldn’t cost the team a playoff berth and the team has plenty of younger prospects they can test out. This is an opportunity the franchise may never have had if it were not for the injury. Now is the time to throw in a Lindberg, Hayes and/or JT Miller and see whether they can step into a full time NHL role.

Long term, the injury to Stepan may have been a blessing in disguise if the Rangers develop one (or more) prospects for the long term because of this unfortunate situation. If this was Lundqvist going down for a long stretch it would be time to panic but Stepan missing 10-12 games will not cost the club long term. No need to panic. Prospect development time is upon us.


Question Time:

• Who will score more goals; Kreider or Nash?
• Should the Rangers trade for a center and start with the kids?
• Who will be the breakout Ranger of the season?
• Which prospect are you most concerned about?

Ryan Malone: I for one was happy the Rangers signed Ryan Malone. I said at the time that it’s a potential low risk high reward signing and the first results are promising. He’s also a short term solution who doesn’t really block any significant prospects from making the team.

Fans have bemoaned a lack of a consistent net presence for years and Malone will help in that regard (aside from Kreider is there any real net presence?). He’s big, physical and has skill. If he has conquered his demons, put his mistakes behind him and is motivated, he could be one of the bargains of the season. It’s obviously a bit early to say that but if you can get any mileage out of a six time 20 goal scorer you have to be happy.

Reasons to be excited: Kevin Hayes, Oscar Lindberg, Pavel Buchnevich and Anthony Duclair. Apparently the Rangers don’t have much talent in the system… Buchnevich has started on fire in the KHL, Lindberg’s progress has been solid and steady right since his acquisition (Werek who?) and Duclair has shown he has legitimate offensive upside at the NHL level. If Hayes also proves to be the real deal then the Rangers have plenty of forward talent to get excited about.

Reasons to be concerned: Dylan McIlrath. While there’s not really a position in New York for McIlrath right now (he was never an option for the 7th man job due to ice time) he hasn’t exactly forced his way into the top six reckoning. It’s starting to be a little concerning that four years after being drafted McIlrath is still not close to making the Rangers. He’ll need a strong year in the AHL to stay relevant.

Prospect Watch: It will be intriguing to watch the prospects that start the year in Hartford. There should be a lot of offensive upside in CT. A group probably including Haggerty, Fast, Hrivik, Bourque and Kristo should be very motivated once the season starts. Barring a major injury or two none of the aforementioned will be in New York but all have talent.

First predictions of the year:

• Rick Nash will score 35 goals and everyone will forget his playoff goal drought.
• Chris Kreider will score 25 goals and people will still moan.
• Henrik Lundqvist will need to be his stellar self (even more so) thanks to Stepan’s injury. He’ll flirt with 40 wins for the first time in his career.
• Dan Boyle will score 35 points and no one will complain about his age.

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