Center depth is once again a strength for the Rangers
When the Rangers were making regular runs to the Conference Finals, there were two consistencies those teams had. The first was elite goaltending. The second was depth down the middle. Center depth is critical for team success, and it was something the Rangers were severely lacking in the final years of Alain Vigneault.
After a strong 2017 draft and a fire sale, the Rangers have quickly turned that weakness at center into very strong depth. As it stands today, the Rangers have six players who can play center, seven if Vinni Lettieri makes the team. And as it stands today, none of the centers are what you would call “weak” in the sense of David Desharnais suiting up as the 3C.
Of those seven centers, we know two are destined for the wing. Ryan Spooner and Vlad Namestnikov haven’t played center consistently in years. However if injuries ravage the Rangers, then they can certainly hold their own at the position. Neither are slouches.
Assuming Lettieri (or Boo Nieves) are your 4C, then that leaves Mika Zibanejad, Kevin Hayes, Filip Chytil, and Lias Andersson as your top-three centers. As you can see, there are four players there. Something will have to give, but this is another excellent problem to have.
It’s tough to really analyze what to expect of this team in terms of stats because of the coaching change. However there are people who are much smarter than I who make these prediction models, so here’s Dom Luszczyszyn’s fantasy hockey models for point projections:
— dom at the athletic (@domluszczyszyn) September 18, 2018
This makes a lot of assumptions, but it’s a good start based on projected ice time. I can see both Chytil and Andersson getting more points than the projections, but that may depend on powerplay time. Either way, that’s strong depth down the middle.
The rebuild is going to take a while, but the foundation of strong center depth is certainly already in New York. Even if there is a center logjam, moving a center to wing is an easy move. There are a lot of things in New York to be excited about.