Projecting the Rangers Opening Night Lineup – Take 2

In eight short days, the Rangers 2019-2020 season begins. Preseason so far has provided a mixed bag: a 1-3 record highlighted by some flashes of offensive brilliance, balanced by suspect defending. The players who have impressed are mostly locks to make the opening night roster. Artemi Panarin, Pavel Buchnevich, Kaapo Kakko, and Jacob Trouba have been as advertised.

But some interesting storylines have developed which will make David Quinn’s final decisions controversial, no matter how they shake out.  Filip Chytil, Brett Howden and Lias Andersson are vying for the 2nd and 3rd line center spots. Brendan Smith’s spot on the team does not seem fully secured. Igor Shesterkin is certainly making a case for an NHL job.

As of this writing, the Rangers training camp roster had been trimmed to 36 players, and by the time you read this it will likely be reduced further. Expect names like Steven Fogarty, Vinni Lettieri, Matthew Robertson and Tarmo Reunanen to be among the next round of cuts.

Without further ado, here’s the latest opening night roster projection (you can check out last week’s here).

Goaltenders (2): Henrik Lundqvist, Alexandar Georgiev

Igor Shesterkin and Adam Huska have both had their moments.  Shesterkin in particular was brilliant against Philadelphia, in a game in that featured a Rangers B-team that got overrun by a strong Flyers’ lineup. Still, it seems as if the role of Lundqvist’s understudy is (rightly) Georgiev’s to lose, and he’s done nothing so far to put his status in jeopardy.

Defensemen (7): Jacob Trouba, Brady Skjei, Marc Staal, Tony DeAngelo, Adam Fox, Brendan Smith, Libor Hajek

No changes from last week’s prediction, but that’s not for any performance-based reason. The Rangers defense just is what it is. They will lean heavily on Jacob Trouba, and Brady Skjei is going to get every opportunity to show he can handle first pair duties. Tony DeAngelo has some major catching up to do. It’s very possible he makes the Opening Night roster but watches game 1 from the press box if Libor Hajek has a good showing in his next preseason game.

Forwards (13): Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad, Pavel Buchnevich, Chris Kreider, Kaapo Kakko, Filip Chytil, Brett Howden, Vitali Kravtsov, Ryan Strome, Jesper Fast, Vlad Namestnikov, Brendan Lemieux, Greg McKegg

Brett Howden’s audition for the 2C spot on Tuesday night did not go well. He was given a chance to shine in an offensive role between Kakko and Kravtsov, but that line spent most of the night in its own end. Lias Andersson was relegated to a 4th line role and played only 7 minutes at even strength. While preseason performance doesn’t tell the whole story, usage can be an indicator. It’s not a stretch to imagine one of Howden or Andersson starting this season in Hartford, and I’m going to project that it’s Andersson.  Filip Chytil will likely have a chance to secure the 2C job with a good performance in his next preseason game. Meanwhile, Vlad Namestnikov is on the roster despite the lack of a clear role for him.  I would not be shocked if the Rangers trade Namestnikov early this season, as they did with Ryan Spooner last year. Greg McKegg has proven to be a capable depth forward who can check, play center and chip in offensively. One of McKegg or Boo Nieves will likely start the season as the fourth line center.

Total roster cap hit: $80,595,633 including buried and bought-out contracts.

Opening Night lineup

Panarin – Zibanejad – Buchnevich
Kreider – Chytil – Kakko
Strome – Howden – Kravtsov
Lemieux – McKegg – Fast

Skjei – Trouba
Staal – DeAngelo
Smith – Fox

Lundqvist, Georgiev

Scratches; Hajek, Namestnikov

Leave your opening night roster and lineup predictions in the comments!

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  • Panarin – Zibanejad – Buchnevich
    Kreider – Strome – Kakko
    Chytil – Howden – Kravtsov
    Lemieux – Andersson – Fast

    Scratches are Names, Hajek

  • Some indicators seem to suggest that not all three of Chityl, Andersson, Howden will make the opening day roster as Quinn (and people here as well) does not seem to want them as fourth liners. FWIW, Larry Brooks seems to view Chityl as the likeliest odd man out, but I had expected it to be Andersson. However, I have not seen any of the preseason games.

    Interesting idea: If Names really has no role on the team, he could be sent to Hartford. If he is claimed on waivers, the Rangers clear a ton of cap space. However, like Beleskey and Brendan Smith, the cap hit likely will dissuade any other teams.

  • If Names is on the team he won’t be scratched. He’s too valuable in the defensive end to sit. He’s got a role in the bottom 6 (most likely 3rd line picking up Kravs defensively) until he’s no longer a Ranger. Plus scratching him does not help his trade value.

    • Aside from being a rookie, I haven’t seen a lot of evidence that Kravs doesn’t get “it” defensively … I think quietly he’s been the best performer of the 20 and under set. That said I agree with your argument that he’s good defensive player and that it doesn’t help his trade value to scratch him. Personally I would like to see DQ rotate the 10-11 remaining forwards (i.e. everyone aside from the anointed 1st line) with each player getting the upper press box view for at least 1 game out of every 10-11 (assuming of course that they’re all playing well). If someone is playing really well you can always make an exception to that rule.

  • This is the lineup that should take place. At first glance I see Zbad not really clicking with the Bread.

    Panarin – Chytil– Buchnevich
    Kreider – Zibanejad– Kakko
    Names– Strome – Kravtsov
    Lemieux – Andersson – Howden

    • You might want to get your eyes checked. When was the last time you visited the eye doctor? 😉

      • Your right! The coach who had a great season last year would not be so creative.

        • They didn’t get Panarin to play with Chytil — not to suggest that as an experiment it isn’t interesting.

  • Andersson is staying up unless he completely changes in the next 5 days.
    He has been better on the defensive side of the ice than both Howden and Chityl.

    His focus is on, you can see it, he is more involved and determined.

    I think he will pass Chityl overall on peoples minds this season.
    Chityl needs to get his head out of his butt.

    Not sure about Howden, he didn’t impress me yet this preseason…
    I think he needs more energy out there, he doesn’t seem to be on fire at any time…

    more to come … I hope we redeem the loss to Philly, AV makes me sick! smug, and that beard!!!
    he annoys me to no end… those beady frenchman eyes… his stupid assistant frenchman couch too, grrrrrrrr.
    between the 2 of them all I hear is GO HABS GO… grrrrrrrr. Add in Yeo, triple dog grrrrrrrr



    • I agree, I see the SAME Chytil … he needs to be way more assertive and purposeful on the ice — and given the way DQ spoke about him before camp, you would have thought that’s the Chytil we would be seeing. Let’s hope he’s just saving it for the regular season. lol

      • If he’s saving it now, he might not get a chance to show it in the regular season.

  • Howden, Anderson and Chytil are still all up in the air to me, but I don’t see Smith making the team. I thought it was a given that he would be burried in Hartford. He hasn’t been terrible – aside from one horrendous giveaway – but he hasn’t been great either. If it’s decided to be more important to give a guy like Hayek or Lindgren loads of AHL minutes than it is to bury Smith’s salary, is be verry surprised.

  • Panerin Zibanejad Buchnevich
    Kreider Strome Kakko
    Lemieux Anderson Fast
    Namestnikov Howden McKegg
    Scratches: Nieves Haley

    Skjei Trouba
    Staal DeAngelo
    Smith Fox
    Scratches: Lindgren

    Smith will play some as forward as well splitting time with McKegg. Haley and Nieves over Chytl and Kravtsov because neither Haley or Nieves will benefit from additional time in AHL where Kravtsov and Chytl will benefit (if not from the experience, at least the extra ice-time).

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