For better or for worse, the kids will play

The NY Rangers are in a transition year. They are returning, for all intents and purposes, the same roster as last season. In doing so, management is in the transition period of passing the torch to the next generation of Rangers. Their next run as Cup contenders depends on progression and development of the kids as both primary and complementary pieces. Cheap depth wins, and kids are cheap. The NY Rangers youth movement is in full swing this season.

As it stands today, the Rangers will have around three defensemen under the age of 25 on the roster to start the season. Up front, the Rangers will have six forwards under the age of 25. In net, both goalies are under 25 as of the writing of this post. That’s more than half of the roster. Some are set pieces for the future, some will have their roles defined this year, and some are big question marks.

The Set Pieces

Kaapo Kakko and Alexis Lafreniere are the set pieces for the future. Assuming proper development –which is a big assumption, so don’t take that lightly– both will be top-six forwards of the future. They will supplant current veterans at some point soon, possibly even this season.

On defense, Adam Fox is the best defenseman on the team. It’s not even close, to be honest. He will be the 1RD of the future. I wouldn’t be surprised if he had a bit of a sophomore slump, but it looks like any setback will be temporary.

In net, Igor Shesterkin seems to be the set piece for the future. I’m going to include him in this section, but not Alex Georgiev, because only one will be with the club for the foreseeable future. I think it will be Shesterkin.

When you take a step back and think about it, the Rangers have two top-six forwards, a top pairing defenseman, and a very good starting goalie all under the age of 25. Those are solid building blocks.

Roles To Be Defined

Most eyes are going to be on Filip Chytil and Ryan Lindgren. Chytil is going to be at least the 3C to start the season, but it’s expected he will be getting the 2C role if he earns it. That’s the big thing, whether or not he will earn it to supplant Ryan Strome.

As for Lindgren, there’s no doubt he’s the best LD on the team, but the bar is basically on the floor at the moment. He had a great rookie season. The question is whether or not he’s going to be a top-four or a bottom four. The difference is holding his own on the top pair, or getting drowned in top pair minutes. This year, if he gets minutes will Trouba, will likely define his role of the future.

Then there’s Alex Georgiev. He’s at least a mid-tier starter, but the question is whether or not he will be with the Rangers. It will only be one.

The Question Marks

The question marks begin and end with Libor Hajek and Brett Howden. The center pieces of the Ryan McDonagh trade, both will be looking to solidify depth roles with the team. Hajek may have a better shot, since he’s at least looked good in the past. It’s clear neither will have prominent roles, though. One will be expansion draft fodder.

The other big question mark is Julien Gauthier. The Rangers gave up a solid prospect in Joey Keane for him. He’s looked great in flashes, and he might be a middle-six forward if he pans out. But he could also struggle to maintain fourth line minutes if he doesn’t. I’m high on the kid, so I think he gets to that 3RW role.

The NY Rangers youth movement this year will be very telling for years to come. We’ve seen flashes, but only a few are set pieces to build around for the future. The Rangers will need to hit on some of these prospects in the other two tiers for them to turn into contenders. For better or for worse, the kids will get their shot.

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  • After his disastrous first season you have to call Kakko a question mark. Anything else is unrealistic.

    • Really?! Yea, all first year players crush it as rookies. Especially from overseas. I suspect you were just looking for hits here. He is just a kid, and quite frankly, your comment is ridiculously short sighted and mindless.

  • I lean heavily toward keeping Fox and Lindgren together, come what may. I just don’t feel like the “best” option should involve messing with a years-to-come winning combination. Sure, give Lindgren time with Trouba, to see what that looks like, but make that the challenger option, not the assumption.

    • This is short-sighted. The two main reasons that the Lindgren-Fox duo was so good were that Lindgren is very good and Fox is very good. Of course, they were good together. It maybe they belong together, but it is foolish to commit to this. The Rangers need at least two good pairs and the best way to achieve that may be to separate them. In particular, they need a shutdown pair and Lindgren-Fox might not be that pair, but one of them may be needed for it. Experiment!

      • Ray, why are you completely discounting the idea that Fox and Lindgren were a particularly good pairing, particularly as they’ve played together (being purposefully paired together) elsewhere too?

        • I am not the person who is being rigid here. I agree that Lindgren-Fox was a good pairing. However, I am fairly certain that Lindgren-Trouba will be a good pairing. We saw last year that DeAngelo-Fox was a good pair. Actually, Lindgren-Staal was pretty effective on the PK.

          Insisting on Lindgren-Fox is a way to limit options. What the Rangers need first and foremost is a good shutdown defensive pair. Last year, we saw Brendan Smith in that role in order to keep Lindgren-Fox together. I don’t want to see that again. Mind you, it may be right to ultimately settle on Lindgren-Fox; I just want to explore options.

          The biggest difference between me and others here is that I view Lindgren as realy really good, quite possibly the best defenseman the Rangers have. Others think Fox carrried him.

  • Youth is cheap, but performance bonuses can make it far less cheap than advertised. Now if we are going to compete we need to kids to hit a fair amount of those bonus targets.

    I think Chytil’s role will be most effected by Strome than his own performance initially. I feel like the team has been trying to move Strome and the returns haven’t been what they hoped due to the fact he broke out playing with Panarin and the lowered cap increases due to Covid. It won’t surprise me if Strome plays a lot more at 2C than Chytil, early on, to boost his trade value.

  • I just hope Fox does not experience the sophomore slump… I would hate to see this kid’s confidence and game salvaged after a bad run of games… Still remember how Sjkei was highly touted and became a villain in double quick time. Now I think Fox has already shown he’s made another mettle than Sjkei but still.. I have this bad feeling too much is already expected from him. I mean he’s the best D on the team… By far.

  • Personally, I think it is for the better. Remember 4 years ago when we complained about lack of draft picks and building from within and not signing overpriced aging veterans. Well here we are folks, developing from within, grabbing a few high priced, but young FA (Panarin et al) and letting the kids play and show what they have. After all that, still the NY Rangers, and can sign more an make trades. This is going to be one exciting year if we should be so lucky as to have one. I’m all in on this process! I find it a refreshing change of pace.

  • It’s one thing to have young players on the roster, it’s quite another for the coach to actually play them in meaningful roles.

    It will be interesting to see how Quinn deploys this line up.

  • I love Fox. Who wouldn’t? The kid had a terrific rookie season and clearly has a wonderful hockey IQ. He is potentially the Rangers’ best defenseman. But to anoint him already when he did not play against the best the other teams offered is suspect analysis.

    I’d like to see Lindgren paired with Trouba, because he is what Trouba needs to play his best. Trouba is the workhorse and most physically punishing of the Ranger’s defensemen. Adding Lindgren to the top pair might make it very good, and free Trouba to do more offensively. He is talented offensively.

    Meanwhile, you could move either DeAngelo or Fox to the left side. Preferably DeAngelo, and play them together. Fox would make Tony a better defenseman in his own zone, and they’d be a dynamic offensive force.

    Lastly, you could pair either Hajek or JJ with Smith for your bottom pair.

    I know that Lindgren and Fox played well together, but I think Lindgren is needed on the first pair to get the most out of Trouba, and give them more ability to shut down top lines. The limited times Tony D. played with Fox, the pairing looked pretty sharp. It might be at least worth a look.

    • Agree completely. I believe Quinn handled Adam Fox perfectly last year. He gave him many important minutes at even strength and put him on the second powerplay unit. That was plenty to handle for a rookie. But, to simplify his game, he kept him off the PK and did not make him play first pair on defense against the really tough opposition. And Fox did everything he was asked magnificently.

      But comparing Fox to Trouba is really comparing apples and oranges. Trouba was playing in an entirely different world. If you honestly look at the defense stats over the last several years, a clear pattern emerges. Who were the worst defensemen last year? Trouba and Skjei. The year before? Staal and Pionk. What was the common link. Not ability. The defensemen who got skewered were those playing first pair.

      Adam Fox excelled in he role he was given and he did not show weaknesses that would hold him back from an even more important role. The coming season he will kill penalties and take on more responsibility. We should be optimistic, but we don’t actually KNOW how it comes out.

      Incidentally, this is a persistent theme on this site. The coach gives a player limited responsibility, he succeeds, we anoint him a star of the team and wonder why he isn’t getting a bigger role. We think it is easier to succeed as Panarin’s right wing than as a fourth liner, but in fact the opposite is true. Fourth liners play a minor role while Panarin’s RW has the power to destroy the team even while scoring some points.

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