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.