Replacing Ryan Strome on the Rangers powerplay
The Rangers have had the difficult task of replacing Ryan Strome this offseason. They signed Vincent Trocheck long term, which certainly addresses the center position at even strength, but the powerplay is a different animal. Strome was a key contributor as the bumper in the 1-3-1 setup of PP1, and the Blueshirts need to find themselves a replacement, and it may not be as easy as inserting Trocheck into that role.
What does the bumper do?
Before jumping into replacing Ryan Strome, understanding the role of the bumper is important. It’s often a forgotten piece of the 1-3-1, but it’s a critical piece. The bumper is designed to open space and passing lanes with subtle movements and position changes, opening up cross ice and backdoor passing plays. It is also a position that needs to read the play well and make quick touch passes to open ice.
The bumper isn’t a glamorous position unless you get that nice tic-tac-toe setup from wing->net front->bumper one-timer, but that hasn’t been something the Rangers pursue. With the Rangers, the bumper was less of a scoring option and more of a read/react and finesse position.
It’s also important to know the already established roles on the powerplay. Mika Zibanejad (off-wing), Chris Kreider (net front), Adam Fox (point), and Artemiy Panarin (wing) have their roles established, and they all excel in their roles. Strome was an excellent bumper for the Rangers, opening up space for the other four players to work their magic.
Replacing Ryan Strome
The immediate thought in replacing Ryan Strome on the powerplay is to simply insert Vincent Trocheck. However this doesn’t really jive with Trocheck’s playing style. Trocheck is more of a net front player, going for deflections and rebounds. He’d be best served as the sorely needed net front presence on PP2, if they ever get real playing time.
The next thought is to bring up Alexis Lafreniere to play the other off-wing opposite Zibanejad, and move Panarin to the bumper role. This is likely something the Rangers will try, but it may not stick. Panarin would likely succeed in the role, but it may not be the best use of his skill set. He’s methodical and prefers to hold the puck while reading the play. His shot is also very lethal, so he doesn’t necessarily need the one timer opportunities.
Sometimes though, it’s as simple as making the obvious move. Alexis Lafreniere needs PP1 time, and has proven he can skate with the top guys. He’s also a kid that reads the play well, can make the touch passes, and will open passing lanes for the wings on the 1-3-1 powerplay. Replacing Ryan Strome may be as simple as putting Lafreniere in that role.
What about PP2?
As alluded to above, PP2 will also need to be effective and get some additional time. Last year, the unit barely cracked 1 minute per game of powerplay time. If we go with three powerplays a game, that’s about 20 seconds of powerplay time per opportunity. It’s almost impossible to produce anything consistently with 20 seconds at the tail end of a powerplay.
It’s still likely that PP1 dominates the ice time splits. But that won’t take away from the need for PP2 to be more effective, giving the Rangers more options.
If Lafreniere replacing Ryan Strome happens, then the Rangers need to replace both Lafreniere and Andrew Copp on PP2. We likely see Trocheck on this second powerplay unit with Jacob Trouba, Kaapo Kakko, Filip Chytil, and probably Vitali Kravtsov. You may get Sammy Blais in there as well, though he’s likely the 11th powerplay option.
Replacing Ryan Strome on the powerplay is a difficult task, given how well he played the bumper role. But bumping Lafreniere up and giving some of the high ceiling kids some PP2 time may ensure the Rangers don’t miss him too much with the man advantage.