Will the Rangers projected lines unite Panarin and Zibanejad on the top line?

With minimal cap space and the roster mostly set, it looks like Chris Drury’s offseason is mostly complete. There are a few loose ends, like locking up K’Andre Miller and Alexis Lafreniere, but for all intents and purposes Drury is done. So we can start looking at the Rangers projected lines to start next season, albeit with some pretty big assumptions and if/then statements to really round things out.

One of the important “new school” trains of thought is that we should be looking at the lines in terms of a top six, a third scoring line, and a shutdown line. The antiquated method of two scoring lines, a checking line, and a fourth line of misfits doesn’t work anymore. So it’s important to identify the scorers who will cycle through the top nine, and the shutdown players who will likely be a shutdown line.

To make things easier, the most likely shutdown players are Barclay Goodrow, Nick Bonino, Jimmy Vesey, Tyler Pitlick, and Will Cuylle. All of them have offensive ability, but they are likely best served in a shutdown role.

There’s nuance to this, of course, and there are no absolutes. It’s a matter of putting players in a position to succeed based on their skill sets. After all, we do know Goodrow isn’t a scorer, despite setting career highs his last two seasons. We also know Vesey can put the puck in the net, but is also very sound defensively.

Let’s also remember that everyone has their own guesses and preferences, so play nice in the comments.

Rangers projected lines – Forwards

The forwards are probably more difficult to predict since the Rangers projected lines aren’t as cut and dry as they were under Gerard Gallant. We were able to assume that Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider would stick together, ditto Vincent Trocheck and Artemi Panarin. With Peter Laviolette at the helm, that is likely to change. This is where the if/then statements matter.

This is really where we get two schools of thought. The first is with those duos in place. The second is Laviolette trying something new and giving the Rangers top-two picks some time in their natural positions.

If Kreider/Zibanejad and Panarin/Trocheck are locked

If we assume those duos are locked in, then we can also assume Kaapo Kakko will get the first shot at 1RW, with Blake Wheeler and Alexis Lafreniere looking at the 2RW spot. Let’s also give a little flexibility with Panarin, who has played LW his entire career but is certainly good enough to play RW.

Whomever loses the Wheeler/Lafreniere battle will wind up on the third line with Filip Chytil and most likely Jimmy Vesey, who can play either wing. Thanks to the NHL video games, the third line has always been labeled as a checking line. This is not a checking line. This is a scoring line.

The fourth line would probably serve as the shutdown line with Barclay Goodrow, Nick Bonino, and one of Will Cuylle or Tyler Pitlick.

If the top six gets shaken up

The fun begins if the top-six gets broken up. We can still assume Zibanejad would be the 1C, but do we see him get time with Panarin and Kakko? That trio wasn’t overly good last season, albeit in 33 minutes (small sample size), but the Panarin-Zibanejad duo played 332 minutes last season with pretty rough results as well.

Perhaps it makes sense to go with Lafreniere-Zibanejad-Kakko as the top line, who faired better than the above options. That would leave Panarin, Chytil, and Wheeler as the second line, bumping Chris Kreider to the third line, something people have been calling for.

If I were a betting man, I’d bet that the top-six remains somewhat intact, given what we know about the players and how they’ve worked together previously. But that’s no fun when guessing how lines may shake out. So let’s go off the board a bit for some new Rangers projected lines, at least to start the season before things get thrown in a blender:


The second line, in this case, would get the sheltered offensive zone starts. The fourth line is the shutdown line. It gives the Rangers some balance up and down the lineup, plus has designated roles for each line. The only concern, at least for now, is the lack of chemistry on the top line. Perhaps a more structured system and better puck movement out of the defensive zone should help.

Defense pairs are clearer

The defense pairs are easier to predict to start the season. Again, we are hoping a more structured system and zone exit strategy, plus expected progress from K’Andre Miller and Braden Schneider, lead to much more balanced results down the lineup. The Rangers were a disaster in their own zone outside of Adam Fox and Ryan Lindgren, so hopefully that structure and development plays into a more stable blue line.

We are also operating under the assumption that Zac Jones –who will require waivers now– and Erik Gustafsson will be rotating on the third pair.

There are really only two questions on the blue line:

  1. Will Miller and Lindgren swap? We have strong evidence to suggest that Miller-Fox and Lindgren-Trouba would be more balanced and bring out the best of the quartet.
  2. Who will win between Jones and Gustafsson? Both will be on the roster, but who wins the battle will determine playing time.

Personally, I don’t think there is a problem with trying out a top-four swap while also easing Jones into the lineup based on opponent. The Rangers open against Buffalo, a strong skill team, so we will make a guess based on this.


Expect the pairs to be shuffled a bunch, especially in preseason. Hopefully this is what the pairs look like, but it does assume answers to the questions above, and it also assumes Trouba and Schneider don’t swap. That latter assumption is likely fair for now, but could change by midseason.

The Rangers projected lines are filled with if/then statements since we don’t necessarily know what Peter Laviolette is thinking for his lines. Still, it’s fun to guess what the Rangers projected lines may be.


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