New York Rangers: What happens if their struggles continue?

Through seven games, the New York Rangers have just one win. A 1-5-1 record isn’t what anyone expected, and at some point, the Rangers hole may be too big to climb out of.

Of course, this team has many veterans that have dealt with adversity before. In 2013-2014, the Rangers started 3-7 in their first 10 games, and ended up that same season with an appearance in the Stanley Cup finals. Yet, one has to wonder if they’ve gotten too many kicks at the can.

Henrik Lundqvist is turning 36 years-old, and head coach Alain Vigneault is in his sixth season with the team. Maybe this team simply needs to start fresh with a new direction. General manager Jeff Gorton did signal a change in the offseason by aiming to fix the defense, and acquire more picks in the draft.  The Rangers rarely have a first round pick, and ended up with two this year. Forwards Lias Andersson and Filip Chytil were both drafted seventh, and 21st respectively.

If the Rangers struggles continue, they need to continue to build through the draft.

Chytil and Andersson lead the charge

A positive sign for the Rangers is that both Andersson and Chytil looked close to being ready to play at the NHL level. Chytil actually started the season with the Rangers, and the 18 year-old played the first two games before being sent down to Hartford.

Andersson was drafted so high because the Rangers believed he was one of the most “NHL ready” prospects in the draft. The feeling is he’s very polished, and will contribute for the Rangers sooner rather than later.

With these two prospects added to a thin prospect pool, the Rangers injected plenty of youth in their system. If this season spirals out of control, perhaps they should continue on that path. That means they’d likely be picking high in the 2018 NHL Draft.  A high pick in next years draft would be better if the Rangers have more picks to work with. If the Rangers tank, they could easily sell high on many intriguing assets. Players like Mats Zuccarello or Chris Kreider would certainly garner interest around the league.

If the Rangers are committed to a rebuild, they could end up with multiple first round picks. The incoming draft class is very deep, and headlined by 17 year-old Swedish defenseman Rasmus Dahlin. There are many prospects that would look great joining Chytil and Andersson as a part of the new-look Rangers.

The team is already young

The Rangers do have veterans like Rick Nash, Marc Staal, and Henrik Lundqvist still on the team, but most of the team is under 30 years-old. The average age of the team is 27.813, and is likely that high because of the players mentioned above.

Just look at who the Rangers have added in recent years. Kevin Hayes is 25, Jimmy Vesey is 24, Pavel Buchnevich is 22, and Brady Skjei is 23. The Rangers acquired center Mika Zibanejad last year who’s 24, and defenseman Anthony DeAngelo this year who’s 21. Clearly, the focus has been on youth and speed. If the team isn’t performing, why not go all in?

What’s prevented the Rangers from doing this is Henrik Lundqvist, but his replacement is not far behind. Twenty one year-old Russian goalie Igor Shestyorkin is one of the Rangers top prospects, and is lighting up the KHL. In 16 games so far this season, Shestyorkin is 13-1-2 with a 1.27 goals against average, and .952 save percentage. He is eligible to come to North America in 2019-2020.

Conclusion

The Rangers can turn this season around, and make this all an after thought. However, this is one of their worst starts in recent memory. Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh said he’s, “never had a start like this in my career.” This is unprecedented territory, with an unfamiliar uncertainty that the Rangers may not be able to re-discover their winning ways.

Success can’t last forever, which is why it’s remarkable that the Rangers have eleven postseason appearances in the last twelve years. The Rangers have shown the ability to draft well, and develop young talent. If the Rangers keep losing, more young talent may be needed.