Ladies and gentlemen, we finally made it: The New York Rangers play a meaningful hockey game today.
Game 1 of 82 commences tonight against the Buffalo Sabres, and for the expectations New York has going into the season, it would be nice to get an opening night win.
Then again, the season is a long one that is going to be filled with ups, downs, and everything in between. Here are three predictions for the Rangers over the next few months.
Igor Shesterkin is a Vezina finalist
In the 2021-2022 season, Igor Shesterkin was the undisputed best goalie in the league. He posted a .935 save percentage, 2.07 goals against average, and had a record of 36-13-4. Shesterkin not only ran away with the Vezina Trophy but was a finalist for the Hart Trophy, the NHL’s MVP.
Last season, Shesterkin took a step back because it was nearly impossible to take a step forward. His lower stats were mainly because of a slump in November and December, but by the end of the season, Shesterkin reached a career-high in wins with 37. At the end of the season, after the loss to the Devils, he said next season would be “a different Igor.”
Shesterkin will be different this year, and as he has since he made his NHL debut in 2020, he will win some games for New York. Again, Shesterkin will be a Vezina finalist. Will he put up the same stats he did in the 2021-2022 season? No, he doesn’t need to. Will he win the Vezina? it’s definitely possible.
Artemi Panarin reaches over 95 points
The Breadman will be under a microscope this season, especially after his performance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs in May. Panarin tallied only 2 points, both coming in Game 1.
But, before we go into Panarin’s postseason performance, there’s no doubt about it that he produces during the regular season. In his 2022-2023 tenure, Panarin led the Rangers in points with 92. In his three 82-game seasons for New York, this was his lowest tally, with 95 and 96 being from the other two.
Panarin should come into the season with a bitter taste in his mouth after the way last year ended. Once again, he will be the leading point-scorer for the Rangers and will be near three digits.
Alexis Lafreniere and Kaapo Kakko both have over 20 goals, and Filip Chytil will have over 60 points.
Many of the Rangers’ successes this year will come down to their youth, especially Filip Chytil, Kaapo Kakko, and Alexis Lafreniere. All have the talent to become stars in the league, and if there is any time to make a jump, it’s now.
This season, Lafreniere and Kakko will both score over 20 goals, which will be a career-high. They start the year as the first and second-line right-wingers, and while there will be some movement, both players have shown the ability to score. With increased opportunities, both will eclipse 20 at least.
Chytil had a career season in 2022-2023, nearly doubling his previous-high point tally to get to 45 points. This was in 74 games and a lot of time at the third-line center. Now, Peter Laviolette has the 24-year-old slotted into the second line with the team’s highest point producer, Artemi Panarin, and if this stays the same, 60 points are reachable and expected.