The New York Rangers have had a very impressive start (3-1-0) to their 2015-16 campaign. The team has had very good wins over the defending Stanley Cup Champions Chicago Blackhawks, and swept a home-and-home series against the gritty Columbus Blue Jackets.
The team lost a tough one in their last game to the very physical Winnipeg Jets, who were not looking to drop back-to-back games in New York after losing to the New York Islanders at Barclays Center.
Building an NHL roster is not a simple task and a ton of scouting, negotiations, analytics and more go into building a team in the NHL today. The Rangers, like most teams, were built via the draft, free-agent signings and trades. Let’s take a look at how this roster came to be.
Chris Kreider– The power forward was drafted in the first round (19th overall) of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. Last year was the first season Kreider played full time with the big club after spending his first few seasons playing for the Rangers and in the AHL.
He just needed some seasoning and development, and this guy was developed the right way. Kreider is one of the strongest players on his skates in the league and one of the fastest. Kreider set a career-high in goals last season with 21. He has become a fixture on the Rangers’ second line with center Derek Stepan.
Jesper Fast– The young right wing from Nassjo, Sweden was drafted in 2010 in the sixth round (157th overall) by the Rangers. The 6-foot, 188-pound 23-year old appeared in 58 games last season and scored six goals, eight assists and 14 points.
Fast had a nice playoff last year for the team, skating with Stepan and Kreider on the second line. Fast contributed with three goals and three assists in 19 playoff games. Fast has good speed and has shown offensive upside. He has started the season on the Rangers’ fourth line with Jarret Stoll and Dominic Moore. The line has created a lot of chances so far this season.
J.T. Miller– Miller was selected in the first round (15th overall) by the Rangers in 2011. It feels like J.T. is already a veteran of the team, but he is still just beginning his career and learning his potential. Miller is only 22-years old and is destined for a breakout season.
Similar to Kreider, Miller spent his first few seasons going back and forth between the Rangers and the AHL. Miller has seemed to grasp Alain Vigneaults’ up-tempo system and it appears this season, he is here to stay. Miller does good work along the wall and has a lot of offensive upside.
Miller has been playing on the third line with Oscar Lindberg at center and Viktor Stalberg on the other wing. Miller is off to a very nice start to the season with four points (4 A) in the teams’ first three games.
Derek Stepan– Stepan has come a long way from the 20-year-old kid that made his debut in Buffalo. Stepan actually scored a hat trick in his NHL debut that night, and has matured into a leader for this team on and off the ice. He was drafted in the second round (51st overall) in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. Stepan is now 25-years-old and an alternate captain for the team.
He has become an excellent all around hockey player. Stepan plays power play, penalty kill, four-on-four and will be a go-to player in three-on-three overtime. He scored 55 points last season in 68 games during the regular season. Derek Stepan is a winner and will be integral to the Rangers success for years to come after signing a big contract extension this past summer.
Marc Staal– Staal was drafted by the Rangers in the first round (12th overall) of the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. Staal is a good defensive defenseman that makes life tough on opposing forwards.
He has been consistent in his role on the team on the second defense pairing. Staal plays around 20 minutes per game for the Rangers and had a very nice season in 2014-15 with 20 points in 80 regular season games and was a plus-18.
Dylan McIlrath– The Rangers’ young seventh defenseman is also their biggest at 6 feet 5 inches and 220 pounds. McIlrath was selected 10th overall in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. Despite being selected so high, the native of Winnipeg, Manitoba was nowhere near a finished product.
He played two more seasons in the Western Hockey League before three years in the American Hockey League. The bruising defenseman is hoping to make an impact this year at the NHL level.
Henrik Lundqvist– Lundqvist earned his first win as a Rangers goalie on Oct. 13, 2005. The 33-year-old Swedish netminder was a hidden gem in the 2000 NHL Draft. Lundqvist was drafted in the seventh round (205th overall).
He has been the Rangers’ franchise goalie for a decade and is one of the top goalies in the world today. Lundqvist has appeared in 624 regular season games for the Rangers and has a record of 342-209-65, a .921 save percentage and 2.26 goals against average. The Rangers have reached the playoffs in nine out of 10 seasons while Lundqvist was the starting goalie.
Tanner Glass– Glass signed with the Rangers in the summer of 2014. The gritty player was a fixture last year on the Rangers’ fourth line. Glass actually played for Rangers coach Alain Vigneault for two seasons (2009-10, 2010-11) in Vancouver during the Canucks’ elite seasons. Glass adds toughness to the Rangers’ fourth line and has been in a time share to start the season with Fast.
Kevin Hayes– Hayes was originally a 2010 first round pick of the Chicago Blackhawks before playing four years of NCAA hockey at Boston College. Hayes did not sign with the Hawks after four years and therefore became a free agent.
The 23-year old chose to sign with New York in the summer of 2014 and had a very effective rookie season last year, scoring 45 points (17G, 28A) on the year.
Since last season’s All-Star break, Kevin Hayes leads #Rangers in points (31). He has at least one point in 22 of his last 38 games.
— Seth Rothman (@SethDRothman) October 10, 2015
Hayes has been promoted to the Rangers’ top-six forward group to start the year and has been on a line with Stepan and Kreider. Hayes has size at 6 feet 5 inches and has good hands and hockey sense.
Viktor Stalberg– Stalberg was signed in the summer of 2015 by the Rangers following a season in Nashville, where he had some struggles. For the first time since his rookie season in Toronto (2009-2010), Stalberg played in both the NHL and AHL.
Stalberg missed time due to a knee injury. The speedy winger from Sweden is a Stanley Cup champion (Chicago – 2013) and brings even more experience to a group that played a lot of playoff games in recent years.
Stalberg actually works out and skates with Lundqvist over the summer and is now a teammate of Lundqvist in New York. Stalberg has been a perfect fit so far for Vigneault’s system. He has been playing on the teams’ third line with Lindberg and Miller. Stalberg has three assists on the season in four games.
Jarret Stoll– Stoll was signed this past summer as well, and is another veteran addition that has won in this league. Stoll won two Stanley Cups (2012, 2014) with the Los Angeles Kings recently and has been a very nice center on the team’s fourth line to start the season.
Stoll brings a lot of intangibles to the Rangers: he wins faceoffs, kills penalties, provides grit and has good hockey sense. It was another quiet signing by the Rangers this summer that can pay dividends.
Mats Zuccarello– The Rangers first noticed Zuccarello after he stood out for Team Norway at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Originally, Zuccarello did not see a lot of ice time and was more known for his incredible ability in the shootout.
Zuccarello spent his first two years with the team playing a lot in the AHL before signing for a year in the KHL with Metallurg Magnitogorsk. After that season, Zuccarello was resigned by the Rangers at the end of the 2012-13 campaign. Zuccarello thrived under first-year coach Vigneault in 2013-14, and led the team in points with 59 (19g, 40a).
— John Giannone (@jaygeemsg) October 10, 2015
After his scary head injury in Rd. 1 of the playoffs last season, Zuccarello has returned and looks excellent. He is skating on the Rangers’ top line with Derick Brassard and Rick Nash and has three goals in the first four games. The fan favorite known as ‘Zuc’ by the fans will be fun to watch this year.
Dominic Moore– After being out of hockey for a year, Moore returned to the game and signed with the Rangers in the summer of 2013. Moore, who had previously been a journeyman in the National Hockey League, has certainly found a home with the Rangers.
In Moore’s first two years with the Rangers, he was a very effective center on the fourth line and one of the best face-off options. In 2014-15, Moore scored 27 points (10 G, 17 A), which was good for the second highest of his career. He has shifted to the wing with the arrival of Jarret Stoll and has displayed great chemistry so far with his new linemate.
Dan Girardi– The shot-blocking defenseman was signed by the team as an undrafted free agent in July of 2006. Over the years, Girardi has become a leader for the club and is currently an alternate captain with Stepan and Staal.
Girardi plays with a lot of heart each game and is currently paired with Ryan McDonagh on the team’s top defense pairing.
Dan Boyle– Boyle is the oldest player on the team at age 39 and was signed to a two-year contract in the summer of 2014. Boyle was brought to the Rangers to help their struggling power play. He is currently the team’s sixth defenseman and may split time this season with the young Dylan McIlrath.
Antti Raanta– Raanta was signed by the Rangers this past summer to be the backup goaltender to Lundqvist. Raanta was previously the backup to Corey Crawford in Chicago before the emergence of journeyman Scott Darling.
Derick Brassard– Brassard was the centerpiece of a blockbuster deal between the Rangers and Columbus Blue Jackets in April of 2013. The trade sent Brassard, John Moore, Derek Dorsett and a 2014 sixth round pick to Columbus for Marian Gaborik, Steven Delisle and Blake Parlett. This trade turned out to be a win for the Rangers.
Gaborik did not work out in Columbus and was sent to the Kings, where he thrived. Unfortunately, his hot streak had to come in the 2014 playoffs and it carried into the Final against the Rangers. However, Brassard has become one of the key players for the Rangers. He has really come into his own as a player since the trade and is currently the Rangers’ top center. Brassard centers the Rangers’ top line with Zuccarello and Nash.
The 28-year old from Quebec set a career-high last season with 60 points (19 G, 41 A). Brassard is a clutch hockey player and is the type to elevate his game in big situations and big contests. In 19 playoff games last season, Brassard scored nine goals and added seven assists for 16 points. He will be key for the Rangers this year.
Emerson Etem– The 23-year old from Long Beach, Calif. was the centerpiece of the trade that sent Carl Hagelin to the Anaheim Ducks. Etem is a great skater and good hockey player who is still adjusting to the NHL. During his first three seasons in Anaheim, he spent extended time with the Ducks and their AHL affiliate, the Norfolk Admirals.
Etem skated in 12 playoff games with the Ducks last year and scored three goals. He has been a healthy scratch so far this season with the Rangers, but will be anxiously waiting his opportunity to show coach Vigneault that he deserves ice time. Unfortunately, that might be tough right now because of the deep team the Rangers have this season. Only time will tell if Etem will get playing time with the Blueshirts in 2015-16.
Oscar Lindberg– Lindberg was acquired in a 2011 trade with the Arizona Coyotes. He continued to develop his game in the Swedish Elite League before playing two seasons for the Hartford Wolfpack in the AHL. In his final season in Hartford, Lindberg scored 56 points (28 G, 28 A) in 75 regular season games.
The 23-year-old Swede, who turns 24 at the end of October, went on to add 16 points in 15 AHL playoff games. He entered Rangers camp with a swagger this year and proved to be NHL-ready.
Lindberg has been on the Rangers’ third line to start the season and leads the team in goals with four in the team’s first four games. The rookie will be fun to watch this year as he makes the jump to the NHL.
Rick Nash– Nash was acquired by the Rangers in the summer of 2012 to add the elite offensive option that the group was lacking at this point in time. The Rangers acquired Nash from Columbus for Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, Tim Erixon and a first round pick in 2013.
The 6-foot-4 forward has been as advertised during his time in New York and scored a career-high 42 goals last season. The only player that remains in Columbus is Dubinsky, who is now the team’s alternate captain and second-line center. Nash and Dubinsky battle each time these two teams meet and it is always good hockey to watch.
Kevin Klein– Klein was acquired by the Rangers in January of 2014 for Michael del Zotto. The trade turned out to be excellent for the Rangers. Klein arrived in New York as a classic stay-at-home defensive defenseman from the Nashville Predators.
After becoming acclimated to the Rangers’ style of play, Klein has become a very important defenseman to the Rangers. Klein scored a career-high nine goals last season from the blue line in 65 games. An injury to his arm forced him to miss action and parts of the playoffs. Klein returned but was not 100 percent. A healthy Klein is back now and is vital to the Rangers’ elite blue line.
Keith Yandle– Yandle is one of the best puck-movers and offensive defensemen in hockey. Now more comfortable in the Rangers’ system, he should excel this year at even strength and on the power play.
Yandle was acquired from the Coyotes last spring for John Moore, Anthony Duclair, a second round pick in 2015 and a lottery protected first round pick in 2016. The move was the last major trade for GM Glen Sather and let the hockey world know that the Rangers are all in for trying to win a Stanley Cup right now. Yandle knows he has a lot to prove still under the bright lights of Madison Square Garden.
Ryan McDonagh– The Rangers’ captain was originally a first round pick of the Montreal Canadiens in 2007. He was part of a trade in the summer of 2009 that sent Scott Gomez to Montreal. McDonagh has developed into the leader of the Rangers and only knows winning at the NHL level.
In his first four seasons, the team has reached three Eastern Conference Finals and one Stanley Cup Final. McDonagh is a defenseman that can do everything. He can play and excel in a shutdown role, be physical, is positionally sound and can add offense from the back end.
The lefty McDonagh is the feature defenseman on arguably the best left side defense in hockey with Staal and Yandle behind him. He knows what it takes to win in the league at the age of 26 and he hopes to lead the Rangers this year back to the Cup.
What We Learned
What we can learn from this list is that building an NHL team takes time and patience as well as a lot of work and luck. There is no guarantee that a trade will work out or the acquisition of a prospect or free agent. We have learned that the Rangers also make a lot of trades with the Columbus and Arizona franchises.
The Rangers have been fortunate enough to acquire some good players recently through trades and sign very nice role players in free agency. The team has had draft picks such as Stepan, Kreider, Staal and Lundqvist become integral to their success. Out of the 23-man roster, the Blueshirts have seven of their own draft picks, nine free-agent signings and seven players that were acquired in a trade.
I am a 2015 graduate of Montclair State University in New Jersey. I have coached ice hockey at the high school level for two seasons here in NJ. I will be covering the Toronto Maple Leafs moving forward for The Hockey Writers.