Going into the 2015-2016 season there are a lot of NHL teams that will be greatly improved if their internal young talent make strides at the NHL level. Each team has a few players that their respective organizations are hoping for steady improvement and development on and off the ice. These are usually players that have been in the league for a few seasons and have shown flashes of promise, but have just not gotten it done on a consistent basis in the most competitive hockey league in the world. When you look at the New York Rangers there are three players that come to mind as guys who are ready to take a step forward and become regular contributors on the score sheet. Here are my three New York Rangers who could be ready for breakout seasons.
3) Emerson Etem
The 23-year-old who was recently acquired for Carl Hagelin is ready for a breakout season. He will likely start the year on the 3rd or 4th line with not a lot of pressure right away to produce in a new offense. Etem is a fast skater that has shown flashes of a player with a high skill level. Check out Etem’s great individual effort on a goal in this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Winnipeg Jets.
Etem will be out to prove to his former organization and to the hockey world that he is worthy of his first round selection. Rangers fans will like watching this guy play as he could become a guy to net 15-20 a season and replace the production lost from Carl Hagelin.
Season Prediction- 70 game played, 19 goals, 17 assists, 36 points
2) Jesper Fast
The 23-year-old showed flashes of talent in the playoffs when he was contributing as a top-six forward playing with Derek Stepan and Chris Kreider. Fast has excellent hands and has some jump in his game. In 58 regular season games last year Fast scored six goals, eight assists and 14 points. He added six points in 19 playoff games, but his role with the team was increased as Fast saw a lot of extra minutes and began to earn the trust of coach Alain Vigneault.
Fast is a player that appears ready to take on more minutes this season and will likely bounce between the 2nd and 4th lines based on his production. Ultimately he could be utilized nicely on the wing at a few different places in the lineup, but only time will tell who the young Swede develops chemistry with.
Season Prediction- 72 games played, 15 goals, 20 assists, 35 points
1) JT Miller
The Rangers 1st round pick in 2011 is ready for a big year. Miller appeared in 58 games last year in the regular season and scored 10 goals, 13 assists, and 23 points. He also had descent playoffs with eight points in 19 games. Miller was drafted to be a center, but may find himself playing a lot on the wing this year if Vigneault decides to play Kevin Hayes as the 3rd line center. However, Miller developed some nice chemistry with Kevin Hayes and delivered a nice pass to Hayes to even Game seven at one goal apiece against the Washington Capitals.
Miller can play both positions, but in my opinion the organization is still hoping he can develop into a solid 3rd line center. Kevin Hayes appears to be a star player in the making and may just be playing top six minutes this year. Look for Miller to set career highs across the board this year yet again.
Season Prediction- 75 games, 20 goals, 25 assists, 45 points
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.