Rangers’ Roundtable: 2019-20 Season Predictions

The Hockey Writers’ New York Rangers writers proudly present their takes and predictions for the 2019-20 season.

Justin Bonhard

Predicted Record w/ Point Total: 42-33-7, 91 Points
Playoff Berth?: Yes
Top scorer w/ # of points: Artemi Panarin, 94 points
Breakout Player: Adam Fox
Most Disappointing Player: Brendan Smith
Overall Team MVP: Mika Zibanejad

The 2019-20 NHL season is so close, and the New York Rangers are getting ready for their 93rd season. The Original Six team, that has a very long and storied history of success, has been on a disappointing slide over the past two seasons. But, after a very active offseason and seemingly all of the right pieces fitting into the Stanley Cup puzzle, there is a new sense of hope and hype with this team.

With a record of 42-33-7 and 91 total points, the Rangers will slide into the playoffs in the last month of the season. It will be a turbulent season, with growing pains at every single turn. This roster is comprised of young talent mixed with new additions, with exceedingly large expectations, that aren’t much older than the rest of the team. All of the pieces have been sought after and, with a little bit of luck, a playoff berth will happen in 2019-20.

Leading them back to the playoffs will be Artemi Panarin with 94 points. He will reach the 50-goal club for the first time in his career, and it will be the first time since Jaromir Jagr did it in a Blueshirts uniform during the 2005-06 season. He has the second-highest contract in the NHL behind Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid at $11.642 million. It will be a disappointment if he cannot reach that plateau with the amount of money the Rangers are spending on him. Additionally, he has Mika Zibanejad and Pavel Buchnevich at his side, who are two very explosive players in their own right.

Mika Zibanejad New York Rangers
Mika Zibanejad, New York Rangers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

There will be many breakout stars on this team. Kaapo Kakko will light up Broadway with his skill and smarts, Lias Andersson seems to have turned his career around in the preseason, and Chris Kreider is playing in a contract year and playing for his place with the Rangers for years to come. But, each of those players won’t have nearly the same impact as Adam Fox. After being the most consistent player in the preseason, he made it through the final round of roster cuts and secured a place on the 23-man roster. He will shine on a shaky defense. Inside the second pairing, he could potentially lead all Rangers defenseman in points, and I expect it to exceed the 40-point range.

Speaking of the disappointing defense, there is one player that will be the ultimate let-down in 2019-20. That is Brendan Smith. He had a lackluster training camp, and sooner rather than later, this transition between the fourth-line winger and seventh defenseman is not going to work out for $4.35 million over the next two seasons. This is his last chance in New York, and it will be a very interesting time for him around the trade deadline.

New York Rangers Brendan Smith
New York Rangers defenseman Brendan Smith (Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports)

Finally, there is a positive season incoming for the Rangers in 2019-20. Who deserves the honor for the most valuable player? It can be a number of players, but only one will stand above the rest. The player that should have been named the 29th captain in Rangers history, Zibanejad. Alongside Panarin and Buchnevich, he will shatter his career-best of 74 points and could reach the 90-plus point mark.

Jeb Biggart

Predicted Record w/ Point Total: 38-36-8, 84 Points
Playoff Berth?: No
Top Scorer w/ # Of Points: Artemi Panarin, 91 Points
Breakout Player: Lias Andersson
Most Disappointing Player: Chris Kreider
Overall Team MVP: Artemi Panarin

It’s tough to look at the Rangers offseason and not expect a substantial jump into the postseason. Yet, there are still so many leaks and crevices within this lineup that I can’t picture a playoff berth. The Metropolitan Division only got better and the Rangers still struggle with their center depth and goaltending. The defense should take a big step forward but not enough to get 40 wins between Henrik Lundqvist and Alexandar Georgiev.

I have big expectations for Andersson even if he remains on the fourth line as of now. He has shined in the preseason and can fill the hole left by Filip Chytil. I wrote about Buchnevich and his potential breakout season, but I feel Andersson will turn heads from a depth position. He’s playing the top PK unit with Zibanejad and has the potential to thrive in both ends of the ice. Andersson’s a workhorse. That’s not to say Buchnevich won’t have a great year. He’s a close second as far as breakout-ability goes.

Lias Andersson New York Rangers
Lias Andersson, New York Rangers, Nov. 23, 2018 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

I don’t want to jump the gun on Kakko or stir up unrealistic expectations, but I still believe he’s good for at least 25-30-55 for his rookie campaign. He really showed off his ability to pass the puck in the preseason. I’d like to see how Vitali Kravtsov plays on North American ice before he makes the jump to the NHL. He looked lost at times in the preseason.

Kreider is my pick for the most disappointing player, simply due to a lack of relevant ice time. I don’t believe he eclipses the 30-goal mark or even the 25-goal mark, for that matter. He’ll take a dip in offensive production even if he’s still playing on the top PP line.

Chris Kreider New York Rangers
Chris Kreider, New York Rangers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

I have one last prediction and it’s a bold one so hold onto your keyboards. Michael Haley and Greg McKegg making the team is a good move but the Rangers fanbase will do everything in their power to make them the scapegoats of the season.

Have trust in the front office. They’re headed in the right direction. 

Tom Castro

Predicted Record w/ Point Total: 41-31-10, 92 points
Playoff Berth?: No
Top Scorer w/ # Of Points: Artemi Panarin, 90 points
Breakout Player: Pavel Buchnevich
Most Disappointing Player: Filip Chytil
Overall Team MVP: Artemi Panarin

The rising Rangers, fortified by the infusion of more young high-end talent, as well as the addition of stars, Panarin and Jacob Trouba, should see an increase of eight to 10 wins from last season. That might not get them into the playoffs, inside of a loaded Eastern Conference. Numerous other Eastern Conference non-playoff teams in 2018-19 also improved over the offseason.

The top line of Panarin, Zibanejad and Buchnevich have a chance to be special, and the Kakko era begins on Broadway. Young centers like Andersson and Brett Howden had strong preseasons and might be ready to take the next step. This season is still about development, however, as the struggles of young forward Chytil and the acclimation process of rookie winger, Kravtsov, indicates. Neither expected future cornerstone was able to make the team out of camp and will begin in the AHL with the Hartford Wolfpack. The Rangers need to make sure that Kreider’s expiring contract doesn’t become a season-long distraction.

Kaapo Kakko New York Rangers
Kaapo Kakko, New York Rangers, NHL Prospects Tournament (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

Trouba’s teaming up with long-time friend Brady Skjei gives the Rangers a long-sought first blue-line pairing, but the defense behind them is young or suspect. Libor Hajek and Fox have five games of NHL experience between them (all by Hajek). Dependable and durable veteran, Marc Staal, is 32-years-old and Tony DeAngelo’s talent continued to be hindered by maturity/discipline issues last season.

In goal, Lundqvist still looks to be near the top of his game. His effectiveness should be aided by an expected lighter workload thanks to the impressive third-year goaltender, Alexandar Georgiev.

Henrik Lundqvist New York Rangers
Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

With plenty of young talent here, or on their way, head coach David Quinn goes back to work in year number two. His mandate on ownership remaining the development of the kids and a winning culture. He’ll also be tasked with tamping down expectations for a team that’s just now moving out of the rebuild phase and into the growth process.

Tom Albano

Predicted Record w/ Point Total: 43-30-9, 95 Points
Playoff Berth?: No
Top Scorer w/ # Of Points: Artemi Panarin, 85 Points
Breakout Player: Kaapo Kakko
Most Disappointing Player: Brendan Smith
Overall Team MVP: Artemi Panarin

With quite a few new faces and plenty of youngbloods, the Rangers’ 2019-20 season is certainly an unpredictable one. And, in that same sense, it’s the most exciting anticipated start to a season since they entered the 2014-15 season as the defending Eastern Conference champions.

The Rangers were one of the biggest winners of the offseason thanks to the acquisitions of Panarin and Trouba, as well as the drafting of Kakko. Now, it’s time to see how this team comes together and gels over the course of the season.

Panarin’s signing will pay big dividends — he should have another solid season of production and will help to both create chances and execute them. Expect him to overtake Zibanejad and Kreider in point contributions, and expect big things from the first line of him, Zibanejad and Buchnevich.

Kakko has done well for himself in preseason activities; expect him to continue to develop and fit in well. In fact, expect him to put up a fight for the Calder Trophy.

There are still plenty of questions on defense. Will Trouba’s addition help light a fire under friend and linemate Skjei? Can DeAngelo have another productive season and be less of a head case? Is Smith at the end of the line in New York? How quick can young guns like Fox and Hajek make progress?

Adam Fox New York Rangers
New York Rangers defenseman Adam Fox (Sarah Stier-USA TODAY Sports)

Then there’s the center position. Last season, there was the logjam. This season, it feels like there’s Zibanejad on top and no one else to compare. Strome is a decent-to-good mid-liner, but Andersson and Howden, while having potential, are still unproven on the NHL level.

Combine the youth and question marks with a tough Metropolitan Division that isn’t slowing down in competition. It’s very realistic the Rangers could put up a greatly improved record and point total, but still break some hearts by narrowly missing the playoffs.

Fortunately, this season should show a lot of good times coming for Blueshirts Nation.

Jimmy Maxson

Predicted Record w/ Point Total: 39-33-10, 88 Points
Playoff Berth?: Yes
Top Scorer w/ # Of Points: Artemi Panarin, 95 Points
Breakout Player: Lias Andersson
Most Disappointing Player: Ryan Strome
Overall Team MVP: Mika Zibanejad

The Rangers are going to be an exciting group to watch this season, but just as equally frustrating. Let’s start with my predicted record: 39 wins, 33 losses, and 10 overtime losses totaling 88 points. For this group, who is still in a rebuild, a record slightly over .500 is a big step towards building a winning culture. I have the overtime loss category especially high because of two reasons: First, overtime will likely come from timely mistakes made by young players. Second, overtime is all about skill and speed, which this group possesses. But, budgeting energy that late in the game is important and generally something that is learned from experience. It’s not necessarily something that is focused on in practice.

With that being said, let’s flip to a more positive mindset. I hope this group proves me wrong and earns those extra points with a bunch of great overtime battles. I believe that’s the way we will see squeak into a wildcard position for playoffs. Head coach Quinn, who has experience coaching younger players, will work to engrain his system into his players to build a well-oiled machine. I believe this group will be forced to cooperate, being that a long list of hungry players currently reside in Hartford and are waiting for a chance to make it to the big club. Healthy competition is generally, a good thing.

David Quinn, Lindy Ruff New York Rangers
New York Rangers coach David Quinn and assistant coach Lindy Ruff (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

I believe Panarin will be the team’s leading point scorer with 95 points. The noise that comes from inking a brand new contract is a great motivation to prove his worth and win over the fans. In the preseason, the first powerplay line looked dangerous and he was at the forefront with incredible vision and a laser of a shot. If that rolls into the regular season, that final point total may be on the rise.

Andersson has struggled in the past with discovering the type of player he wants, or needs, to be successful in this league. He has shown offensive prowess and talent but has also adopted a rugged, grinder persona, (which I personally like). Making the roster out of camp inserts a jolt of confidence to his game, and his play with Vladislav Namestikov and Brendan Lemieux during the preseason was a joy to watch. They brought energy and agitation that Quinn loves in his lineup. I expect a step-up from him this season.

New York Rangers Brendan Lemieux
New York Rangers left wing Brendan Lemieux (Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports)

I like Strome, but I chose him for the most disappointing player because of the role he is going to be put in: the second-line center. Strome can play in the number two slot but is a better fit for the third-line. More pressure is put on Strome to perform since Chytil is starting the season in Hartford. I believe he will get the job done, but there could be resentment from fans if he plays “okay”, when it was expected to see one of the youngsters in that spot. I hope he proves me wrong.

Zibanejad will be the team MVP next season. Since his arrival in New York, he has taken a leadership role as a veteran by taking players, like Andersson and Chytil, under his wing. He takes most of the important defensive zone faceoffs and was by far the Rangers best forward last season. He rarely takes a shift off and I foresee a captain role in the near future. Although theteam announced that the “C” won’t be used in 2019-20, Zibanejad is still the leading candidate for the honor. He is Quinn’s “go-to guy.” His offensive numbers will trend up as a result of playing alongside Panarin.

Mika Zibanejad New York Rangers
Ottawa Senators defenseman Dylan DeMelo and New York Rangers center Mika Zibanejad. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

Jordan Goldberg

Predicted Record w/ Point Total: 40-34-8, 88 Points
Playoff Berth?: No
Top Scorer w/ # Of Points: Artemi Panarin, 101 Points
Breakout Player: Lias Andersson
Most Disappointing Player: Filip Chytil
Overall Team MVP: Mika Zibanejad

The Rangers are looking at being a much better team this upcoming season, but they are not there yet. The additions of Panarin and Trouba will help bring this team to another level, but the number of young players on this roster still makes them a bubble team in terms of the postseason.

I do not think they will make the postseason. They can do it, but they would need to click from day one, and the rookies/young players would need to have an impressively low number of growing pains and rookie mistakes.

The top scorer this season will be Panarin with 101 points. This is lofty and would be his career-high, but this guy is in his prime and only getting better. With two good scorers next to him in Zibanejad and Buchnevich, he’ll be racking up the points from the first game.

The obvious choice would be Kakko, but that’s not my answer. He is expected to do well, so his breaking out would not be a surprise. My breakout player would be Andersson. He had a fantastic preseason and got a lot stronger and quicker during the offseason. It is a little puzzling that he will likely be starting the season on the fourth line, but expect this kid to finally prove his worth.

Lias Andersson New York Rangers
Lias Andersson, New York Rangers, Nov. 23, 2018 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The most disappointing player will be Filip Chytil. He looked lost in the preseason and was sent to Hartford because of it. I think he’ll be back soon and may even look good, but it may still be a bit disappointing given the flashes of brilliance he displayed at times last season.

Filip Chytil New York Rangers
Filip Chytil, New York Rangers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The team MVP will be Zibanejad. He won’t lead the team in points, but his attributes combined will prove to be what is valuable to this team. He is a great passer, scorer, and leader. The Rangers seem to be holding off on naming a captain this year, but Zibanejad is by all means already the unofficial captain of this group. He can do it all on and off the ice, he is your MVP.