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The New York Rangers have quite a few talented homegrown forwards with a chance to become franchise cornerstones. However, it has been a long time since a homegrown forward scored 30 goals in a season for the Rangers. The last player to accomplish the feat was Petr Prucha, who scored exactly 30 goals during the 2005-06 season.
This season the Rangers will have to rely on their homegrown forwards to produce offensively, as they look to conclude their rebuild and make the playoffs. Here’s a look at the homegrown Rangers with the best shot at scoring 30 goals next season:
Realistic Shot at 30 Goals: Chris Kreider
Chris Kreider has come close to scoring 30 goals in a single season a few times, but injuries and inconsistent play have prevented him from reaching the mark. He scored 28 goals in 75 games during the 2016-17 season and scored 28 goals in 79 games in the 2018-19 season. During the 2019-20 season, he had 24 goals in 63 games, but a broken foot knocked him out of the lineup, and the coronavirus pandemic brought the season to a halt.
Last season Kreider scored 20 goals in just 50 games, and would have been on pace to score 30 goals if it were a normal 82-game season. He led the Rangers with 11 power-play goals, as he repeatedly deflected pucks on goal and effectively screened opposing goalies. He also drove to the net and scored on rebounds.
The key for Kreider next season will be consistency, as he had a nine-game scoring drought last season. At times he plays like a star, but extended slumps have held him back. However, if he can avoid going through any long stretches of poor play next season and stays healthy, he has a realistic shot at scoring 30 goals.
Possible Shot at 30 Goals: Kaapo Kakko and Alexis Lafreniere
Both Kaapo Kakko and Alexis Lafreniere improved as the 2020-21 season went on. Kakko, the second overall pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, went from one of the Rangers’ worst defensive forwards as a rookie during the 2019-20 season to one of their better ones last season. He was also much stronger on the puck and more noticeable on the ice.
While Kakko definitely showed improvement, at times he passed up good scoring opportunities, and too many times he failed to convert on the chances he created. He finished with nine goals in 48 games, but he is trending in the right direction and next season could be a breakout one for the Finnish winger.
Lafreniere, the first pick of the 2020 NHL Draft got off to a slow start last season with just one point in his first 15 games (an overtime goal against the Buffalo Sabres), but he got into a rhythm later in the season. He formed chemistry on a line with Kakko and center Filip Chytil and consistently drove to the net. He showed quick hands and ended the season with 12 goals while playing in all 56 games for the Rangers.
Both Kakko and Lafreniere will likely get more playing time next season since Pavel Buchnevich was traded to the St. Louis Blues in the offseason. They should also get more ice time on the power play compared with last season, when Kakko played on the second unit and Lafreniere was left off the power play. If they can play the way they did down the stretch last season, scoring 30 goals isn’t out of the question.
Potential Breakout Candidates: Filip Chytil and Vitali Kravtsov
The Rangers have two other talented young forwards in Chytil and Vitali Kravtsov. Chytil is only 22-years-old but has played in 186 NHL games, while Kravtsov is 21-years-old and made his NHL debut last season.
Chytil got off to a hot start last season but an upper-body injury kept him out of the lineup for a month. He showed he had quick hands and made a few highlight-reel plays, but had an inconsistent season. He scored seven goals in his first 22 games, but just one in his final 20. Additionally, he likely won’t see a big increase in playing time, as Mika Zibanejad and Ryan Strome have established themselves as New York’s top two centers.
Kravtsov became known for his creativity and high-end offensive skills while playing in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) before making his debut with the Rangers midway through last season. While he didn’t look overmatched physically, he was used as a bottom-six forward and didn’t get many scoring opportunities. He finished with two goals in 20 games while averaging just 12:24 in ice time per game. While he should get more playing time with Buchnevich out of the picture, he’s still not a lock to be a top-six forward next season.
Both Chytil and Kravstov are long shots to score 30 goals next season but they both are
highly skilled and will have an opportunity to establish themselves.
While the Rangers have star players in Zibanejad and Artemi Panarin, they will also rely heavily on their homegrown forwards this season. They need consistency from these players, as inconsistency has prevented Kreider from scoring 30 goals in previous seasons, and has been an issue for many of their young homegrown forwards thus far in their careers. However, the talent is there, and it would go a long way towards helping the Blueshirts if at least one of these players can reach the 30 goal mark next season.