The New York Rangers are riding high after the 2020 trade deadline after winning eight of the last nine games. After defeating the Islanders 4-3 in overtime on Tuesday night at Nassau Coliseum, the Blueshirts have pulled within four points of the Columbus Blue Jackets for the second wild-card position with three games in hand. It’s truly the next phase in the rebuild for New York and general manager Jeff Gorton.
However, the Rangers would not be where they are without the young guns playing decent hockey in head coach David Quinn’s system. Without further ado, let’s examine just how well the Rangers’ top rookies have played through 62 games this season.
Defenseman Adam Fox has been, to say the least, magnificent since being traded to the Rangers from the Carolina Hurricanes. Fox is tied-28th in the entire NHL for points from a defenseman, due to his great offensive feel and stellar passing.
The Long Island native has totaled 6 goals and 26 assists since starting with the Rangers. He has been one of the most consistent, if not the most consistent, defenseman all season on Broadway. His poise with the puck, his ability to serve the backend on a power play and just sheer confidence has made Fox an unbelievable rookie with loads of skill.
The No. 2 overall selection in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft is having a pretty mediocre start to his NHL career, but don’t let the numbers fool you. Kakko, who turned 19 this past February, has just 20 points through 58 games.
Despite the low numbers, Kakko has improved as the season has progressed. Mainly seeing time on the third line on the wing, the Finnish teenager uses his freakish balance and strength to bully his way into the offensive zone on most nights. But, the youngster at times has the tendency to not want to put the puck on net and instead search for the perfect pass.
If Kakko develops a shoot-first mentality, the numbers will improve. Until then, Kakko’s highly anticipated rookie season has been pretty quiet for the most part, but it’s only a matter of time until the 19-year-old finds his groove.
After being near the top of the goalie charts while playing for the Hartford Wolf Pack, coveted goalie Igor Shesterkin has made the most of every opportunity at the NHL level through 10 starts for the Rangers. The former Kontinental Hockey League star goalie now owns a piece of the throne in New York, after starting 9-1 with a .940 save percentage and a 2.23 goals-against average.
If the 24-year-old’s stats qualified for goalie rankings, Shesterkin’s save percentage would be the best in the league and his goals-against average would be tied-fourth. Now, that’s saying something for a rookie who just started competing in North America.
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Shesterkin is freakishly athletic, his rebound control is fantastic and his low-key demeanor makes for a future star in a league with the highest level of hockey players in the world. The rookie’s recent performances might just push the Rangers to a playoff spot after he returns from injury.
Defenseman Ryan Lindgren has been one of the quieter Rangers’ rookies during the 2019-20 season. In some cases, staying under-the-radar as a rookie isn’t a bad thing after all. For Lindgren, that’s exactly what we have.
The 6-foot, 191-pound defenseman has been a force on the Rangers’ third defensive pairing for most of the season. Lindgren is most definitely not the flashiest of players, like his counterpart Fox, but he does a great job being very physical every game. The Minnesota native has evolved into a very solid defensive defenseman and he’s made a positive impact on the Rangers’ backend since receiving about 16 minutes of ice time per game.
Lindgren has totaled one goal and 11 assists in 52 games and even showed his ice vision recently. But, No. 55 is much more than a point scorer and is very capable of holding his own in the Rangers’ defensive zone.
Without a doubt, these players will be critical for the Rangers’ playoff push to continue in the months of March and April. Fox, Shesterkin, Kakko, and Lindgren are all valuable pieces to New York’s rebuild and each one of them will have major impacts on the seasons to come on Broadway.
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Sophomore journalism major at the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland. Business director and play-by-play broadcaster for WMUC Sports. Former intern for the Anton Media Group.