Which New York Rangers might play a more prominent role next season?

April 16, 2022; New York, New York, USA; Alexis Lavrinier (13) left winger of the New York Rangers chats with his teammates before facing the Detroit Red Wings during the third period at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory credit: Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers have improved by leaps and bounds this season. A lot of that had to do with balancing the line-up by President and GM Chris Drury. His possessions of Barkley Goudreau and Ryan Reeves got the ball moving in the right direction.

On Deadline Trade, he bridged the remaining gaps with Andrew Cope, Frank Vatrano, Tyler Mott and Justin Brown. All four players have been given big roles this season. Of course, all four are from the UFA and it would be difficult to bring them back.

That brings us to which Rangers we think will play a more prominent role next season.

Alexis Lafrenière in the top six

Alexis Lafrenière had a strong finish to his sophomore season with 6 goals and 7 assists for 13 points in his last 21 games. In the 2021-22 season, he scored 19 goals and 31 points in 79 games, averaging 14 minutes per night.

The 20-year-old impressed in the playoffs with his physical play, using both 6-2 and 193 pounds of his chassis to land some big hits. In his first post-season experience, Lavrinier scored 9 points in 20 games while hitting 50 goals.

Next season will be big for the first overall pick from 2020. Although Chris Kreider and Artemi Panarin occupy the top two spots on the left wing, Alexis wants the best minutes.

“I want to play in the top six at the end, that’s my goal,” he said after the season ended. “I want to watch them and learn from them but hopefully next year I can play in the top six.”

It will most likely happen if he succeeds in moving to the right wing. However, he knows there is another aspect of his game that needs to be worked on.

“I want to become a better and faster skater, so I’m going to skate, but I want to be stronger too,” he said via the New York Post. “I’ll try to find a balance and work on everything, but my skateboarding is more of a focus.”

Depending on how Free Agency deals with Frank Vatrano, Lavrinier could find himself on the right side of the top line with Mika Zibanijad and Chris Kreider. Worst case scenario is he’s in second row with Artemi Panarin and either Ryan Strome or Andrew Copp.

Philip Schittel More minutes and responsibility

New York Rangers
November 18, 2021; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; New York Rangers quarterback Philip Sheetle (72) skates with a puck during the second half against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Scotiabank Arena. Mandatory credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

New York took a chance by picking Philippe Shettel in the first round of the 2017 draft when not every expert noteworthy was this high. In 253 games, the top spot has only 93 points but given Rangers glimpses of offensive prowess.

The Rangers were patiently waiting for Chytil to realize his potential. After another regular season of offensive struggles, something seemed to be clicking on the 22-year-old’s batters in the playoffs.

In his first official season (not counting the 2020 playoff round), he scored 7 goals and 9 points in 20 matches. Chytil played a particularly instrumental role in eliminating the Carolina Hurricanes by three goals in games 6 and 7.

Chytil will continue to run the midfield third line role but should get more than the 13:11 he averaged last season. Additionally, if Rangers sign Andrew Cobb on Ryan Strom, this opens the door for some time as a second-line center.

Zack Jones and Braden Schneider

Braden Schneider
5 April 2022; Newark, New Jersey, USA; New York Rangers defender Braden Schneider (45) hits New Jersey Devils center Jesper Buqvist (70) during the first period at Prudential Center. Mandatory credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

Rangers called up Braden Schneider in January, expecting to take a look at their first-round pick for 2020. Instead, he scored a goal in his first game and played like a seasoned veteran which made it extremely difficult to pull him out of the squad.

“He’s been great all year,” said Ryan Strom. “For such a young kid, he is very professional. You don’t have to worry about him. He has matured beyond his years on and off the ice.”

Having played every game in the previous playoff round and had three assists, Sneijder became the second right-hand-back duo for the next year. He should also get more chances to kill penalties.

New York also deals with limited cover space, so hiring a seasoned left defenseman to be his partner is going to be very difficult. If they can successfully trade or buy Patrik Nemeth, who has two years left at $2.5 million, that money will be used to re-sign some of their attacking core agents.

That’s why Zac Jones should be given a long hard look to claim his third left defense position.

Jones, 21, is in the final year of his entry-level deal which comes with a low ceiling of $925,000. He has shown that he has the potential to play in the NHL using his high hockey IQ to make up for his size at 5-11, 185 pounds.

Rangers in the third round in 2019 played 12 games with the team last season and scored two assists. With Wolfpack, he was their best goal-scoring defense with 35 points in 52 games.

New York Rangers

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