Vince Mercogliano was kind enough to hop on the podcast today and he didn’t disappoint. Vince has been on the podcast a few times now and as a diehard Rangers fan, I appreciate what he does for us. We finally have a voice inside the room and it’s nice to hear questions asked that we actually want to hear answers to. So shoutout to Vince and big thank you for coming on the pod! Now, having said that— Let’s dive into your 20-21 New York Rangers.
Kreider – Zibanejad – Buchnevich
The first line will be back and dangerous as ever. Kreider showed up with hair and a beard, Buchnevich is having his “best pro camp” (David Quinns words, not mine) and Mika Zibanejad has been practicing the last couple days after coming down with the COVID.
Was there a hotter player in the NHL to close out the year then Mika? 22 goals in the last 21 games. Is that good?
Panarin – Strome – Kakko
I understand that Jesper Fast brought some sandpaper and hard work to this line last year but if Panarin (69-32-63-95) and Strome (70-18-41-59) can put up that many points, can you imagine what they could put up with an offensive player like Kaapo Kakko? Good grief.
Lafrenière – Chytil – Gauthier
I love everything about this line. For starters, they’re 19, 21, and 23 in age. The fact that Chytil is a veteran of this line might be alarming, but imagine the creativity and explosiveness coming up the ice at third pairing defensemen. Obviously we’re all excited to see what 13 can do in his first year but my player to watch this year is Julien Gauthier. Sure, he had a cup of coffee with the Rangers last year but within his 8 min on TOI, you can tell that this kid can play a hard north south game— think Kreider-lite. He can absolutely fly and although it’s not the NHL, in the two years Gauthier played in the AHL he scored 27 and 26 goals. It’s time to see if he can bring that touch to the NHL.
Lemieux – Howden – Di Giuseppe
After talking with Vince, he had me sold that Howden had a good camp. Most Rangers fans seem to hate the young centerman and for that reason I love him and wish him nothing but the best. Lemmy will be stiring the pot as he always does and it’ll be interesting to see how long Di Giuseppe and Rooney stick around. Why?
Lindgren – Fox
I’m hoping this becomes the McDonagh – Girardi version of this Rangers core. Fox is as dynamic as they come on the backend and Lindgren will block a slap shot with his face and not miss a shift. Shades of 27-5? Sort of sounds like it.
Miller – Trouba
Whenever the Rangers get a young player that oozes potential, we as Rangers fans love to talk about our shiny toy. Most of the time these players need time to develop which is what I thought of with K’Andre Miller, however, apparently the big guy might not need the seasoning of the AHL. Miller is a big defenseman who skates effortlessly and has a big reach to eliminate passing lanes and quality opportunities. Now, you put a defenseman with those qualities with Jacob Trouba who by all means underperformed last year. Having said that, if he can get back to being that one bad mamajamma no-one wants to be out on the ice against, this pairing has all the qualities of being able to shut down other teams top lines.
It will probably take Miller some games to get used to the NHL pace and play, but if all things go right, it looks like the Rangers top 4 is extraordinarily better than what we’re accustomed to.
Johnson – DeAngelo
Tony DeAngelo was 5th in scoring as a defenseman last year with Marc Staal as his partner. Why not run it back with Jack Johnson? Tony will undoubtedly get Power play and overtime minutes, two places where 77 seems to thrive. If Johnson is as bad as what Penguins fans say, I don’t hate the fact that we have Smitty waiting in the trenches. I get it, Smitty might not have lived up to his contract but personally I love the guy. He’ll fight, PK, even play forward. He’s definitely prone to mistakes but plays like this, IMO, make up for it — at least on a personal, I hope he does well, level.
This is quite the one-two punch. I asked Vince what would need to happen for the Rangers to make the playoffs and he nailed it on the head— If Igor can come back and play like he did last year (10-2-0, 2.52 GAA, .932SV%), the sky is the limit for the youngest team in the league.
What do you guys think? What are the biggest storylines of the season? Will the Rangers make the playoffs? Let us know in the comments.