New York Rangers Report Cards Part 1: The New Forwards
Over the next week, we will be releasing a series of report cards for the New York Rangers here at the Blue Line Station. In this edition, we will review the newcomers to the Rangers forward corps.
The New York Rangers are done with one-third of their season and have exceeded expectations. After coming out of the gates hot the first month, the Rangers have cooled off considerably in November and December.
However, one bright spot on the New York Rangers is the emergence of their high octane offense that is currently producing at 3.59 goals per game. Some of the biggest contributors to the Rangers scoring ways early on were not on the roster before the 2016 season.
Jeff Gorton worked hard to create this team through both free agency and trades, and the early returns are promising. Today’s New York Rangers report card will highlight those newcomers to the team’s forward group.
The former KHL standout has had a rough go of it through the first third of the season in terms of his health. However, when present in the lineup Buchnevich has lived up to the hype as the Rangers most exciting forward prospect.
In his 10 games with New York this season, Buchnevich has recorded 4 goals and 4 assists. A possession monster, he currently leads the forwards in CF% at 54.5.
His play alongside Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad to start the season formed the Rangers most dynamic line. Despite the limited number of games for the young Russian, he proved invaluable to the team. His return to the lineup could be right around the corner, as he recently took the ice for his first skate in weeks.
Nobody would have thought that one-third of the way through the season Michael Grabner would be leading the New York Rangers in goals (13). His addition to the bottom-6 has given the Rangers their first true speed threat since losing Carl Hagelin.
Grabner has also been a steady source of shots, third on the team while playing the fourth least ice time. Much like Jesper Fast, Grabner has been an asset to Alain Vigneault’s lineup, playing on all four lines.
He has been as advertised in his true role of a penalty killer, helping the Rangers to a top-10 unit thus far this season. Although the goals scoring pace will slow down, Grabner will look to contribute with his dependable two-way play and fast pace playing style.
Jooris’ start to his Rangers career began slowly. He suffered injuries early, a pulled groin against the Islanders in the preseason and a separated shoulder against the Bruins in late October.
He has also fallen victim to the revolving door of Alain Vigneault’s trust. When he has been in the lineup he has been quiet offensively (1 goal and 1 assist) and played limited minutes. Jooris’ primary contribution to the Rangers thus far has come at the faceoff dot. His 52.7% winning percentage on the faceoff is 3rd on the team.
Although he has failed to separate himself from the pack, Jooris has done little to show that he is a detriment when his is in the lineup. Injuries should keep Jooris’ spot in the Rangers lineup secure for the near future.
Brandon Pirri is another prime example of Jeff Gorton’s offseason brilliance. Brought in to be purely a shooter, Pirri has done a fine job producing. The early returns of having a sharp shooter were fantastic for the Rangers.
In his first game as a Ranger, Pirri scored a power play goal on a shot that New York has not possessed on the power play in some time. Combined with the injured Mika Zibanejad, Pirri should continue to drive shots towards the net on the Rangers first power play unit.
Pirri has also been extremely dependable in his own end, a welcome addition to what scouts believed was a limited arsenal. He has given the Rangers another scoring option in the top-6 when injuries hit, as well as a stable bottom-6 center.
The prize of the offseason and ex-Hobey Baker award winner. Jimmy Vesey’s entrance into Broadway could not have been more emphatic. After leaving the Nashville Predators and Buffalo Sabres behind to join the Rangers, Vesey has cemented himself as a top-6 winger for New York.
The young Massachusetts native builds his game around his good use of his body and ability to get to the net. He has been most valuable so far using his power forward frame on the power play this season. He is currently leading the team with 3 goals with the man advantage.
Vesey spent a short stint on the Rangers fourth line, a byproduct of Alain Vigneault’s constant line shuffling. At that time he saw an expected drop in production, however, he has rebounded nicely with 4 goals in his last 7 games.
Mika Zibanejad had tough shoes to fill when he came over in a trade that saw Derick Brassard leave for the Ottawa Senators. Although a broken leg has Zibanejad sidelined until at least February, the Rangers are excited to have this young man.
At 23 years old, Zibanejad is still growing into his game while producing like a first line center at the same time. He has proven he can be both responsible defensively as well as an elite offensive force. His 16:41 ATOI proves that head coach Alain Vigneault trusted him in all situations.
In 19 games this season, Zibanejad has produced 15 points (5 goals, 10 assists), with 5 of those (all assists) coming on the power play. His right-handed shot has given the Rangers a weapon they have not possessed since the departure of Martin St. Louis. Furthermore, Zibanejad is one of the Rangers top possession drivers (52.7 CF%) alongside fellow newcomer Pavel Buchnevich.
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