It’s up to you, New York, New York! Although the New York Rangers will miss out on the postseason, there’s plenty of room for optimism surrounding one of the most high-powered teams in the National Hockey League. Heading into next year, the Blueshirts possess one of the most talented rosters in hockey with a plethora of elite-level skill all over the ice. In the midst of all this, lie three integral foundational pieces.
Igor Shesterkin, Goaltender, Age 25
You know what they say – “From Russia, with love.” First up is Russian-born stud netminder, Shesterkin. Drafted in the fourth round, 118th overall back in 2014, Shesterkin has officially arrived on Broadway as the Rangers undisputed No. 1 goaltender. Born and raised in Moscow, Shesterkin has been highly-touted for a while now and just capped off an impressive season in New York. From a statistical standpoint through 35 appearances this year, Shesterkin went 16-14-3. In addition, he posted an impressive 2.62 goals-against-average and .916 save percentage. He’s also slammed the door shut on two occasions with two shutouts.
As a player, Shesterkin was a star in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) prior to coming over to North America. From 2016-2019, he went 71-12-10 for his club SKA St. Petersburg. His final season “across the pond” saw him post a ridiculous 24-4-0 record with a 1.11 goals-against-average and .953 save percentage. Shesterkin is quick, agile, confident, and a real fierce competitor on the ice. Needless to say, the sky really is the limit here for someone as talented as he is. Without question, the Rangers have themselves a dandy in between the pipes.
Adam Fox, Defensemen, Age 23
What does the fox say? Next up is star blue-liner. Man, oh man, do the Blueshirts ever have themselves a gem on the back-end in Fox. Born and raised in Jericho, New Jersey, the Rangers couldn’t believe their eyes when they landed Fox in a trade from the Carolina Hurricanes back in April 2019.
As a player, Fox is incredibly gifted. From an offensive standpoint, he’s uber-talented, silky smooth on his edges, and possesses phenomenal skills with the puck on his stuck. In his own end, he’s responsible, trustworthy, and quick in transition. Fox is the epitome of the modern-day NHL defenseman, and then some. This past season saw Fox put up a renaissance-style campaign on Broadway. In 55 games played, Fox tallied 5 goals and 42 assists for 47 points. In addition, he also logged 24:42 worth of ice-time along with a plus-19 rating. Oh, and his 47 points are good for second-most amongst NHL defensemen, trailing only Tyson Barrie of the Edmonton Oilers.
It goes without saying that Fox has firmly cemented himself as one of the finest defensemen in hockey. A Norris Trophy is certainly within grasp for one of the most dynamic young defensemen on the planet. If you haven’t had a chance to watch “the Fox” play, tune in. This kid really is the real deal.
Alexis Lafreniere, Left-Wing, Age 19
Last, but certainly not least, is the reigning first-overall pick, Lafreniere. Although his 2020-21 season didn’t quite go as he (or the Rangers organization expected), there is tons to like about one of hockey’s most talented (and electrifying) youngsters. As a player, Lafreniere possesses a unique and extensive skill set. He’s fast, dynamic, competitive, and great with the puck on his stick. In addition, he reads the game well and thinks at an extremely high level for a teenager (still only 19). From a physical standpoint, Lafreniere stands at 6’2, 193 pounds (and counting), he has good overall size for a winger. This is definitely a player who’s just going to get better and better.
When you talk about cornerstone pieces, Lafreniere is front and center on Broadway, and then some. After a slow start to the campaign, he finished 2020-21 with 12 goals and 21 points in 56 games. Quantify these numbers over a (full) 82-game schedule and the results are still underwhelming. With this being said, the Saint-Eustache, Quebec native has all the makings of a star-in-the-making at the NHL level. In addition to this, expect a huge bounceback season next year, especially after the firing of head coach David Quinn on Wednesday morning. Don’t be too concerned Ranger fans – this kid is going to be alright.
Follow Dom Lunardo on Twitter @TapetoTape88
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