After a strong finish to the 2019-20 season, the New York Rangers will begin their 2021 campaign on Thursday. While there will be familiar faces returning, the Rangers have a lot of fresh faces on the roster. Newcomers to the organization Jack Johnson and Alexis Lafreniére will each have a chance to crack the roster. Additionally, top defensive prospect K’Andre Miller will have a chance to make a splash this year. Big years will be expected from some of the top guys, but across a 56 game season, there is a lot to unpack, especially from the young guys. I will do my best to project each key Rangers player’s stats for 2021 and how that will affect the Rangers as a whole.
Artemi Panarin, Left Wing, Age 29
Starting with the offense, there are really three or four obvious guys on the offense who should be covered in this article. The first of which, obviously, should be Artemi Panarin. Panarin, the Rangers’ best player, is coming off a season where he had 95 points in 69 games, a 113 point pace. Panarin’s numbers have gotten exponentially better over the years, so there’s no reason to stop now. Taking into account the short training camp and late start to the year, being conservative with these numbers is also important. Not to mention, Panarin will now be playing opposite Kaapo Kakko who should improve his point totals. Taking his pace from last year and being a little conservative last year I will predict that Artemi Panarin will have 23 goals and 41 assists for a 64 point season in 56 games for the Rangers in 2021.
Mika Zibanejad, Center, Age 27
Up next is Mika Zibanejad, who, after missing 13 games due to injury, came back and was on an absolutely torrid pace. Helped of course by his five-goal performance against Washington, Zibanejad finished the season with a whopping 41 goals. He worked well with his linemates Pavel Buchnevich and Chris Kreider, which gave him 34 assists. Zibanejad’s production exploded during the 2018-19 season and took another jump in 2019-20, passing his point total in 25 fewer games. Zibanejad got a later start to camp than most other players and actually tested positive for the coronavirus. Due to this, I think we still see a strong performance from Mika, but not nearly as amazing as normal. In 56 games for the Rangers, I think Zibanejad will have 25 goals and 28 assists for 53 points in 2021.
Kaapo Kakko, Right Wing, Age 19
Thirdly, Kaapo Kakko should be an interesting guy to examine. Kakko had what many describe as one of the worst rookie years in hockey history. For most of the 2019-20 season, Kakko was ranked near the bottom or dead last in all skaters. The 19-year-old Fin never seemed to get his legs until it was too late in the year. However, he was still able to muster 10 goals and 13 assists playing on the 3rd line. This year, Kakko will likely be bumped up to play with Strome and Panarin. With lots of skill around him, Kakko should be taking a nice step up and I think he will trample his numbers from last year. In this Rangers 2021 season, I think we’ll see Kakko accumulating stats near 15 goals and 18 assists for a modest 33 points.
Alexis Lafreniére, Left Wing, Age 19
Our last offensive player to look at is Alexis Lafreniére. The first overall pick in the 2020 NHL draft, Lafreniére is ready to make an impact. He is projected to start on the third line with Filip Chytil and Julien Gauthier. Lafreniére put up monster numbers in the QMJHL and his skating ability should translate well to the NHL. Playing with two very young skilled players in Chytil and Gauthier, that line looks scary good. Lafreniére, who many call the best prospect since McDavid, should put up pretty solid numbers in this 2021 season. I think that over the 56-game span, Lafreniére should put up 18 goals and 23 assists for a nice 41 point season. Which would be solid stats for the Rangers rookie in 2021.
Tony DeAngelo, Right Defense, Age 25
On defense two players I really want to highlight for the Rangers in 2021 are Tony DeAngelo and Jacob Trouba. Last year, DeAngelo had an exceptional offensive year. He had 53 points in 68 games, scoring 15 goals and adding 38 assists. DeAngelo will likely be playing with either Jack Johnson or Brendan Smith which could hurt his production. Smith could be fine with DeAngelo as he can play somewhat solidly in the backend. If Jack Johnson were to start, it could be a disaster for the Rangers to play them together. But, DeAngelo will always be a dangerous offensive weapon and power-play quarterback for the Rangers. Over the 2021 season, I predict that DeAngelo will score 11 goals and add 27 assists for a 38 point campaign. The numbers will be similar to last year’s but not quite as good.
Jacob Trouba, Right Defense, 26
Finally, Jacob Trouba is a big key to the season. Trouba is in the second year of an eight-year, $56 million contract. Trouba let fans down last year, playing with his old high school teammate Brady Skjei. The pairing of Trouba and Skjei simply did not work out for the Rangers, but now things are different. There is a big possibility that Trouba could be playing with rookie K’Andre Miller on opening night and throughout the season. This is one pairing I would want to watch for the Rangers in 2021. Trouba is coming off the worst defensive year of his career and had a lackluster offensive year, having just 27 points in all 70 games. Working with Miller this year could give Trouba a nice boost, and I think it will. I think Trouba will have a very solid boost in production, having 29 points in 56 games.
The Rangers should have a solid season. They have a lot of young guys who are developing into larger roles, as well as veterans who can take a jump in their game. Playing the same teams eight times could skew some stats for the Rangers in 2021. The Rangers are in one of the toughest divisions in the NHL, and if they can sneak into the playoffs as one of the top four teams in their division they can make some noise. That would all start with their guys coming out guns a-blazing. A step up from Kaapo Kakko and Jacob Trouba could make a huge difference this year. Similar production from Zibanejad and Panarin would be huge as well. Lafreniére contributing as a rookie would also be very important. This is an exciting time in Rangerstown and the Rangers are going to be fun to watch in 2021.