Rangers’ 2019-20 Regular Season Report Card

Adam Fox, Artemi Panarin, Editor's Choice, Igor Shesterkin, Kaapo Kakko, New York Rangers

The New York Rangers season came to an abrupt halt twice in 2019-20, the first due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the second was at the hands of the Carolina Hurricanes. Despite the lackadaisical effort displayed in the Qualifying Round, the Rangers’ rebuild appears to be nearing completion, as a competitive roster with formidable stars has been built on Broadway.

Related: 2000 NHL Draft: 21 Goalies Selected Before Henrik Lundqvist

Grades are difficult to give to this group, as there are numerous factors such as age, expectations, regression or progression, and statistics that all have to be accounted for. But without further ado, it is time to levy out the grades for this season’s Rangers, starting with the forwards.

Forwards

Artemi Panarin

Artemi Panarin signed a seven-year contract worth $81.5 million last offseason and proved to be worth every penny in his debut campaign with the Rangers. He tallied 32 goals and 95 points en route to becoming a Hart Trophy finalist.

Artemi Panarin New York Rangers
Artemi Panarin, New York Rangers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Panarin’s vision is elite and his ability to command the offensive zone makes him nearly impossible to defend against. He led the NHL with 59 even-strength points, while his 95 points were tied with the Boston Bruins’ David Pastrnak for third in the league. This was the dream start for Panarin’s Rangers career, and his grade reflects that.

2019-20 Grade: A+

Mika Zibanejad

In 2016, the Rangers sent Derrick Brassard and a seventh-round pick to the Ottawa Senators for Mika Zibanejad and a second-round selection. This trade may go down as the best of Jeff Gorton’s managerial career, as the Rangers landed a true superstar in Zibanejad. He posted a career-high in goals (41) and points (75) in 2019-20 while leading the league in goals-per-game with 0.72.

There is no limit to what he could have done had he not missed time with an injury, and he proved that he will be the Rangers’ first-line center of the future. His faceoff percentage was down this season at 49.2%, but other than that, this was a phenomenal season for the Swedish forward.

2019-20 Grade: A+

Ryan Strome

Strome found a home on a line with Panarin, setting career marks in assists (41) and points (59). A pending RFA, Strome proved that he may be a commodity worth keeping, showing glimpses of a solid two-way game throughout the year.

Although he did score 18 times, the center still doesn’t shoot the puck enough, especially when you consider how lethal his shot proved to be. Faceoffs are an area he can improve in, winning just 47.5% of his draws, but his plus-21 rating is a good showcasing for how he and Panarin dominated the puck together.

2019-20 Grade: A-

Chris Kreider

A broken foot ended his regular season early, but Kreider continued to show that he is a valuable player and a leader on the ice in 2019-20. He tallied 24 goals and 45 points, and likely would have surpassed his career-highs of 28 goals and 53 points had he stayed healthy over an 82-game season.

Chris Kreider New York Rangers
Chris Kreider, New York Rangers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Kreider has to be consistent with his offensive production for the Rangers in order for them to get back into playoff contention, something he has struggled to do throughout his career. The Blueshirts brass rewarded him with a seven-year, $45.5 million contract in February, proving their faith in the winger.

2019-20 Grade: B+

Pavel Buchnevich

Buchnevich has also been around the Rangers’ system for quite some time now and has yet to live up to the lofty expectations. He’s another member of this year’s club that set a career-high in points with 46, and he proved that he could flourish offensively in the right situation.

His Corsi for percentage of 56.01% ranked third on the team and the Blueshirts dominated the scoring chances battle when he was on the ice, out-chancing their opponents by a 664-487 margin. Buchnevich needs to continue improving, but 2019-20 was still a solid campaign for him.

2019-20 Grade: B

Kaapo Kakko

There is no denying that Kakko did not live up to the statistical hype that surrounded him when the Rangers selected him second overall in 2019. He scored just 10 times and only had 23 points, but he is still a teenager, and rarely do they transition seamlessly into the NHL.

Kakko came back after resting during quarantine and looked stronger and faster than he had during the regular season, a positive sign for what is to come for the 19-year-old. There is a big jump coming for Kakko next season, and he played well enough in his rookie campaign to do a serviceable job for the Rangers.

2019-20 Grade: B

Jesper Fast

It is an extraordinarily sad ending to Fast’s gritty Rangers’ tenure if his injury just a minute into the first Qualifying Round game was his last moment with the club. He had another solid campaign, doing all the little things right and playing a tremendous two-way game.

He did score 12 goals to go along with 17 assists, although those numbers should have been higher considering he played alongside Panarin and Strome. Fast won the Rangers’ Players’ Player Award for the fifth consecutive season, proving his value to the Blueshirts.

2019-20 Grade: B

Filip Chytil

For the second consecutive season, Filip Chytil recorded just 23 points, scoring 14 goals in 2019-20. He has a unique combination of size, speed, and skill, of which we have seen spurts during his brief NHL career. Despite quickly earning a promotion from Hartford, Chytil still has underperformed according to offensive expectations in his first two seasons.

Like Kakko, Chytil is young and has yet to turn 21, so expectations cannot be sky-high despite his obvious potential. If he hopes to take over the second-line center role next season, he will have to work tirelessly this offseason to improve on an abysmal 38.4% faceoff success rate this season.

2019-20 Grade: B-

Brett Howden

Howden finished this season with a Corsi For percentage of 35.42% which ranks 25th out of the 27 skaters who stepped on the ice for the Rangers in 2019-20. At only 22 years old, Howden has displayed the ability to play responsibly in his own end, but his overall game simply has not come around so far.

Brett Howden New York Rangers
Brett Howden, New York Rangers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

His teammates, coaching staff, and management all love him, which speaks volumes to his character, and leads one to believe that he could grow into his on-ice role over time. Howden’s offensive numbers were down, tallying just nine goals and 19 points in 70 games. A lackluster season at best.

2019-20 Grade: C

Brendan Lemieux

Lemieux is an ideal fit for the Rangers, who need young and inexpensive options to fill their depth chart. His fiery presence was missed in the first two games of the Qualifying Round when Carolina took it to the Rangers physically.

Offensively, he put up less than thrilling numbers, registering just 18 points on the season, while being mediocre on the defensive end as well. In the end, Lemieux brings passion and tenacity to the ice every night, playing his role fairly well.

2019-20 Grade: C

Julien Gauthier

Gauthier showed glimpses of speed and skill during his brief time as a Ranger post-trade deadline. I believe he will be an effective player for the Rangers next season and has the potential to move into consistent a top-9 role.

Julien Gauthier New York Rangers
Julien Gauthier, New York Rangers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

He put up two assists in his 12 games with New York, and is a big enough body that he can slide up and down the lineup without losing a step.

2019-20 Grade: C

Phillip Di Giuseppe

At times, Di Giuseppe looked like he belonged alongside Chytil and Kakko, but outside of those instances, you could tell he was a hindrance to that line. He had four points in 20 games and was invisible in the offensive zone.

Defensively, Di Giuseppe helped stabilize the young counterparts he was paired with, managing a plus-1 rating this season. Having limited ice time makes it hard for anyone to get into a flow, and Di Giuseppe is no different. He was serviceable for the Rangers this year.

2019-20 Grade: C-

Greg McKegg

The Rangers used Greg McKegg minimally this season, as he averaged less than 10 minutes of ice time per game. He was solid on the fourth line, scoring five times and using his body nicely, setting a career-high with 59 hits.

He did not do anything outstanding, but also managed to stay away from any glaring mishaps, playing relatively solid throughout the season. A couple of adventures in his own end are the main culprits for his low rating.

2019-20 Grade: C-

Defense

Adam Fox

Adam Fox has the potential to be a perennial Norris Trophy candidate in the near future. Snubbed of being a Calder Trophy finalist, the rookie defenseman registered eight goals, 34 assists, and 42 points in 2019-20.

Adam Fox New York Rangers
Adam Fox, New York Rangers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

His smooth skating and ability to maneuver out of his own end opened up the ice for his team offensively. Defensively, Fox was just as stout, breaking up numerous odd-man rushes and seeing minutes against the opposition’s top lines by season’s end.

2019-20 Grade: A

Tony DeAngelo

Only three defensemen in the NHL managed to score more points than Tony DeAngelo, as he produced at an elite level this season. With 15 goals and 38 assists, DeAngelo was an exceptional playmaker and finisher.

He improved exponentially in the defensive end, and despite some lapses, proved to be another hidden gem in a trade. He has found his game since joining the Rangers from the Arizona Coyotes, and at only 24, his best is still ahead of him.

2019-20 Grade: A-

Ryan Lindgren

The second half of the Rangers’ magnificent rookie tandem on defense was Ryan Lindgren. Lindgren showed great defensive presence and dominant physical play throughout his first season, hip-checking opponents into submission as they tried to enter the Rangers’ zone.

He is the perfect contrast to Fox, as he prides himself on defense and cleaning up his own zone. He tallied just one goal and 14 points, but was productive and could very well be partnered with Fox on the Rangers’ top pair for the foreseeable future.

2019-20 Grade: B+

Jacob Trouba

There were lofty expectations placed on Jacob Trouba’s shoulders this season after being acquired from the Winnipeg Jets. His partnership with long-time friend Brady Skjei did not work out, and it led to a down year for the 26-year-old blueliner.

Jacob Trouba New York Rangers
Jacob Trouba, New York Rangers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

He totaled 27 points, down from his 50-point mark in 2018-19, and had several bad giveaways in his own end, including the Sebastian Aho goal to seal the Qualifying Round for the Canes. Trouba did demonstrate a physical style that will serve him well, and with a year under his belt in New York, he will settle in better next season.

2019-20 Grade: B-

Marc Staal

Staal improved slightly this season, becoming a little more reliable in his own end. Still, the veteran defenseman lost too many net-front battles that led to the opposition depositing the puck into the back of the net.

He scored twice and had nine assists this season, but it is time for his role on the Rangers’ blue line to be minimized. As he creeps up in age, his foot speed is starting to regress, a component of his game that doesn’t suffice when going against the speed and talent he is forced to defend against on a nightly basis.

2019-20 Grade: C

Brendan Smith

Smith finished the season with a ferocious hit on Andrei Svechnikov in the Qualifying Round, demonstrating the great physicality he possesses. Unfortunately, he has been unable to clean up the other aspects of his game, and remained subpar defensively and offensively this season.

He finished the campaign with three goals and five assists to go along with a minus-12 rating. Smith has the tendency to run around in his own end, leading to numerous high-quality scoring chances against and putting New York in compromising positions.

2019-20 Grade: C-

Goaltenders

Igor Shesterkin

After he was called up on Jan 6, Igor Shesterkin solidified his position as the Rangers’ number one goalie of the future. He went 10-2 in 12 starts, posting a 2.52 goals-against average (GAA) and a save percentage (SV%) of .932. His dominance in net during that stretch was unmatched throughout the league, catapulting the Blueshirts into playoff contention.

Igor Shesterkin (Shestyorkin) New York Rangers
Igor Shesterkin, New York Rangers (Photo by Glenn James/NHLI via Getty Images)

Shesterkin is calm and sturdy in goal, challenging shooters and controlling rebounds. Yet, he also has the ability to make acrobatic desperation saves, denying opponents of sure goals and stealing games for his squad. The future is bright.

2019-20 Grade: A+

Alexandar Georgiev

Georgiev served the Rangers well during the awkward phase between Lundqvist’s reign and Shesterkin’s emergence. He posted a 17-14-2 record, with a 3.04 GAA, .910 SV%, and two shutouts.

Related: 1995-96 Rangers: Sad End to Stanley Cup Hopes

Despite numerous flashes of brilliance, his play was undermined by some lapses, both by himself and the defense in front of him. It was another solid year for the Bulgarian-born netminder, but his future in New York remains a mystery.

2019-20 Grade: B

Henrik Lundqvist

The backbone of the Rangers since the 2005-06 season, Henrik Lundqvist is arguably the best netminder in franchise history. But this past season was a struggle for the King, posting career-worsts in starts (26), wins (10), GAA (3.16), and SV% (.905).

Henrik Lundqvist New York Rangers
Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

It was a solemn season for all Rangers fans who understood this was the end of Lundqvist’s terrific run as the number one goalie. What the future holds for the King is still unknown, but this season was not a pretty one.

2019-20 Grade: C+

Do you agree or disagree with my grades? Feel free to leave your thoughts or share your grades in the comments below!

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