Fantasy Puck Preview: New York Rangers

Scott Cullen
9/20/2008 10:24:01 AM
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A summer of change gives the New York Rangers a new look. Will the new stars on Broadway be as productive as the showstopping Jaromir Jagr era?

The most skilled of the new recruits is Russian winger Nikolai Zherdev, who ran hot and cold when he was in Columbus. The 23-year-old appears to have matured, so the cold may not last for an entire season (as it did in 2006-2007), but it may be premature to expect a monster breakout season.

At the other end of the experience spectrum is 35-year-old Markus Naslund. While Naslund's production has declined in four straight seasons, he may be a decent bet for a bounceback campaign as he's freed from the defensive style expected in Vancouver.

It's not like the Rangers are a free-wheeling firewagon hockey team, but Naslund will get a shot alongside Scott Gomez on the number one line and having a playmaker like Gomez should mean good things for both new wingers.

Gomez and Chris Drury were last summer's marquee acquisitions and, while they had decent first seasons, neither one turned in a star performance.

Given their career histories, though, perhaps expectations need to be modified so that Gomez doesn't have to score 80 points (something he's done once) to be considered a success. Same goes for Drury, who has yet to reach the 70-point mark in a single season.

What the Rangers also have up front is an intriguing supporting cast, with some talented young wingers who could be poised for a breakthrough season.

The best of them is Nigel Dawes, a 23-year-old who scored 18 points in 31 games after the All-Star break last season, leading to high hopes for this season.

On the right side, both Ryan Callahan and newcomer Dan Fritsche are hard-working 23 year-olds who have shown at least decent puck skills already. If given ample opportunity on the second line, either one could see a nice jump in production.

Veteran defenceman Michal Rozsival has had three good seasons with the Rangers and that should continue, though he may have some chemistry issues to work out with all the newcomers replacing his departed Czech compatriots.

31-year-old Wade Redden clearly tailed off in Ottawa last season, yet still finished with 38 points and a plus-11 rating. If he comes close to that this year, the Rangers should be pleased.

An emerging presence on the Blueshirts' blueline, Daniel Girardi put up 10 goals and 28 points in his first full season. He's not going to get top power play time and his penalty minute totals are shockingly low, but Girardi is one to watch.

Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist is easily the best fantasy performer for the Rangers. One of the league's elite puckstoppers, Lundqvist has started 141 games over the last two seasons, winning 37 games each year.

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