By Dominic Lancella on June 18, 2014
While the New York Rangers’ season came to a crashing end in the Stanley Cup Final, the team has a lot to be proud of. In order to make it to the Finals, players need to step up. Sometimes unexpected players need to exceed expectations, which certainly happened with the Rangers during the 2013-14 season. Here are the five biggest surprise players for New York from the season.
Some might say Ryan McDonagh is no surprise, but who could have predicted that he would rapidly become one of the best defensemen in the NHL? He grew in many ways as a player last season, most notably in goal scoring. McDonagh’s 14 goals in the regular season more than doubled his career total, which was 12 before the season started. The fact that McDonagh became a team leader and a top-tier defensemen this season was a surprise.
Cam Talbot was a pleasant surprise for the Rangers this season, especially when starting goalie Henrik Lundqvist was playing inconsistently. As a backup, he went 12-6-1 with a 1.64 goals against average and .941 save percentage. Talbot obviously didn’t start any playoff games, but he played some games that helped the Rangers reach the postseason in the first place.
Chris Kreider got a chance to be with the Rangers for a full season and showed why he belongs. Everyone knows he has high potential, but the biggest surprise this season was seeing how much of an impact he has on the game. His rare combo of size and speed make him very dangerous on the rush; teams were on their heels trying to defend him in the playoffs. Kreider should be enough of a pleasant surprise for New York to offer him a new contract.
Anton Stralman is probably the Ranger who flew under the radar most last season, because he’s not a flashy player and rarely scores. He had one goal and 12 assists in the regular season, but his value isn’t shown within most stats. His great defensive play was a surprise that gave the Rangers two outstanding defensive pairings; most teams are happy to have one. Stralman’s play often goes unnoticed, but can’t go unappreciated.
Not one person would have guessed that Mats Zuccarello would lead the Rangers in points last season, but he did. Originally, he was on the fence of even making the team year, and has now turned into a playmaker and a fan-favorite in New York. He was New York’s most consistent forward in the regular season and the playoffs. His production was by far the biggest surprise for the Rangers, and they should probably get on re-signing him quickly.
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