By Dominic Lancella on August 1, 2014
The New York Rangers ended last season with a disappointing defeat in the Stanley Cup Finals, but there are plenty of things they can build on for the next campaign. Realistically, the Rangers overachieved to make the finals, but here is a look at ranking the top five Ranger skaters from last season. We already know that goalie Henrik Lundqvist was New York’s best player last season, which is why this list only includes skaters.
In his first full season with the Blueshirts, Brassard didn’t disappoint. He posted a career-high 18 goals and was tied for the team lead in power play goals with seven. It’s obvious that the Rangers organization was pleased with his performance, as they signed him to a five-year contract earlier this week. Brassard centered arguably New York’s most consistent line between Benoit Pouliot and Mats Zuccarello and also played well in the playoffs.
Girardi is a candidate to become the next captain, and it wouldn’t be a bad choice. Girardi is very valuable to this team and he continued his great play throughout last season. He didn’t make a splash offensively, but that’s not his job. His value is extreme on defense; he makes so many great plays that don’t show up in the stat sheet. One stat he did compile in large amounts was blocked shots. His 174 blocks tied him for sixth most in the East.
Zuccarello is the most surprising player on this list, but he definitely deserves to make it after a breakout 2013-14 season. He led the Rangers in points, something that nobody could have predicted happening. He also played great with Brassard and Pouliot. The three developed great chemistry, but Zuccarello was the spark that created most chances for that line. Now that he’s proven himself, the Rangers will expect a lot from him next season.
Stepan embraced his role as a leader and the first-line center on the team. He was second to Zuccarello in points and tallied a career-high 57. He also played strong in the playoffs and showed real determination after breaking his jaw in the third round. He was probably New York’s best forward from an all-around perspective and progressed a lot as a player last season. He must build on last season’s success and hopefully continue to get better.
What a season McDonagh had. In one year he’s gone from middle of the pack defenseman to one of the best in the NHL. He's an emotional leader on the team and similar to Girardi, he makes many great plays that go unnoticed. The big difference in his game last season was his aggression on offense. He was more decisive to shoot the puck and his 14 goals more than doubled his career total. McDonagh is the favorite to become New York's next captain.
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