January 16, 2021; New York, New York, USA; New York Rangers right wing Kaapo Kakko (24) scores against New York Islanders goalkeeper Ilya Sorokin (30) in the second period at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Bennett / POOL PHOTOS-USA TODAY Sports
The New York Rangers are due to start the 2021-22 NHL season. At the helm is veteran coach Gerard Gallant. He will have a mix of elite NHL talents, rising young stars and the long-missing “hard to play” factor.
Before the puck falls, I would make some bold predictions for the season.
This is a big year for Kaapo Kakko and expectations are high. As he began his third season, the 20-year-old # 2 overall realized from the draft to 2019 that he needed to make some changes.
“I was back in Finland training a bit,” Kakko said at camp, almost as if he was downplaying how much work he put in as he added between 7-10 kilos of muscle to his frame.
At 6-3 and 205 lbs, Kakko is physically no child, despite his sore age. He also realized after two tough NHL seasons what it takes to compete.
“I think guys over here, they’re bigger and stronger, so I have to be on the same level as these guys,” he admitted. “It’s a great season for me. First season was not so good and last season was so different. ”
Kakko finished the 2020-21 campaign with 17 points on the strength of 8 goals in 48 games. But this season, he’s in line with Artemi Panarin and Ryan Strome. It’s a great opportunity and he does not seem to be wasting it.
Prediction: Kappo Kakko scores 27 goals and 58 points.
Alexis Lafrenière will break 60 points
Lafrenière, 20, finished strong last year with 21 points in 56 games thanks to 13 of those points coming in the last 25 games of the season. Lafrenière also scored 8 of his 12 goals in the team’s last 23 matches. That finish has new coach Gerard Gallant putting him on the top line with Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider.
“He put in the work last season and this summer,” Zibanejad said during camp. “I feel like he’s letting his skills come out even more now. I could only see it from the magazine. I’m super excited. ”
Simply by using his late season points per. Game average of .52 he is expected to score 42 points. If you sign up to play an entire season on the top line with sufficient PP1 time, Lafrenière could easily score 60 points as a sophomore.
“I got a little faster, I would say that was the most important thing. I lost a little bit and that also helps, ”said Lafreniere. “I learned a lot from playing in men, it’s really different from juniors. I had the chance to play with and against good players. That’s the big thing, and I’ll keep working on it. ”
Prediction: Lafreniere scores 21 goals and 41 assists with 62 points.
Artemi Panarin wins Hart Trophy
Panarin has been one of the game’s top players the last few seasons. In just 111 games since joining Rangers, he has recorded a staggering 153 points on the strength of 49 goals and 104 assists.
Rangers’ leading goal scorer last season scored 58 points in just 42 games. Panarins 1.38 points pr. Match was also third highest in the league. If you apply it to an 82 game season, Panarin would be queuing up for a 113-point promotion.
It may not be enough to beat Connor McDavid for the Art Ross Trophy, but when the Rangers reach the playoffs this season, it will be enough to take the Hart Trophy home.
Prediction: Panarin wins League MVP
Mika Zibanejad scores 50 goals
“I do not know if words will ever be enough to describe how I feel right now,” an enthusiastic Mika said on Instagram after signing his extension. “The feeling of wearing the New York Rangers jersey is the greatest honor, and I can not believe I will get a chance to do so for another 8 years.”
In the last two seasons, Zibanejad has scored 65 goals and 125 points in 113 games. That’s good for a .575 goal per game. Game clips, which would be good for about 49 goals in an 82 game season.
This season, he darkens and scores 50.
Zibanejad has recorded 434 points (200 goals, 234 assists) in 604 career games with the Senators (2011-16) and Rangers. He was selected by Ottawa with the sixth overall pick in the 2011 NHL Draft.
Prediction: Zibanejad scores 51 goals, leading the NHL in PP goals
Gerard Gallant will lead the Rangers to the playoffs; win the Jack Adams Award
“I’m excited to formally introduce and welcome Gerard Gallant to the New York Rangers,” Chris Drurys told Gallant’s press. “At the beginning of this process, I was looking for a coach with a proven track record and success on several levels. Turk (Gallant) marked all these boxes. ”
The 58-year-old boasts a career coaching record of 270-216-4-51 with a .550 winning percentage. In the playoffs, he is 18-15. This season, he leads the Rangers to the playoffs and a third playoff finish in the Metro Division.
That would be good enough to get him the Jack Adams Award at the end of the year.
Prediction: Gallant wins Jack Adams as best course.
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