You might recognize our team expert today, since he's been contributing on this very site lately. Rob Luker writes for Blueshirt Banter as well and did the BB for us last season. He's a keen fantasy player and is all over the Rangers in this year's version.
If you like Rob's work we recommend you check him, and the boys over at Blueshirt Banter, out. They do good work.
We asked Rob seven fantasy questions relating to the Rangers... below are his answers.
If you're interested in FHS' breakout picks and fantasy take on the Rangers check out our draft kit which includes The Breakout Bible, the Fantasy Scouting Report (with SuperStats included) and our Fantasy Prospect Database.
BY ROB LUKER FROM BLUESHIRT BANTER
Q1) Rangers Breakout of the Year?
Artem Anisimov. He ended up playing the majority of the year as the pivot between Ryan Callahan and Brandon Dubinsky and in doing so proved that he plans to be apart of the young core of Rangers going forward. The line I mentioned above was tasked by Torts to play the toughest competition night in and night out, and all they did was move towards the opponents' goal on a regular basis. He's been a consistent shooter in his two years, and will most likely be slotted into the 2nd line center role once again. The only question is whether Callahan and Dubinsky will be with him, but we will get to that one. For the record, he already kind-of broke out last season with 44 points (18 G's & .54 PPG) in all 82 games, but I see no reason between watching him and the numbers why he can't be in the 50-55 range this season with ease.
Q2) Darkhorse Breakout on the Rangers?
This one is difficult because outside of Brad Richards and Michael Rupp the usual suspects fill out the Rangers depth chart; but I do have a three options for us here. First up is Wojtek Wolski, the extremely talented yet typically New-York-fan labeled (god I hate this description) "soft" forward. Glen Sather managed to get a player whose average PPG in the OHL for four years was 1.3 (with a career final year of 2.29 PPG) for Michael goddamn Rozsival. That 2.29 PPG with Brampton in the O puts his NHLe ceiling at .98 PPG in the NHL - a feat he has yet to reach. He will hit that one-day, and seeing that he will turn 26 in February, it will be sooner rather than later.
Next up is Sean Avery, who is in a contract year. I still feel that Avery has yet to be given a fair shake by Torts thus far. He's played paltry minutes hopping between the third and fourth line despite constantly having good Corsi rates and being one of the top Rangers of recent in getting shots for. The tip of the iceberg, though? Avery shot a brutal 2.2% last year while being a career 7.6% shooter; that my friends is what we call horrible, horrible luck.
Finally, the darkest darkhorse breakout would be the rookie Tim Erixon; if he makes the team. He played 48 games with the big boys in Sweden last year, registering 24 points. He comes highly touted from Calgary as a former late first rounder and wants to play in Manhattan ASAP.
Q3) League-Wide Breakout of the Year?
I've already gone on record with this one around here, but I really like Martin Hanzal this season (I traded for him in my dynasty to put my money where my mouth is). All of his numbers check out; advanced stats, age, and his junior numbers as well. The Coyotes may not be something to write home about, but points will be scored and Hanzal should be the number one center doing so.
Q4) Player likely to Breakdown on the Rangers?
The great George E. Ays over at Blueshirt Banter has covered this extensively this summer for the Rangers. This will sound homer-ish, but we expect few Rangers to take a step backwards this season. However, George identified two key names where the numbers against them aren't looking good - but if Torts manages them correctly these players won't slip. These two players are Brad Richards and Derek Stepan.
I'll start with Stepan because its relatively simple, but click here if you want all the details. Stepan is facing the sophomore slump, and rightly so, because he was played in a protected role (starting in the offensive zone just over 64% of the time) against weak competition. He isn't ready to be a regular second-line center, end of story.
As for Richards, George points out the two most obvious factors. First off, he's 31, and that's why they call it the backside of a career. Richards is extremely talented, so it won't be that obvious, but George showed in his article here that there are cracks in the lining already for Richards even-strength play (he's not that good defensively - shocker!). Even if Richards does his job, Marian Gaborik will have to play just as well, otherwise this could be another Drury disaster.
Q5) Best Fantasy Prospect on the Rangers?
Derek Stepan and Michael Del Zotto.
As long as Stepan is played in the same role as last season (3rd line center - extra PP time when needed) then he should be good for another 40 points or so.
Del Zotto is an interesting case. While he only played in 48 contests last year, he grew as a defenseman and actually played better - which is huge for his long-term development. He was in a less sheltered role when he played and actually played slightly more minutes. If he can prove out of camp that he can be relied on to play decent defense, there is a chance he could bounce back to somewhere near that rookie production we saw two seasons ago.
Q6) How do you see the Rangers Goalie Situation playing out this year?
Nothing new to report here. Henrik Lundqvist will play anywhere between 63-70 games while the rest will fall to Martin Biron. Ideally Hank won't have to play the last 25 games of the year in a row, as he had to last season while the Rangers fought for a playoff spot.
Q7) So Gaborik will be playing with Richards... pretty obvious. Who do you think will be lining up on the LW?
This is the oh-so magical question of the whole off-season. There are four names worthy of speculation: Wojtek Wolski, Brandon Dubinsky, Ruslan Fedotenko, and Sean Avery. Without getting into the summer-long discussion we've had at Blueshirt Banter, here is the nuts and bolts. Wolski is talented but will Torts give him first line minutes? Dubinsky would be solid, and will most likely get the nod from Torts, but that would break up the line between him, Anisimov, and Callahan that had so much success last season. Feds and Avery are crapshoots, with Feds probably out ahead of Avery because he's more disciplined. Avery is more of a fans dream in the end, but with regular minutes we all agree (even us numbers-oriented folks) he could probably have more of a significant impact.
So as for an answer to the actual question: maybe Dubinsky, but there are other options. Some will get a shot, only a few will succeed. In the end I'm pulling for Wolski and then Avery, though.
Thanks to Rob for his detailed look at the Rangers. Rob is one of my competitors in the FHSPL... so I'm hoping he picks Martin Hanzal up in that league too. Not all of us are believers in the power of Hanzal.
Any Rangers related questions? Fire them off in the comments and Rob or the other Scouts will give them some answers.