Now that the forward positions have been pretty much filled out, the next question is what are the lines going to look like. Will the Kreider-Stepan-Nash line remain intact? Is Stempniak automatically going to be placed with Brassard and Zuccarello? Is JT Miller the best option for the third line center position?
Obviously there’s going to be injuries and players struggling, so there will be plenty of line juggling, especially early in the season, but here’s what I’m hoping the opening night line-up looks like.
Chris Kreider-Derek Stepan-Martin St. Louis
It’s a new season, so let’s start fresh. I like the idea of keeping two young, skilled players on the same line so they can continue to develop together. However, after Rick Nash’s struggles to score goals last postseason, I thought he might need a fresh start on a new line. Which obviously brings us to his replacement, Martin St. Louis. Nash was playing on his off-wing last season, so getting the natural right winger St. Louis on Stepan’s side should open up more options and provide better looks for the 24-year old center iceman to become an improved playmaker. 65 points might not be out of the question for Stepan this season. St. Louis can also dish the puck with the best of them, so I can see Kreider getting a ton of open looks and dangerous scoring opportunities.
Rick Nash-Derick Brassard-Mats Zuccarello
We all know the chemistry that Brassard and Zuccarello have, so it’s a no brainer to keep them together. Getting Nash back on the left side and on a line with a player he’s not only familiar with from their days in Columbus, but also had some success with in New York after Brassard arrived in 2013, should give him a ton of confidence going into the season. Similar to Kreider, Nash will have two playmakers on his line to get him the puck, so he should have ample opportunity to crack the 30 goal barrier. I also feel Nash’s size will bring a dynamic similar to Pouliot’s, which helped make that line so successful last season.
Carl Hagelin-JT Miller-Lee Stempniak
Speed, grit and determination. This line could potentially have fan favorite written all over them. Opponent’s defensemen will need to be on their toes while retrieving pucks in their own zone because these three have the ability to create a dominant forecheck. I could see AV using this trio as an “energy” line to create a spark if the team is dragging. But this line will be about more than just skating as they can all provide more than enough offense. Hagelin was second on the Rangers with playoff goals last season, while Stempniak has 150 NHL goals to his credit. Add in Miller, who had 42 points (15g, 27a) in 41 AHL games last year and the Rangers head coach should have a third line that can not only do the dirty work it takes to win, but also the skill set to produce consistent goal scoring. The one potential negative could be in the defensive zone as Miller has yet to prove he has a firm grasp of how to defend in the NHL. His development in his own end could be key to the balance and ultimate success of this line.
Tanner Glass-Dominic Moore-Matthew Lombardi
I know, I know where’s Oscar Lindberg and Jesper Fast? However, I think if the Rangers are going to spend $1.45M per year on Glass, he’s going to play. At least initially. Unless the Rangers still have plans to re-sign Dan Carcillo, the former Penguin is the only guy on the roster will any semblance of toughness, so, in theory, he does bring a necessary element to the table. While Fast offers the same speed as Lombardi, I’m not 100% confident he’s ready for a full time role in the NHL quite yet. Plus Lombardi offers versatility as he can play center and wing and is a proven commodity on the penalty kill. Obviously, we all know what Dom Moore brings to the table as a consistent presence who will work his tail off in both ends of the ice. While I do see this group as a down grade from Boyle-Moore-Dorsett/Carcillo, my hope is that the top of the line-up will be much improved, so AV won’t be forced to count on his bottom three the way he was last season.
Assuming you guys have different views of what the line-up should look like on opening night, so give me your thoughts and versions in the comments section.