NHL

Rangers’ Kreider, Shesterkin & Fox Fueling Team’s Success

The New York Rangers franchise had a collective goal at the end of last season – to qualify for the playoffs in the 2021-22 season. The organization fired their head coach, David Quinn, their President of Hockey Operations, John Davidson, and general manager Jeff Gorton due to the disappointing consecutive seasons. They hired Chris Drury as the new president and general manager, and Gerard Gallant became the new head coach of the Rangers.

The franchise recognized the urgency to acquire players during the offseason whose strengths are exhibiting physicality toward the opposition. After 20 games played, the Blueshirts are 13-4-3, have 29 points and are in third place in the Metropolitan Division. Let’s take a look at what players have helped the team exceed their projections.

Kreider, Fox, Shesterkin Have Been Exceptional

Chris Kreider

Taking a look at the statistics for the players on the Rangers’ roster, it is evident that forward Chris Kreider has been the best offensive player on the Blueshirts and one of the top goal-scorers in the NHL after 20 games. He has usually shown a knack for establishing his presence in front of the net in the offensive zone to score goals and has been successful. However, he tends to be a player who is streaky and has frequent lapses during the course of a season.

Related: Chris Drury’s Top 3 Priorities as Rangers New General Manager

In the 2021-22 season, Kreider has been an offensive force with 15 goals in 20 games played, leading the team in goals by a significant margin. The next closest players are forwards Artemi Panarin, Alexis Lafreniere and Kevin Rooney, who all have five goals. Kreider’s 15 goals are tied for third in the league with forward Andrew Mangiapane of the Calgary Flames. The Rangers forward’s goal total trails Leon Draisaitl (20 goals) and future NHL Hall of Famer Alex Ovechkin (19 goals).

Chris Kreider, New York Rangers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Kreider’s nine power-play goals (PPG) are good for second in the NHL behind Draisaltl (10 power-play goals). The Rangers forward continues to display leadership on the ice and should be on the shortlist of candidates in consideration for the captaincy, which has been vacant on the franchise since the Rangers traded former defenseman and captain Ryan McDonagh to the Tampa Bay Lightning nearly four years ago. Kreider has been one of the top players who come to mind when evaluating who has helped the team surpass their preseason prediction at this point in the season.

Adam Fox

Defenseman Adam Fox has made quite an impact in the NHL while still at the young age of 23. The native of Jericho, NY, earned the Norris Trophy Award for best NHL defenseman after the 2020-21 season. During his rookie season in 2019-20, he finished with 34 assists in 70 games played and followed that total with 42 assists in 55 games played during the shortened 56-game schedule.

Fox has avoided a slump this season thus far following his Norris Trophy achievement last year. He has 17 assists through 20 games and is second among defensemen in the NHL with 21 points. The third-year player trails Washington Capitals defenseman John Carlson (22 points) for the points lead among the players at the position. The two players are tied with 17 assists, which is the most in the NHL.

The Rangers’ top defenseman has played an important part in helping the organization remain competitive in the challenging Metropolitan Division. His eight power-play points (PPP) tie Carlson for second among NHL defensemen, trailing Roman Josi (10 power-play points) of the Nashville Predators. Fox looks to be on pace to be in the running for a second consecutive Norris Trophy if he maintains the point production pace throughout the rest of the season.

Igor Shesterkin

Goaltender Igor Shesterkin has made a vital contribution to the Rangers’ success so far this season in his own right. The Moscow, Russia native has 11 wins in 16 games played (GP), tied for third in the league with goaltender Mikko Koskinen of the Edmonton Oilers and Frederik Andersen of the Carolina Hurricanes. Among goaltenders with a minimum of 10 games started (GS), the Blueshirts netminder has a .933 save percentage, tied for fifth with San Jose Sharks goalie James Reimer.

The 25-year-old’s goals-against average (GAA) among goaltenders with a minimum of 10 games started is 2.22, which is good for eighth among starting netminders. If Shesterkin keeps up his current pace throughout the rest of the season, he could be a candidate for the Vezina Trophy. He has a tendency to have multiple games in which he takes over the game with his play in net. He has, on several occasions, made a difference in the Rangers winning games due to his stellar performances.

Igor Shesterkin/Shestyorkin New York Rangers
Igor Shesterkin, New York Rangers (Photo by Glenn James/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Rangers rank 12th among teams in the category of shots against per game played (SA/GP) with 32.3, which is among the top half of franchises in the league. Shesterkin has faced a fair amount of shots on goal and has therefore made a contribution to the team’s success through his overall performance in goal. It can be suggested that the Blueshirts have relied heavily on their starting netminder, perhaps too much at times, during the 16 games in which he has played.

Related: Rangers Are Relying Too Heavily on Shesterkin

The team did appear to depend on the goaltender throughout the first month of the season frequently if the offense was struggling. Shesterkin’s performance has helped the Rangers remain among the top 10 teams in the NHL in goals against per game played (GA/GP). The Blueshirts are tied with the Los Angeles Kings for eighth in the league in the category, with 2.70 goals against per game played. He is arguably the difference why the Rangers have been better than expected at the quarter mark of the season.

Honorable Mention

Artemi Panarin

Forward Panarin, while not contributing many goals so far this season, has 16 assists, which is good for second on the team. He is tied in assists with forwards Johnny Gaudreau of the Calgary Flames and Mikael Granlund of the Nashville Predators. While his goal total is a bit light so far, the Rangers forward is a key player to the top-six of the organization and on the power play, as he ties Kreider for the lead on the team with nine power-play points. The 30-year-old forward is tied with Fox for the team lead in points with 21 and will remain a top difference-maker for the Blueshirts.

The Rangers have had success through the quarter mark of the season due to sustained balance throughout their lineup. While Kreider, Fox and Shesterkin have been the standout players up to now, the Blueshirts have had occasional contributions from their depth players. If the team can continue to receive a balanced offense from players such as forwards Mika Zibanejad, Kaapo Kakko, Alexis Lafreniere, Ryan Strome and other members of the roster, the team will be in good shape.

Key contributors on defense besides Fox who are important are Jacob Trouba, Ryan Lindgren and K’Andre Miller. If the four of them can keep up their reliable play, it will benefit Shesterkin greatly. The Rangers appear to have a young, talented team that is better than expected at this point, given that the average age is the third youngest in the league at 26.2 years behind the Columbus Blue Jackets at 25.9 years and the New Jersey Devils at 25.5 years of age (from’ Sizing up the NHL: 2021-22 NHL teams by age, height, weight and nationality’, The Athletic, 11/4/2021). Having one of the younger teams and under first-year head coach Gallant appears to not be a detriment for the Rangers as they have remained competitive through the quarter mark of the 2021-22 season.


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