by Patrick Hoffman on 09/04/12 at 07:00 AM ET
No matter when the next NHL season starts, it will be about youth when it comes to the New York Rangers.
Since the NHL lockout in 2004-05, the Blueshirts have been on a much different path than they were prior to the lockout. Instead of being a team that went out and signed or traded for old veterans or free agents, they have become an organization focused on developing their prospects/younger players while also being a team looking for the right pieces to fill the Rangers' organizational puzzle.
Much like last season, the upcoming season will be about developing the club's younger players while hoping guys like Rich Nash, Brad Richards, Ryan Callahan, Marian Gaborik (when he comes back from injury), and others can continue to help the team continue on the path to their ultimate goal: the Stanley Cup.
One such youngster who will have a lot of eyes on him is forward Chris Kreider. After winning a national college championship with the Boston College Eagles, Kreider burst onto the Stanley Cup Playoffs scene on Broadway when he made his NHL debut against the Ottawa Senators in Game 3.
While Kreider did not produce in his first game, he showed that he had tremendous speed, a nose for the net and that he was definitely an offensively gifted player that the Rangers would be lucky to have. Little did the Rangers know that Kreider offensive gifts would come to fruition in Game 6 when he scored the game winning goal for the Blueshirts to force a Game 7.
Kreider continued to display his offensive talent against both the Washington Capitals in the second round and the New Jersey Devils in the Eastern Conference Finals. Hopefully, his offensive talents will reach another level when the puck drops, whenever that will be, for his first full season as a Blueshirt.
Another youngster that impressed many last season was forward Carl Hagelin. Last season, Hagelin worked well with the likes of Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik as he utilized his speed, hockey sense, and hustle to dig out pucks, go hard to the net and create scoring opportunities.
In 64 regular season games last year, Hagelin had 14 goals and 24 assists for 38 points. He was also a + 21, which shows that he was also a defensively responsible player, something that team head coach John Tortorella can never get enough of.
One would hope that in his second NHL season, Hagelin will be even better. He showed that he can play on the team's top line and fit in doing so last year so this upcoming season, Tortorella knows that he can put Hagelin just about anywhere and he will play the exact same way.
There is no doubt that last season, defenseman Michael Del Zotto was a much better hockey player, especially when it came to his offensive game. Del Zotto had 41 points (10 goals and 31 assists) in 77 games while alsobeing a + 20.
With that said, Del Zotto needs to continue to work on his defensive game. Too often last season, Del Zotto turned over pucks and frequently found himself out of position. Tortorella knows that Del Zotto has a lot of offense in his game but he would certainly rather see his young defenseman be better in his own end.
Speaking of young defenseman, what is there left to be said about Rangers' blue liner Ryan McDonagh that has not already been said? It could be said that he was the team's best defenseman behind Dan Girardi last season as he played in every single game both in the regular season and postseason, produced (7 goals and 25 assists), blocked a lot of shots, logged a ton of ice time and was everything the team hoped for when they acquired him from the Montreal Canadiens in the Scott Gomez deal.
The future is bright on Broadway, folks and if things continue to go as planned, a Cup might not be far behind.
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Patrick has a tremendous passion for hockey. Besides covering the Rangers and the NHL for Kukla's Korner, you can also find Patrick's work over at Sportsnet.ca, The Red Light District Hockey Blog, NHL Home Ice, and Liam Maguire's Ultimate Hockey web site.
Prior to writing for the above mentioned outlets, you could find Patrick's musings at hockey web sites/outlets such as TheHockeyNews.com, TheFourthPeriod.com, Spector's Hockey, Hokeja Vestnesis, Blueshirt Bulletin, SNYRangersBlog.com and many more.
For questions, comments and hip checks, feel free to e-mail Patrick at email@example.com.