New York Rangers Season Preview: Is the rebuild over?

Nadia Starbinski, Editor-in-Chief

The Blueshirts are back for another season and they’re playing to prove a “rebuild season” stamp means nothing.

The New York Rangers closed its season in February 2018 and parted ways with many familiar faces in an effort to rack up 2019 draft picks.

While many fans were sad to see their favorite players leave, the exciting offseason moves gave hope to a promising upcoming year.

New York gained the No. 2 pick of the draft and with that acquired the young Finnish winger, Kaapo Kakko. He is already an early favorite for the Calder Trophy and at only 18 years old, proves to rank alongside greats like Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin.

They also won in free agency by signing Artemi Panarin to a seven-year, $81.5 million deal, making him the highest-paid winger in the NHL.

With many young rookies to work with, adding Jacob Trouba to the roster along with the current veteran players allows the Rangers to mold its budding team.

The season opened on Oct. 3 with an intense game of cat and mouse between the Rangers and the Winnipeg Jets. One answered goal after the other resulted in a 6-4 win for New York, creating a lot of action for some of the new faces on the team.

Trouba tallied three points against his former team and Panarin had a goal and an assist in their debut in New York.

The Rags went on to face the Senators in Ottawa, where Mika Zibanejad proved his dynamic first-line center skills by recording a hat trick and an assist in the 4-1 victory.

Panarin also recorded a goal.

The winning streak ended on Saturday when the Edmonton Oilers defeated the Rangers 4-1 in New York.

Fans were excited to welcome Kakko to the NHL with his first goal with the team early in the first period, however, celebrations were short-lived after four unanswered goals secured the win for the Oilers.

So far, the young team ranks 2-1-0 and is showing a lot of potential both on and off the ice.

Age seems to be on their side though, as the Rangers’ current roster holds 13 players age 25 and younger.

Some key players to watch out for this season are among those young faces.

After seeing a significant amount of ice time last season, Pavel Buchnevich is looking to take the next step with the team. He tallied 21 goals in just 64 games last season and is already creating major scoring opportunities playing alongside Zibanejad and Panarin.

Lias Andersson, Adam Fox, Filip Chytil and Libor Hajek all look to make improvements and prove themselves as well.

While Zibanejad looks to be hitting his prime, the Rangers still lack center depth and could pose as a major weakness moving forward in the season.

Now, what of Henrik Lundqvist?

The 37-year-old Hall of Fame goaltender has been a backbone for the Blueshirts’ defense for many years, responsible for holding the team during a few trying seasons.

With the outcome of the rebuild looking positive for the Rangers, fans are beginning to ask themselves where he stands.

While rumors of Lundqvist’s potential retirement have circulated, nothing has been confirmed and the King is here to stay and conquer New York.

The Rangers go on to face the New Jersey Devils on Oct. 17 at the Prudential Center in hopes of continuing on the right path.