NHL.com is providing in-depth roster, prospect and fantasy analysis for each of its 31 teams throughout August. Today, the New York Rangers.
The New York Rangers enter the 2018-19 season in full rebuilding mode. They have a new coach, David Quinn, and a roster made up mostly of young players with a few returning veterans from a team that missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season for the first time since 2010.
But don't mistake a rebuild as an excuse to lower expectations for the Rangers, who have missed the playoffs twice since goaltender Henrik Lundqvist arrived in the 2005-06 season.
"This year is about establishing a culture of winning," said defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, one of the returning veterans. "I think that it's important that when we show up in September that guys know that this isn't a year to just slightly improve. It's a year to try to make the playoffs."
[Rangers 31 IN 31: 3 Questions | Top prospects | Fantasy breakdown | Behind the Numbers]
Lundqvist had the exact same sentiment at the end of last season.
"Whoever is going to be here, we're going to compete and make sure we have a better year," he said April 10. "That's that."
Quinn was hired May 23 to replace Alain Vigneault, who was fired after five seasons with New York. Quinn, the coach at Boston University the past five seasons, is entering his first season as an NHL coach, and there is potential for several rookies to be in the lineup when the Rangers open the season against the Nashville Predators at Madison Square Garden on Oct. 4.
Quinn is a strong fit to coach the group of young Rangers, which likely will include rookies Lias Andersson, 19, and Filip Chytil, 18, who could be in two of New York's four center spots.
"David is hands-on, he's a talker, a communicator," Rangers general manager Jeff Gorton said. "I think players are going to look at him and say, 'This guy is a good guy. He knows what he's doing. We understand his system.' You'll see him active on the ice and I think it's going to work for our young group."
Video: 31 in 31: New York Rangers 2018-19 season preview
The leading scorer on the Rangers last season was forward Mats Zuccarello, who had 53 points (16 goals, 37 assists) in 80 games, the lowest point total for any team leader in the NHL last season.
The Rangers were tied for 21st in the NHL in goals per game (2.78) and will need more from center Mika Zibanejad, who had 47 points (27 goals, 20 assists) in 72 games; center Kevin Hayes, who had 44 points (25 goals, 19 assists) in 76 games; forward Chris Kreider, who had 37 points (16 goals, 21 assists) in 58 games; forward Pavel Buchnevich, who had 43 points (14 goals, 29 assists) in 74 games; forward Jimmy Vesey, who had 28 points (17 goals, 11 assists) in 79 games; center Vladislav Namestnikov, who had two goals and two assists in 19 games with New York after being acquired in a trade from the Tampa Bay Lightning; and center Ryan Spooner, who had 16 points (four goals, 12 assists) in 20 games with the Rangers after being acquired in a trade from the Boston Bruins.
"When I write the names down on paper, I look and I say, 'This guy can be better. That guy can be better. We can get more out of this guy,'" Gorton said. "Sometimes when you're going through your team, you're thinking, 'Maybe we got the most out of this guy,' but I don't feel that here. I feel like everybody here has something to prove."
Video: Breaking down the Rangers' youth, underdog mentality
Lundqvist is among them. His numbers need to improve from last season, when he had a 2.98 goals-against average, the worst of his NHL career, and .915 save percentage in 63 games.
The 36-year-old was the Rangers' best player in many games but didn't get much help.
"Hank is as competitive and in as good a shape as he's ever been," Quinn said, "and I think he wants to be part of the next run we have in New York."
Video: NYR@WSH: Lundqvist thwarts Ovechkin with stellar save
Shattenkirk plans to be as well, but he's coming off a disappointing first season with the Rangers after signing a four-year contract July 1, 2017. The 29-year-old injured his left knee in training camp and played through it before he was shut down Jan. 19. He had surgery to repair a torn meniscus and missed the rest of the season.
In addition to Shattenkirk, who is fully recovered, according to Quinn, defensemen Brady Skjei, Marc Staal and possibly Brendan Smith and Neal Pionk need to be better for New York to improve from 28th in goals-against per game last season (3.21).
"There's a lot of talk about youth and where we're going," Gorton said, "but there are a lot of players here who are trying to emerge and show they're better than maybe some people think they are. It's their time."