NHL.com is providing in-depth analysis for each of its 31 teams throughout August. Today, three key statistics for the New York Rangers.
[Rangers 31 IN 31: Season preview | 3 Questions | Top prospects | Fantasy breakdown]
1. Zibanejad's points per 60
Mika Zibanejad broke out as a clear-cut No. 1 center with 74 points (30 goals, 44 assists) in 82 games last season. The 26-year-old led the Rangers with 2.63 points per 60 minutes, which is even more impressive considering he led Rangers forwards in average time on ice per game (20:34). The more ice time, the more difficult it is to maintain a high points per 60 minutes average. Zibanejad's most frequent linemates last season were Mats Zuccarello, who agreed to a five-year contract with the Minnesota Wild on July 1, and Chris Kreider. This season it's likely Zibanejad will skate with Artemi Panarin and Pavel Buchnevich, or possibly Kappo Kakko, on the top line.
Video: 31 in 31: New York Rangers 2019-20 season preview
2. Panarin's SAT
Perhaps the biggest signing of the offseason was Panarin, who agreed to a seven-year contract with the Rangers on July 1. After playing his first two NHL seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks on a line with elite right wing Patrick Kane, Panarin was traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets prior to the 2017-18 season. He's improved his point total in each of the two seasons since, even though he's lost exposure to Kane, a perennial point-per-game forward. Panarin's underlying numbers (plus-232 SAT; first on Blue Jackets last season) suggest that his team drives possession at even strength while he's on the ice. For perspective, the only Rangers forward to have a positive SAT rating last season was center Kevin Hayes, who was traded to the Winnipeg Jets prior to the 2019 NHL Trade Deadline. Panarin has not scored 30 goals in either of the past two seasons, but with a more dynamic No. 1 center (Zibanejad), he could set an NHL career-high, which is 31 goals with the Blackhawks in 2016-17.
Video: Panarin lands at No. 8 on the Top 20 Wings list
3. Kakko's goals
Kakko, selected with the No. 2 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, brings a goal-scoring presence to the Rangers' top six forwards. He has elite playmaking ability and an accurate shot that should make him a key contributor in his rookie season. The wing scored 22 goals in 45 games for TPS in Liiga last season, the top professional hockey league in Finland, setting a record for under-18 players (center Aleksander Barkov (Florida Panthers) scored 21 goals for Tappara in 2012-13). Kakko also led Finland with six goals in 10 games to help them win the 2019 IIHF World Championship.
Kakko's 38 points are the third most in a season among 18-and-under Liiga players, behind Barkov, who had 48 in 2012-13, and Mikael Granlund (Nashville Predators), who had 40 in 2009-10 with HIFK. Barkov had 24 points (eight goals, 16 assists) in his rookie season with the Panthers in 2013-14. Granlund had 41 points (eight goals, 33 assists) in his first full NHL season with the Wild in 2013-14.
Video: Potential for big impact from Kaapo Kakko in year one
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