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New York Rangers fantasy hockey outlook

by Matt Cubeta / NHL.com

As part of NHL.com's offseason 30 in 30 package, fantasy hockey insiders Matt Cubeta and Pete Jensen will break down each team's fantasy landscape. They will look at the players at the top of the ranks, an undervalued player, an overvalued player, a deep sleeper (players likely ranked outside the top 200 overall players) and the goalie outlook for each NHL team.

Leading the way: Henrik Lundqvist and Rick Nash

In my offseason rankings, I have Lundqvist ranked 16th among all players (second among goalies behind Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens) and Nash right behind him at No. 18. Lundqvist, who missed nearly two months last season because of a neck injury, had 30 wins in 46 starts with five shutouts, a 2.25 goals against average and .922 save percentage. Those numbers line right up with his career marks (2.26 GAA and .921 save percentage), but what was even more impressive was Lundqvist's performance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. In 19 games against tougher competition, he posted a 2.11 GAA and .928 save percentage. Over the past five seasons, Lundqvist is fourth in wins (162), second in GAA (2.19) and save percentage (.924) and first in shutouts (31) among goalies with at least 200 starts. He plays behind an excellent defense and a similar season in 2015-16 should be expected from arguably the most consistent and reliable goaltender in the game.

As for Nash, he should be a safe pick anywhere between rounds two and three. After a disappointing 2013-14 season, he bounced back with 42 goals and 69 points. His playoff struggles are well documented (five goals, nine assists in 19 playoff games last season), but all that matters for fantasy owners is what he does in the regular season. Since joining the Rangers prior to the 2012-13 season, Nash's 0.48 goals-per-game ranks fourth best in the NHL. Nash's power-play production (12 power-play points last season while averaging 2:41 of power-play ice time per game) is a concern, but what Nash lost in that category, he gained with his plus-29 that ranked sixth in the NHL. At 31, Nash remains one of the NHL's best pure goal scorers and should again finish near the top 20 fantasy players (12th last season in Yahoo leagues).

RANGERS' FANTASY-RELEVANT PLAYERS

Below is a list of the fantasy-relevant players in the New York Rangers organization. These players have been arranged by NHL.com's fantasy staff based on projected value and by position. These players range from top-tier assets to deep sleepers and should be on your radar in standard Yahoo leagues.

FORWARDS

Rick Nash
Derick Brassard
Derek Stepan
Chris Kreider
Mats Zuccarello
Kevin Hayes
J.T. Miller
Emerson Etem

DEFENSEMEN

Keith Yandle
Ryan McDonagh
Dan Boyle

GOALIES

Henrik Lundqvist
Antti Raanta

* Red indicates newcomer to team

Undervalued: Chris Kreider

While Kreider's 21 goals and 25 assists from last season don't scream fantasy standout, it's his peripheral stats that helped him finish as the 58th ranked player in Yahoo leagues. In his second full season, Kreider saw nearly all of his fantasy stats improve: He went from 17 goals, 20 assists, a plus-14, 72 penalty minutes, 12 power-play points, 136 shots on goal in 2013-14 to 21 goals, 25 assists, plus-24, 88 PIMs, eight power-play points and 180 shots on goal last season.

The majority of his penalty minutes came in the first half of the season (73 in his first 42 games versus 15 in his final 38), but Kreider has shown that he isn't afraid to mix things up. His power play production dipped, but he did average nearly two minutes of ice time on the man advantage last season. Now 24 and with what seems like a home on a line alongside the playmaking Derek Stepan, Kreider could be poised for a big season. Add in his unprecedented speed and size and he easily could finish as a top 50 player this season (I have him ranked 56th in my offseason rankings).

Overvalued: Ryan McDonagh

After breaking out with 14 goals and 43 points in 2013-14, McDonagh's offensive production took a step back last season (eight goals, 33 points in 71 games). His rating improved from plus-11 to plus-23 and he remains one of the NHL's premier all-around defenseman, but there are a couple of things that could hamper his fantasy value. First, the addition of Keith Yandle for a full season will cut into his power play productivity. Yandle likely will quarterback the team's top unit with McDonagh stepping down to the second group. He should still average around two minutes of power play time per game (was at 2:18 last season), but 12 man-advantage points might not be replicable. Second, McDonagh's primary job is playing against the opposing team's top offensive groups. He's not exactly always concerned with trying to score and this will hinder his offensive totals. While his playoff numbers show promise (three goals, six assists in 19 games), somewhere between 30-40 points should be expected after finishing last season as the 29th best fantasy defenseman in Yahoo leagues. Not to mention, he's coming off a broken right foot sustained during the playoffs.

Deep sleeper: Kevin Hayes

The Rangers have a lot to determine before the season starts in regards to their line combinations, and Hayes is a massive factor in that. Last season, he was used primarily as the team's third line center and he finished with an impressive 17 goals, 28 assists and plus-15 rating. His 45 points were fifth most by a rookie. Hayes could find himself in a similar role to last season, centering the third line with some quality talent on his wings, or he could move up and play the wing on a line with Stepan and Kreider, where there appears to be a vacant spot. J.T. Miller, Jesper Fast and Emerson Etem each could get an opportunity on this line (assuming Nash, Derick Brassard and Mats Zuccarello remain intact), but with Jarret Stoll in the mix, Hayes moving to the wing seems like a realistic possibility. And that could lead to a big breakout season for the 6-foot-5 forward. Pay close attention to where he ends up on opening night, but either way, Hayes certainly deserves a late-round draft selection with immense upside.

Goalie outlook: Henrik Lundqvist and Antti Raanta

Only Price tops Lundqvist in my offseason rankings, but Lundqvist needs to be drafted early in the second round, and it wouldn't surprise me if he was the top-ranked goalie by the end of the season. He's on an elite team and should get his usual 60-plus starts assuming he remains healthy. Raanta joins the Rangers and will look to replace Cam Talbot, who was traded to the Edmonton Oilers prior to the 2015 NHL Draft. Talbot was one of the game's best backup goalies, but Raanta is right there with him. Among goalies that started fewer than 35 games and more than 10 last season, Raanta had the second best goals against average and save percentage (1.89 GAA and .936 save percentage). Since the 2010-11 season, Lundqvist has made 234 out of a possible 294 starts (excluding last season when he was injured). That's a rate of 80 percent and about 65 starts per full season. With that, you should expect Raanta to get around 17 starts this season. A backup goalie that starts that few games in a season doesn't typically carry much fantasy value, but if you want to play it safe and handcuff Lundqvist, Raanta makes for a great pick. He should be one of the best backups in the League.

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