The New York Rangers acquired high-scoring defenseman Jacob Trouba from the Winnipeg Jets on Monday, significantly improving their fantasy outlook at the position for next season.
Trouba, who can become a restricted free agent July 1, finished 13th among NHL defensemen in scoring (50 points) this season. He should get more consistent first power-play usage with the Rangers and is poised to join the top 25-30 preseason fantasy players at the position with an even higher ceiling after the trade.
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In addition to Trouba's NHL career high in points with the Jets this season, he had his best totals in assists (42), power-play points (18) and shots on goal (162). He took advantage of elevated power-play usage (2:04 per game), especially when defenseman teammates Dustin Byfuglien (limited to 42 games) and Josh Morrissey (59) were out with injuries, tripling his previous high in PPP (six in 2014-15). Trouba was also tied for fifth among all defensemen in shorthanded points (three).
Trouba had arguably the best stretch of play in his NHL career late in the regular season, scoring 19 points (four goals, 15 assists), 10 on the power play, and averaging 23:50 per game over the final 22 games. Byfuglien and Morrissey were limited to five and two games, respectively, in that span because of injuries, indicating Trouba may have a higher fantasy gear than we've seen to this point with regular first power-play usage.
The 25-year-old should surpass New York's most frequent first power play defensemen, Kevin Shattenkirk and Tony DeAngelo, neither of whom was fantasy-relevant this season. A first power-play role would mean exposure to breakout center Mika Zibanejad, who had a NHL career-high 74 points and 23 PPP this season.
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In addition to Zibanejad, the Rangers' first power play features left wing Chris Kreider, right wing Pavel Buchnevich and will also likely include whichever top prospect, center Jack Hughes or wing Kaapo Kakko, they select with the No. 2 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft. The Rangers also have a potential impact prospect in wing Vitali Kravtsov, who signed an entry-level contract May 3 and is expected to compete for a roster spot next season. New York traded first power-play forwards Mats Zuccarello and Kevin Hayes, each a potential unrestricted free agent, prior to the 2019 NHL Trade Deadline.
Trouba has been a plus player in each of his six NHL seasons (total of plus-37) and brings consistent coverage of hits (112 this season; 1.6 per game in NHL career). This defensive upgrade for the Rangers should positively affect veteran goalie Henrik Lundqvist, a bounce-back candidate for next season who should be available outside the top 120 overall.
The Rangers were tied for the most overtime/shootout losses (14) in the NHL this season despite having the second worst shot attempts ratio (minus-577) behind the Ottawa Senators (minus-818). The addition of Trouba could lead to notable improvement from a team fantasy standpoint and also in the standings.
Trouba leaves the Jets, who have far superior forward talent (Blake Wheeler, Mark Scheifele, Patrik Laine, Kyle Connor) compared to the Rangers, but will likely take on an even bigger role than his 22:53 per game this season. Fantasy owners can expect Trouba to replicate his point range from this season with a ceiling of 55-60 points and 25 power-play points, especially if the Rangers further improve their roster in trades and/or free agency this offseason.
Projection: 82 games, 10 goals, 38 assists, 48 points, minus-5, 21 PPP, 175 SOG, 120 hits
Draft range in 12-team fantasy league: Rounds 11 to 12 (picks 121-144)
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