Making the cut
There's likely one roster spot up for grabs, the 13th forward. It likely will be a battle between veterans Riley Nash and Alex Belzile, each of whom signed a two-year contract July 1, Jonny Brodzinski, and rookies Will Cuylle and Brennan Othmann. It's more likely that Cuylle and Othmann start the season with Hartford of the American Hockey League, leaving Nash, Belzile and Brodzinski as the leading options. But it's also possible the Rangers start with 12 forwards and eight defensemen. But if they go with 13 forwards, defenseman Ben Harpur could lose his roster spot.
Most intriguing addition
Wheeler signed a one-year contract with the Rangers on July 1 after the Winnipeg Jets bought out the final season of his five-year contract. The 37-year-old is expected to be one of the Rangers' top three right wings but is being pushed by Lafreniere and Kakko for top-six duty. He could be on the power play too, likely the second unit. Wheeler had 55 points (16 goals, 39 assists) in 72 games with the Jets last season, and his 922 points (312 goals, 610 assists) in 1,118 NHL games is 10th among active NHL players, so he doesn't have anything to prove. But being bought out and signing with a new team has provided motivation to prove he still can be an impact player.
Biggest potential surprise
Erik Gustafsson signed a one-year contract July 1. The defenseman had 38 points (seven goals, 31 assists) in 61 games playing under Laviolette with the Capitals last season before being traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs. It appears he's third on the depth chart on the left side of the Rangers defense behind Ryan Lindgren and K'Andre Miller, but Gustafsson's familiarity with Laviolette and his ability to thrive in his system and on the power play with the Capitals last season (11 points) adds to the intrigue of his addition.
Ready to contribute
The Rangers are not expected to have anybody on the roster playing on their entry-level contract unless Othmann or Cuylle make it. Lafreniere is in the first season of a two-year contract he signed Aug. 25. If he can adjust to playing right wing, Lafreniere will have a better chance to produce more after he had 39 points (16 goals, 23 assists) in 81 games last season.
Blake Wheeler, RW (fantasy average draft position: 164.9) -- He has fantasy bounce-back appeal joining the Rangers potent offense after the departure of high-scoring forwards Vladimir Tarasenko (signed with Ottawa Senators) and Patrick Kane (unrestricted free agent). Wheeler, who has played wing for most of his career but has experience at center, could play on the top line with Zibanejad or the second line with center Vincent Trocheck, and on the second power play. -- Pete Jensen