4 Big Questions for the New York Rangers in 2020-21

Artemi Panarin #10 and Mika Zibanejad #93 of the New York Rangers. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Artemi Panarin #10 and Mika Zibanejad #93 of the New York Rangers. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /
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Artemi Panarin (10)
Artemi Panarin #10 of the New York Rangers. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/Freestyle Photo/Getty Images) /

1. Can the New York Rangers take that next step in 2020-21?

It seems like a whole lifetime ago since the New York Rangers sent that now famous letter to its fans, stating their intent to tear down what was a championship contender that had failed to win a cup and start all over again.

In reality, it was only a couple of years ago but so much has happened since then, including the Rangers signing an elite superstar in Free Agency in Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad evolving into a top NHL center, Igor Shesterkin proving that he’s the heir to the throne to Henrik Lundqvist and Adam Fox emerging as a real stud on the blueline in his rookie year in 2019-20.

Not to mention the franchise winning the Draft Lottery and then selecting generational talent Alexis Lafreniere with the No. 1 overall pick.

However, there is still work to be done and there’s still areas on the roster that need some work, including a lack of secondary scoring and a worrying lack of toughness.

There’s also some question marks over the defensive-pairings and it is still somewhat baffling that General Manager Jeff Gorton felt signing defenseman Jack Johnson to a one-year, $1,150,000 deal in Free Agency was a good idea.

However, the Blueshirts appear to be set in net with Shesterkin and Alexandar Georgiev, a tandem that should survive the gruelling test of a condensed 56-game schedule, they appear to have a real solid top-four with Jacob Trouba  – K’Andre Miller and Adam Fox – Ryan Lindgren and they should have enough firepower to remain competitive all year.

Igor Shesterkin
New York Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin (Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports) /

If Zibanejad can continue to develop into one of the best pivots in the entire NHL after putting up 41 goals and 34 assists for 75 points in 57 games last year, including a five-goal night against the Washington Capitals, if Panarin can put together another monster season and if Chris Kreider can stay healthy and have a big year then the Rangers will have a chance.

It will also help if Lafreniere can explode onto the scene like so many of us are expecting, while improvement from the likes of Pavel Buchnevich, Kappo Kakko, Filip Chytil and Tony DeAngelo would also go a long way to ensuring that the Rangers continue to trend in the right direction in 2020-21.

Of course, being stuck in a stacked East Division that features powerhouses such as the Boston Bruins, the Philadelphia Flyers and the Washington Capitals, not to mention the tough New York Islanders, will mean that the path to the postseason is fraught with a lot more challenges than it was a year ago, especially in a shortened season.

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However, the New York Rangers are on the way back up and this talented but still flawed roster should ensure that they are right in the postseason race until the bitter end, setting this young team up for a real leap in 2021-22 no matter what happens.