4 New York Rangers poised for a breakout 2020-21 campaign

Kaapo Kakko #24 of the New York Rangers. (Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images)
Kaapo Kakko #24 of the New York Rangers. (Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images) /
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New York Rangers
(Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images) /

2. Julien Gauthier

Playing with the previously mentioned Chytil and Lafreniere, Julien Gauthier will be given his first legitimate NHL opportunity. He has only played 17-career NHL games and was a victim of Carolina’s tremendous young forward core before being shipped to the New York Rangers. Now Gauthier can slot into the wing spot on a line loaded with some of the league’s best young talent.

He has yet to score an NHL goal in his brief career, but you can almost guarantee that his linemates’ playmaking ability will surely change that. Gauthier has paid his dues after being a first-round pick in 2016, spending three years in Charlotte of the AHL. But now, the opportunity for him to break out awaits, as he will be given top-nine minutes alongside some top-flight weapons.

Gauthier seems to be in a Tom Wilson-esque role, looking to utilize his body and physical presence on a line with two ultra-skilled forwards. The Canadian forward has his own skill, but he can afford to let his linemates work along the outside while driving the net and collecting the greasy goals.

It will be fun to watch this line work, but I expect Gauthier to surprise us with just how talented he really was in 2020-21.

New York Rangers
(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

1. Igor Shesterkin

On this list, because he is still eligible for the Calder, Igor Shesterkin will look to prove in 2020-21 that he is ready for the number one role and that his 10-2 start was not a fluke. We know the numbers and stats that he put up in the KHL and the AHL and how hot he started with the Rangers. Over his first 12 games, Shesterkin posted 2.52 GAA and a .932 SV%., putting the Rangers in playoff contention.

There is no doubt that he will face numerous Grade-A chances throughout the course of this season, forcing the 25-year-old to be on his toes. For the Rangers to sniff the playoffs, he will likely have to put the team on his back, stealing games for the Blueshirts down the stretch like Henrik Lundqvist used to do before him.

It appears set in stone that Shesterkin is the Rangers’ future goaltender and that Sorokin, a fellow Russian, is the Islanders. These two will be tied together with their whole careers, with comparisons between their stats often being drawn. If Shesterkin can prove how talented he is behind what we hope to improve Rangers’ defense, bragging rights, and a Calder will be his.

You all might be wondering, “Where is Alexis Lafreniere?” The rookie is expected to do great things, and for him to have a successful season, the aforementioned players will have to breakout. Lafreniere will shine but also will have growing pains. It is up to the second and third-year players to pick him up.

Next. Put good money on Igor Shesterkin winning the Calder Trophy in 2020-21. dark

If the Rangers get breakout seasons from the candidates listed here, as well as a phenomenal rookie campaign from their first selection, they could very well be a dark-horse for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.