NY Rangers: 10 Key Players to Be Successful in the 2012-13 NHL Season

John Nizinski@@jniz73Analyst IIIAugust 28, 2012

NY Rangers: 10 Key Players to Be Successful in the 2012-13 NHL Season

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    The New York Rangers had a very successful 2011-12 season, which ended in a disappointing loss to the New Jersey Devils in the Eastern Conference Finals. 

    Despite not making it to the Stanley Cup, the Rangers have put themselves back in the discussion as serious contenders for it. The moves they have made the past couple of seasons have left them with a roster that could be the best and most balanced in the NHL.

    Here is a look at 10 players that are extremely crucial for the Rangers' success next season.

Derek Stepan

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    Derek Stepan could be considered the unsung hero for the Rangers during the regular season last year. He was third on the team in assists with 34 and had 51 points last year.

    Stepan struggled in the postseason and was only able to score one goal. He is still very young and with more experience in the playoffs, his play should improve. At least, the Rangers are hoping it will.

    Depending on how much ice time he gets, Stepan could very well lead the Rangers in assists next season.

Rick Nash

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    The Rangers made a big move this offseason by trading for Rick Nash.

    After failing to make a trade for him at the trade deadline of last season, the Rangers acquired Nash from the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for a first-round draft pick, Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov and Tim Erixon.

    Nash fills a hole and brings an element to the Rangers that they were missing last season. He is an elite scorer.

    The Rangers averaged just 2.15 goals per game in the playoffs and desperately needed a player like Nash to put the puck in the net.

    Nash is going to have some pressure. Not only is it hard enough to play in New York, he will be on a Stanley Cup contending team and making a boatload of money.

    Nash has played for a weak Blue Jackets team without much pressure. He has averaged 30 or more goals in seven of his nine NHL seasons. He needs to make it eight out of 10 seasons and score in the postseason if the Rangers are going to do well.

Marian Gaborik

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    Marian Gaborik's role on the Rangers is to score goals. During the regular season last year, he did just that. He is a streaky scorer though and that was not a good thing during the playoffs.

    During the regular season, Gaborik averaged a goal every other game. During the playoffs, he only averaged a goal every four games.

    His drop in play could have been related to a shoulder injury which was bothering him during the last two months of the season. 

    Gaborik underwent surgery to fix his torn labrum and won't likely return until November or December. However, it is when he returns that the Rangers are going to need him.

    With Nash on the team, Gaborik is relied on less to score the puck, which should take some pressure off of him and possibly increase his level of play.

Michael Del Zotto

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    Michael Del Zotto led all defensemen with 41 points last season, but he still has to improve on both sides of the ice. Last season, he showed flashes of a former first-round draft pick, but also showed flashes of inexperience.

    One specific area for Del Zotto to pick up his game is when opposing teams are short-handed. He needs to help move the puck and generate scoring opportunities. That is an important role for Del Zotto and is a significant area that the Rangers need to improve on.

    This season could be a big year in deciding Del Zotto's future with the Rangers.

Ryan Callahan

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    Ryan Callahan proved why he is the Rangers' captain last season. He was a leader and his play backed it up.

    Richards has the potential to have a C on his Rangers jersey for the next 10 years. Rangers fans have to be happy with a similar season out of Callahan as last year.

    If he can continue score goals while also doing the dirty work, the Rangers will be in good shape to succeed.

Chris Kreider

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    The Rangers' top young prospect is Chris Kreider. He joined the team last season during the playoffs and immediately proved that he can play in the NHL.

    Kreider scored five goals in the playoffs and this season will be a nice indication of just how good this kid can be.

    Expectations are through the roof for Kreider. If he can find success this season, the Rangers will be even deeper and loaded with talent.

    20-30 goals and somewhere around 40 points is not unrealistic.

Marc Staal

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    After suffering a concussion from a hit that was delivered by his brother, Marc Staal missed several months of last season. His season began in January and he came back to have a solid remainder of the regular season and playoffs.

    Staal should be healthy and ready to go next season. The Rangers have some very good defensemen, but having Staal healthy for an entire season will help them significantly on defense.

    Staal's health will play a big role in how dominant the Rangers defense can be.

Brian Boyle

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    Boyle is the kind of player that every team wants. He is a physical presence, but also has talent.

    Boyle had a mediocre season last year compared to his breakout season the year before. His goals dropped from 21 to 11, but his role is going to increase this year.

    With the departure of Brandon Dubinsky, Brandon Prust and Artem Anisimov, Boyle is going to have to step up his play in order to give the Rangers more depth. 

    Boyle is going to have to do some of the dirty work and be a physical player, while also producing goals.

Brad Richards

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    Brad Richards' first year with the Rangers was somewhat inconsistent. At times, he rose to the occasion and other times he vanished.

    Richards was brought in to be a veteran leader with Stanley Cup experience. He needs to take over the team in his second year and be a leader on the ice.

    Richards needs to be more consistent this season for the Rangers.

Henrik Lundqvist

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    Henrik Lundqvist was the best goalie and arguably the most valuable player in the NHL last season. 

    Because he is such a valuable player to the Rangers, his play obviously directly correlates to the success of the Rangers.

    Amazingly enough, we may not have seen the best of Lundqvist yet.