5 Potential X-Factors for New York Rangers in 2013-14 Season
If the New York Rangers have learned anything from this season, it's that they need a lot more depth.
While their first two lines are solid, it's the bottom two lines that need bolstering.
Luckily, the Rangers have a wealth of players who could become X-factors in the 2013-14 season. These players will come in and add depth, grit and offensive ability, which could take the Rangers further than they went this year.
Read on to find out who these players are.
After a remarkable postseason last year, Chris Kreider certainly did not live up to expectations this year.
He played in just 23 games in the NHL, scoring only two goals. In the AHL, he scored 12 goals and had 11 assists in 48 games. It was a step back for Kreider.
However, the year wasn't completely lost. Moved up to the second line in the latter stages of the second round against the Boston Bruins, Kreider showed some of the explosiveness and skill that endeared him to fans in last year's postseason.
He scored the game-winning goal in Game 4 of the second round and looked much more comfortable playing with Rick Nash than he did when he was toiling on the fourth line.
Now that John Tortorella is no longer coach, it would seem that Kreider has a fresh start. He was misplaced on the fourth line. He belongs with high-end players.
The best line of the playoffs only played together for a few periods, but it brings hope for next season. The trio of Kreider, Nash and Derek Stepan was flying over the ice. They should remain a trio next year.
If they do, then Kreider could start to realize his massive potential. And if he does, the Rangers would add another layer of scoring that they so desperately need.
J.T. Miller had an up-and-down rookie season, but he showed enough promise to indicate that he can be a real contributor next season.
Miller, in 26 games, had two goals and two assists. While he occasionally made dumb mistakes, he did show a developing two-way game. The center can play in any situation. He has high-end offensive skill but also the speed and awareness to be an impact in his own zone and on the penalty kill.
Will Miller score 20 goals next season? Probably not. More likely, he'll score 10-15, play solid defense and anchor the third line.
This will help the Rangers maintain balance down the middle. Brian Boyle is more suited to a fourth-line role. If Miller can hold down the third line, then the Rangers will have impressive depth that should allow them to be more consistent.
Dylan McIlrath will never score many goals. He won't play on the power play. He won't make any skill plays.
What he will do is knock guys around and protect the crease. That's exactly what the Rangers need. McIlrath, at 6'5" and 215 pounds, is most comfortable throwing his body around and dropping the gloves. In 45 games in the AHL, McIlrath had 125 penalty minutes.
The Rangers have long lacked a physical presence in the crease, someone who will make sure Henrik Lundqvist can see the puck.
McIlrath won't be a first-pair defenseman and probably won't log big minutes. But he will bring some snarl to a team that desperately needs it. In 10-15 minutes a night, McIlrath will provide a new dimension to the Rangers.
Oscar Lindberg is a highly skilled forward who put up big numbers in the Swedish Elite League. Last season, the 21-year-old had 17 goals and 25 assists.
He projects as a two-way center with offensive upside.
Lindberg might need to spend some time in the AHL to get used to the North American game. But by midseason, Lindberg could end up playing a big role with the Rangers.
With his speed and excellent passing, Lindberg could end up playing on the third line or even shifting to wing. Look for Lindberg to play a half-season, score eight goals and quickly find his way on the ice in meaningful situations.
Jesper Fast is another Swedish player who looks to play a big role on the Rangers.
The winger scored 18 goals and had 17 assists in the Swedish Elite League. He scored one goal with the Connecticut Whale after coming over in April.
He's pretty similar to Carl Hagelin, in that they are both effective on the forecheck and very fast.
Fast will start the season in the AHL, learning the North American game. But like Lindberg, Fast could provide a midseason offensive boost. He's bigger than Mats Zuccarello, and he could end up taking his role on the third line.
He will eventually see time on the power play and penalty kill. He offers another layer of depth for a team that really needs it.