Stock Watch for New York Rangers' Top-Six Forwards
The New York Rangers have struggled to score all season long.
But don't blame the top-six forwards. In fact, the top-six has been on fire of late, displaying remarkable offensive talent.
Of course, talent doesn't always translate to goals. The team averages just 2.1 goals per game, which is 28th in the league.
Yet it looks like the top-six is on the verge of breaking out, and the shot count in recent games points to just that.
What is the stock watch for the top-six forwards on the roster? Read on to find out.
Rick Nash: Up
Since his return to the lineup after suffering a concussion, Rick Nash looks like his old self.
He has one goal so far in three games, but it looks like Nash has the same speed he usually does.
Nash has only averaged around 16 minutes of ice time in his three games back. Ideally, he should be getting closer to 20 minutes, but that will come once his legs are fully back.
Nash looks like a star. He is such a presence on the ice, and the winger will only become more noticeable once he's back in regular game shape.
It's no coincidence that the Rangers have played three of their best games since Nash has come back. He is their most important offensive player. As he goes, so does the team.
Look for Nash to start putting the puck in the net more in the next few weeks. Things are looking good for the star forward.
Brad Richards: Slightly Down
Let's preface this by saying that Richards is having a great season, a true rebound after last year's disaster.
Now, we can't deny that Richards has only one point in the last six games. He scored five goals in October; he has just one in the month of the November.
There's a reason that his stock is just "slightly down." He's not playing terribly, but he's just not producing.
Once Rick Nash gets his legs under him, it seems logical that Richards will starting producing again. But for now, this is a bit of a lull in an otherwise fantastic season.
Ryan Callahan: Even
The line of Nash, Richards and Ryan Callahan has been getting a lot of chances.
They just haven't been scoring. Callahan put it well, telling Pat Leonard of the New York Daily News:
We're there. We're close. After every period, we've looked at each other and (said) we're right there almost getting one. It's just a matter of one going in the net for us, and then I think it's gonna open up. We're getting the opportunities, we're getting the chances. I've had a couple right on the doorstep. It's fun playing with those two guys. They see the ice so well. I'm just trying to get to the front of the net, get some pucks for them.
Callahan does have two points in the last five games, but it's hard to quantify how many goals he and his linemates should really have. Against the Boston Bruins this line was constantly in the offensive zone, but they had nothing to show for it.
Sometimes a line just gets bad puck luck, and that may be the case here. While the chances are there, they are not posting numbers befitting a first line.
Callahan is not doing terribly, nor is he doing great. It seems like he and his linemates are on the verge of breaking out. Until then, though, his stock has to be even.
Chris Kreider: Up
Since making his season debut in late October, Chris Kreider has been one of the best forwards in hockey.
He's been so good that he's garnering Olympic consideration. David Poile, the general manager of the Nashville Predators and Team USA, told Pat Leonard of the New York Daily News that Kreider is on the radar:
(He) started the year off in minors. I’ve personally been very impressed with his play of late. I’m probably not saying anything that the Rangers haven’t said, which is (it comes down to) consistency. That’s always what you want to do is get that consistency. He’s got that big body, he’s a great skater. He just has to put it all together for them. So (he’s) a little bit of a late addition to our evaluations, but like I said, he’s playing very well right now. My favorite saying in this (type of) circumstance is we’re not gonna make any decisions until we have to, and that’s not until Jan. 1, so that’ll be right up until there.
Kreider has 12 points in 16 games. He's been incredibly disruptive on the forecheck, and his big body is causing a lot of problems for teams. The winger is skating with authority, throwing his body around and making things happen.
He's been one of the best Ranger forwards, and he's only going to get better. Kreider is finally showing the promise of the 2012 postseason. He's a star, and the whole league is starting to take notice.
Derek Stepan: Up
After a slow start to the season, Derek Stepan is starting to look like last year's version.
He has five goals and 11 assists so far this season, including nine points in November.
Stepan has been the catalyst for arguably the Rangers' best offensive line. Centering Kreider and Mats Zuccarello, Stepan is dishing out perfect passes and finishing when the opportunity presents itself.
He's been dynamic on the power play too, tallying nine points.
As long as this line is clicking, Stepan is going to put up points and make things happen.
The last few weeks have been the best Stepan has looked in his Rangers career. There's no reason to think it will stop now. He's going to put up big numbers the rest of the way.
Mats Zuccarello: Up
Mats Zuccarello was scratched on Oct. 24 against the Philadelphia Flyers. Since then, the winger has been absolutely on fire.
Zuccarello has scored two goals and added 10 assists in that span. He's been lethal on the forecheck; despite his size, Zuccarello can create havoc with his speed, energy and tenacity. He's been driving play in the offensive zone, and he's even contributed on the penalty kill.
Look, Zuccarello has turned a corner since that benching in late October. His energy is contagious, and it's rubbing off on his linemates.
Zuccarello has established himself as an essential member of this team. He has been absolutely lethal in the past few weeks, and it seems like he's finally adjusted to North American play. The Norwegian is oozing with talent, and it seems to be finally coming out. He could be in a for a big couple of months.