Setting Expectations for New York Rangers' Offensive Stars in 2014-15

Tom Urtz Jr.@@TomUrtzJrContributor IAugust 10, 2014

Setting Expectations for New York Rangers' Offensive Stars in 2014-15

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    High expectations are anticipated by the New York Rangers after finishing as Stanley Cup finalists in 2013-14. The team knows how far it went and how much better it will need to be to earn the ultimate prize this season.

    In order to accomplish that goal, the Rangers will need their top players to perform up to their potential. Sometimes fans look for too much from a player and set expectations too high, so here are realistic projections for the Rangers' forward stars for the upcoming season.

Martin St. Louis

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    2013-14: 30 goals, 39 assists, 69 points

    Expectation for 2014-15: 25 goals, 40 assists, 65 points

    Martin St. Louis was an elite-scoring right-winger last season, but look for the 39-year-old to take a bit of a dip in production in 2014-15. This year he will not have to be the main guy, so that will ultimately take a few points off his overall total.

    Although he's been a consistent goal scorer, look for St. Louis to rely on his playmaking prowess with the Rangers.

    He is a quick thinker, amazing skater and a player who can be counted on by the Rangers in 2014-15. The reason for a production dip is because he will be one year older, and he will be on a team with more offensive weapons than he played with last season.

    In short, St. Louis will be around when the Rangers need him, but he won't have to be the main threat he was last season with the Tampa Bay Lightning while Steven Stamkos was injured.

Mats Zuccarello

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    2013-14: 19 goals, 40 assists, 59 points

    Expectation for 2014-15: 22 goals, 43 assists, 65 points

    Mats Zuccarello would have tallied 60 points or more had he not suffered an injury at the Sochi Olympics. He was the Blueshirts' most consistent forward in 2013-14, and he showed that he is a player who can be counted on.

    Zuccarello's uncanny ability to complete accurate passes under pressure was something that helped the Rangers last season, and it is something that can help the team going forward.

    The diminutive Norwegian "Hobbit" plays bigger than his listed height and weight of 5'7" and 179 pounds, and he is a tenacious player who leaves it all out on the ice.

    With a bigger role in 2014-15, look for Zuccarello to be a Broadway star worthy of coming back for an encore performance.

Derek Stepan

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    2013-14: 17 goals, 40 assists, 57 points

    Expectation for 2014-15: 15 goals, 45 assists, 60 points

    Derek Stepan has shown consistent growth as an NHL player, and 2014-15 should be another year worth celebrating for the 24-year-old center.

    He may have had an amazing season during the 2012-13 lockout that skews his perception as a player, but that small sample size doesn't adequately reflect Stepan and his game.

    When you look at Stepan's production in full 82-game seasons, he has shown some steady growth. He recorded 45 points his rookie season (2010-11), 51 his second season and 57 in his third 82-game season in 2013-14.

    Therefore, it is not hard to think that he will increase his production by a mere three points in 2014-15. It is possible that he exceeds that number, but it is better to temper expectations for the young center this season.

Rick Nash

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    2013-14: 26 goals, 13 assists, 39 points

    Expectation for 2014-15: 34 goals, 22 assists, 56 points

    Rick Nash played in only 65 games last season but still notched 26 goals. He battled concussion issues, and that seriously inhibited him from gaining traction until the middle of the campaign. After another disappointing playoff (three goals and seven assists in 25 games), expect Nash to bounce back for the Rangers.

    His performance in the regular season has never been a question, but some will cite low point totals as a fault of his. Nash has generally been a man to do it all himself, so if he scores 30 or more goals, I don't think there will be many who complain about his selfishness with the puck.

    He should show an increase in the assist department this year, because he will likely be paired with Chris Kreider, another forward with a knack for goal scoring.

Chris Kreider

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    2013-14: 17 goals, 20 assists, 37 points

    Expectation for 2014-15: 25 goals, 30 assists, 55 points

    The 23-year-old Kreider has started to look like a legitimate offensive weapon for the Rangers, and the upcoming season should be his breakout year as a young scorer.

    The former Boston College star had an amazing playoff run with the Rangers in which he recorded 13 points in 15 games, and his regular-season production was solid for his first season in the NHL.

    A hand injury stunted Kreider's progress during the regular season, but he should be able to pick up where he left off last year. He has the size at 6'3" and 230 pounds. He is fast as lightning, and all signs point to him being ready to take the next step.

    It is realistic to think that Kreider could notch 25 goals and 30 assists in 2014-15, because he has the tools to be a force, and he will be paired with some pretty good players who should only enhance his chances for success.

Derick Brassard

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    2013-14: 18 goals, 27 assists, 45 points

    Expectation for 2014-15: 16 goals, 32 assists, 48 points

    Derick Brassard earned a new five-year contract this summer, and expectations will be high when you consider that he is the Rangers' bona fide No. 2 pivot. While he has a ton of offensive talent, he needs to show more this season to suggest that he can be an average second-line scoring center.

    Brassard will likely increase his production in 2014-15 in his new role by virtue of having more on-ice opportunities, but don't expect a large increase of 10 or so points.

    He will be getting more time on ice, but that could include facing tougher matchups and defensive pairings.

    These are undefined variables as of this writing, but they are worthy of being considered for the purposes of this prognostication. 

    Realistically an increase of five points is possible, but a three-point increase would be a fair and reasonable expectation for Brassard in 2014-15, with more steady growth coming in future seasons.