The Rangers will need big contributions from everyone, from the fourth line to the first, in order to have a season that runs deep into the playoffs. Certain expectation are set even before the Rangers' first game: That goalie Henrik Lundqvist will continue his stellar and near flawless play; that Scotty Gomez will set up over fifty goals this season and bolster a powerplay; and that Dan Girardi and Petr Prucha put up a good numbers.
However, in order for the Rangers to be a top four team in their conference, these five players will have to step up this season and improve their play to their potential
1. Chris Drury: The Rangers' center has hit 65 points three times, and is capable of 75. Last year he had a nice 25 goal, 33 assists season. But Drury's hottest month came in February, when there were only two games in which he did not record at least one point. If Drury can get his hot streaks to begin earlier and prolong them, the Rangers will be a force to be reckoned with.
Goal: 28 goals, 45 assists
2. Wade Redden: Redden is too old, too slow, too ugly blah, blah, blah. It's pretty scary to think that Redden, who had 38 points last year, is receiving such heavy criticism. I'm sure the Rangers would love to have 40 points from a defenseman who has only once had a plus/minus under zero (-1) in eleven seasons. The former second pick overall will surely have something to say in defense of his "down" year last year, but don't expect if from his mouth. If Redden does the walking, it will be the Rangers that will do all the talking.
Goal: 10 goals, 33 assists
3. Marc Staal: This must be the year that Marc begins to escape his brothers' shadows, which will be no easy task. Staal has hit 49 points in the OHL, and there is no reason he shouldn't reach at least three quarters the way there this year. He had a very solid rookie season last year, putting up 10 points and often holding his own against opponents' top lines. With a full season under his belt, Staal should switch his family genes to the "On" position. A stronger defensive core will help Staal mature into the best defenseman the Rangers have had since the days of #2, Brian Leetch.
Goal: 8 goals, 30 assists
4. Nikolai Zherdev: This pick almost goes without saying. Zherdev, a rising NHL star, will have his future very closely intertwined with that of the Rangers. Zherdev hit 61 points last year. He has very slick ability, and uses his hands and skates to slip by slower defenders. Zherdev maybe the biggest question mark coming into the season because of his motivational issues. Hopefully, the Rangers can get Zherdev happy and on track. If they do, Zherdev has the ability to lead this team in points. If Zherdev busts, the Rangers will have a rocky season.
Goal: 30 goals, 30 assists
5. Brandon Dubinsky: Brandon may seem like a strange pick to be on this list, but in order for the Rangers to have a big year, last year's rookies need to be even better this year. Ryan Callahan and Nigel Dawes should contribute nicely (especially Dawes) but Dubinsky has the size and toughness to be a real scorer and leader. Dubinsky put up 40 points and 79 PIM last year, and has the mental edge to at least replicate that sort of year. Hopefully Petr Prucha or Markus Naslund can add punch to the Blueshirts, but Dubinsky has the young legs and powerful heart to really propel the Rangers if any of their big names start slumping.
Goal: 17 goals, 35 assists