Generally whenever the New York Rangers are about to start the season I start thinking about X-factors. And, honestly, it's one of the biggest things to look at before any season officially kicks into gear. Every team has an X-factor, and sometimes how well that player does has a significant impact on the team's success.
So who (or what) are the Rangers' X-factors this year? Let's take a look:
Chris Kreider - The Rangers' prized possession lit up the playoffs last year scoring five goals and adding two assist for seven points in 18 games. His numbers this year in the AHL have been underwhelming by a numbers standpoint (just 12 points in 32 games). I'm not putting too much stock into those numbers. The AHL has always been a learning experience in the Rangers' system, it's how things are run. The coaches are much more concerned with the development of their prospects. So I think Kreider will not only start the year in the NHL, but I think he'll do fine.
So, speaking of X-factors, back to Kreider in the NHL. I do expect Kreider to score at a 20-goal pace, which will put him around 10 goals on the year. Obviously it's not the end of the world if he doesn't hit those numbers, but I think we've seen enough out of him to not be shocked if he scores at a 20-goal pace this year. By the way, get used to the "pace" stats for this year, since it's all we can go off of.
If Kreider plays the way he did in the playoffs then the sky is the limit. If he takes a little time to develop (which might be expected) then expect him to maybe slid into the third line and for Carl Hagelin to get more minutes in the top six. That last sentence might depend on how much John Tortorella uses Hagelin defensively though.
Speaking of ...
Carl Hagelin - Hagelin might be the biggest X-factor the Rangers have this year. With Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov now calling Columbus home, the Rangers have lost two of their bet defensive players. So who is going to pick up those tough minutes? Most likely Hagelin.
This is going to be a huge year for Hagelin. Not only is the coaching staff going to be asking more of Hagelin defensively, but they're also going to be limiting his offensive touches. I might be wrong here, by the way, Tortorella might lean on someone else. But it looks like Hagelin is going to be getting those tough, third line minutes.
If Hagelin flourishes in that role it will lessen the blow of losing both Dubinsky and Anisimov. If it doesn't, well, the coaching staff is going to have to figure something out.