This is the first edition of power rankings in which we have results from regular season games. The Blueshirts have played five games and sit 1-4-0 with two points. During this stretch there were a few close games decided late, and there was the debacle that was the game vs. the Carolina Hurricanes.
This week’s rankings include some noticeable adjustments, and that is because five games of 2018-19 performance are weighed more than preseason and expected performance. This upcoming week has just two games, so expect next week’s rankings to have less dramatic swings. With all that said here’s the latest edition of power rankings.
Brett Howden — +12
Brett Howden has been a pleasant surprise for the Rangers, and one of the team’s top forwards through five games. He has seen a steady rise in playing time going from 10:36 in his NHL debut vs. Nashville all the way to 17:34 vs. the San Jose Sharks. The 20-year-old joined the Blueshirts in the Ryan McDonagh trade, and there was some mixed reviews on what type of player he could be. Thus far he’s shown creativity and hustle that has gotten the attention of David Quinn. It is also worth noting that he’s won 57.5% of his faceoffs, and that is something that could earn him playing time in key situations in offensive and defensive zone.
His underlying numbers are average and include a Rel CF% of 0.97, a Rel GF% of -3.3 and a PDO of 98.92. It is considerably early for Howden and he received some attention after scoring a nice goal against the Sharks, but he certainly deserves to be in top-end of this list.
Jimmy Vesey — +8
Vesey has cooled off a bit, but deserved to be move up from No. 19 overall. He’s scored two goals, both vs. the Carolina Hurricanes, and he should have a few more.
Vesey playing with a set of “Callahands”— Tom Urtz Jr. (25 days till Election Day) (@TomUrtzJr) October 6, 2018
I say this because there have been a few occasions in which Vesey has flubbed receiving a pass, whiffed on a shot, or just failed to score. The underlying numbers continue to be disappointing (-4.06 Rel CF%, -16.67 Rel GF%) although is Rel xGF% of 1.14 and 97.14 PDO highlight some of his misfortune. Quinn should try and shake things up, and moving Vesey off the second line would be a good start. Joe wrote about Vesey here, and it is a good summary of the situation that hits on a lot of important points.
Jesper Fast — +7
Fast deserves a lot of credit for his start to the season, and he’s been worthy of his playing time on the top line to date. Historically I’ve nicknamed Fast “Ruslan Fedotenko 2.0” because he’s always been a plucky defensive player who can contribute some offense. He’s coming off a career-high 33-point campaign and currently on pace to finish with 65 points. I doubt he will have that many, but 35 to 40 points could be within his wheelhouse if he continues to skate on the top line. His underlying numbers are decent thus far with a Rel CF% of 4.43, a Rel GF% of 29.17 and a Rel xGF% of 2.27. He leads the team in scoring, and all of his points have been at even strength, although his goal is his only primary point. Fast has always done what has been asked of him, and the Rangers will enjoy this level of production while it lasts.
Brendan Smith — +6
Thus far Smith has been the team’s second-best defender, and he looks like a new man. He has two points at even strength including a game-tying goal vs. the San Jose Sharks, and he’s been a net positive for the Rangers.
BRENDAN SMITH TIES IT UP LATE FOR THE RANGERS!#NYR pic.twitter.com/9sITmLWIeS— NHL Daily 365 (@NHLDaily365) October 12, 2018
He has a CF% of 50.32 which leads the defense, a Rel CF% of 8.23, and thus far a GF% of 60. His PDO of 103.35 suggests he’s playing above his head, and there’s bound to be somewhat of a regression. Overall he’s made good on the second chance the Rangers have given him, and is one of the bigger positives of the season to date.
Brady Skjei — +5
Skjei signed a massive extension in the offseason and it drew mixed reactions. The main question focused on whether or not the team committed too much, too soon and it was a fair question to ask. Thus far he’s leading the team in ice time with 22:56 a game, and he’s got a goal and assist to his name. His CF% of 46.75 is a little lower than you’d want, but the Rangers aren’t a great possession team. He stands out among his peers with a Rel CF% of 3.04, and has a solid xGF% of 54.69 and a Rel xGF% of 11.91. His PDO sits at 100.25, and that’s a pretty good place to be when it comes to trying to get a gauge on how he will continue to produce going forward. He is the future on the blueline, and going forward the Rangers will want to see this type of production continue.
Henrik Lundqvist — +3
Hank has been great — much better than his 1-3-0 record suggests. His GSAA (goals saved above average) is 4.44 through four starts which is second best in the NHL. His even strength SV% sits at .962, and he’s rocking an impressive High Danger save percentage of .952.
"Henrik Lundqvist hasn't lost a step from last year." - @VallysView #NYR pic.twitter.com/gsUHzz3owD— MSG Networks (@MSGNetworks) October 13, 2018
The rumors of his demise have been greatly exaggerated, and for the umpteenth time one wonders what his numbers would look like if he had a proper defense in front of him?
Kevin Hayes, Kevin Shattenkirk and Mika Zibanejad — -7
Hayes has just one assist to his name, but he’s been on a line with Vesey and that is a partial explanation for the lone assist. Quinn sat him for a big stretch vs. the Buffalo Sabres, and saw 19:00 of ice time vs. the Edmonton Oilers. Early on he’s received a similar deployment to last year, and eventually I could see him replacing Howden between Mats Zuccarello and Pavel Buchnevich. His underlying numbers need vast improvement as a 39.66 CF% and -6.82 Rel CF% are not going to help him produce offensively. To score you need the puck, and he hasn’t had it a lot this season.
Shattenkirk’s drop is because he’s not been very effective, and part of that could be that he’s not quite up to speed. Quinn scratched him vs. the Sharks, and Shattenkirk understood the reasoning behind it.
It was made pretty clear that Kevin Shattenkirk will be a healthy scratch Thursday at the Garden against the Sharks. He said he needs more "urgency" in his game, and Quinn said he needs to regain his confidence after what happened last year. #NYR— Brett Cyrgalis (@BrettCyrgalis) October 9, 2018
Look away, Rangers fans.— NHL on NBC (@NHLonNBCSports) October 11, 2018
Kevin Shattenkirk is set to be a healthy scratch. @TSNBobMcKenzie has the scoop! pic.twitter.com/K1vbRBmz0Y
Having zero points is a bad place to be in for an offensive defender, but the results will come as he continues to keep plugging away. He owns a Rel CF% of 2.58, a Rel xGF% of 1.82, and a PDO of 88.46. Dropping seven spots may seem dramatic, but it is a combination of other players being better and him simply not having the results the coaching staff is looking for.
Mika Zibanejad hasn’t had the start he’s wanted, but has time to get things back on track. He has a Rel CF% of 5.06, but his Rel GF% (-12.5) and Rel xGF% (-13.22) are ugly. He was originally No. 1 on the list and a number of other players moving up forced him to drop down. His goal vs. the Edmonton Oilers and chances late in the third period could be the start of him trending up, but the Rangers need more out of their No. 1 center.
Ryan Spooner — -6
Spooner hasn’t been great, and hasn’t had the success he saw with Hayes after joining the team at the trade deadline last season. Some of his underlying numbers (37.72 CF%, -9.34 Rel CF%) are pitiful, but others (61.11 Rel GF%, 55.58 xGF% and 10.38 Rel xGF%) are good. The biggest issue is his PDO of 107.69; it shows that he’s been very luck while on the ice while not having much of hand in his team’s success. It is early and the sample is small, but the Rangers could be banking on him having a decent year so they can flip him at the trade deadline. Signing him to a two-year deal was likely a way to entice teams in acquiring a relatively low costing player, assuming the Rangers retains 50% salary, for a playoff run and extra season. That plan won’t work if this level of play continues, but like I said it it is very early still.
Alexandar Georgiev, Chris Kreider and Vladislav Namestnikov — -5
Georgiev drops down because of everyone who moved up and because he had a rough first game of the season. He will bounce back, and there isn’t too much to be concerned about with him.
Chris Kreider drops down from No. 2 to No. 7 even though he has three points thus far. He is looked upon to be one of the Rangers’ more impactful players, but his results so far have been somewhat average. He’s had good games and bad games, and the underlying numbers are also average — this includes a Rel CF% of 1.68, a Rel GF% of -1.01, a xGF% of 38.29, and a Rel xGF% of -12.53. Kreider’s PDO is slightly off at 98.21, and it will be interesting to see if Quinn reunites the KZB line to try and give him a spark at some point.
Namestnikov has appeared in four of five games (healthy scratch vs. the Sabres) and is averaging 10:45 on the fourth line. His underlying numbers are great (53.57 CF%, 13.11 Rel CF%, 62.01 xGF%, 19.42 Rel xGF% and 97.5 PDO), but he’s not producing the numbers you see in the box score. His drop on the list is more so about players who jumped up the list, and not that he’s been absolute failure. He ultimately needs to produce. and personally it would make sense to switch him with Vesey and see if that can spark some change. He isn’t going to be the player he was with Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov, but by no means is he a fourth liner.
Neal Pionk — -3
Pionk, deserved or not, has been a healthy scratch the last two games. His performance hasn’t been great if you look at the underlying numbers, 36.17 CF%, -14.37 Rel CF%, 43.5 xGF%, and -7.77 Rel xGF%, but he’s also been chained to Marc Staal. This was the case last year, and is why Staal should be a healthy scratch for a few games so that Pionk can show what he’s truly capable of. If he were given an extended look away from Staal and put up similar numbers, it would be fair to say that he’s the problem and not his partner. But until Staal is scratched we wont know that.
The Rangers have two games this week, back-to-back, and each player will have the chance to improve their stock. It is hard when the sample size is so small, but as the season goes on trends will become more apparent and it will be easier to gauge how each player is performing.
Right now the team has a losing record, but the games have been pretty close for the most part. I think there could be a stretch in the season where they go on a bit of a run on the back of Lundqvist, but this is generally how the season should go given the talent on the roster. This is a year all about development, and there will be a balance of that along with trying to finish with a record that will enable the team to add another valuable piece via the draft that can play a big role once the Rangers are contenders.
Stats via Corsica and Hockey-Reference unless otherwise noted.