Stock Going Way Up
Kaapo Kakko — So much was the hype on our Sweet Finnish Boy that I legitimately said to myself “wait who is 10?” when Panarin first hit the ice. I’ve been around for the signings of guys like Marian Gaborik, Chris Drury, Scott Gomez, and Brad Richards. I’ve been around for the trades of Rick Nash and Keith Yandle. I’ve never experienced a moment like the anticipation for Kakko all while telling yourself the kid is still two years away from twenty.
Kakko immediately did Kakko things. He played the half boards on the power play — I already compared his style to Jaromir Jagr without comparing the talent, so this felt like a nod from the Hockey Gods — and he moved the puck like a seasoned veteran. He finished the game with a secondary assist, four shots on goal, and a hit in nearly 21 minutes. He also hit the post, had three setups that should have led to primary assists, and just looked like he belonged. The play moved fluidly when the puck was on his stick, and his vision/ability to get the puck to where he wants is crazy to think about when you remember the kid scored 22 goals in 45 Liiga games.
I know that I’ve written gushing reviews about other top prospects in years past in a similar fashion. This is so much different, though. Kakko is so much different, though. Wednesday night was not some anomaly, it was not a “boy if he keeps this up he might make the team out of camp,” it was a true, realistic realization that the Rangers have a player who is projected to be a star — who some projected to be the best pick in the draft — who already has NHL size, just dominated Liiga in unprecedented fashion, won three gold medals for his country, and is ours well before he even hits his prime. Evenw ith the understanding that this year poses a learning curve, and 45 points would be a fantastic season, if Kakko doesn’t give you tingles I don’t know what will.
Artemiy Panarin — Yes, add the “y” — we confirmed it.
Panarin was every bit the player the Rangers expected when he hit the ice, scoring a goal that will likely end up on one of the hype videos of himself that he loves to post. According to John Giannone between the benches Wednesday after Panarin’s goal all Chris Kreider could do was stare and go “wow.” Us too, buddy. Kakko took the puck on the half boards, saw nothing, moved down low to open the lane to the point, fed the puck to Trouba, who fed it to Panarin, who just let the dang thing rip from the Zibanejad office.
The Rangers’ power play looked downright lethal all night, even though that was the only goal the man advantage group connected on.
He ended up missing half the game with a mild groin strain. According to the media David Quinn didn’t seem overly concerned about it so we won’t be either.
Adam Fox — Fox played over 24 minutes, saw 3:15 on the power play, and wasn’t noticeable all that much. That’s a compliment, by the way. When you did notice Fox it was normally a really smart pinch, or a breakout pass, and his time on the power play — especially at the end of the game with Panarin out — saw him move the puck really well too.
There were concerns about Fox making the instant jump from NCAA to the NHL — yes, even with his Traverse City performance — but if a single preseason game is any true indication (sort of, not really) he didn’t look out of place at all. There will be lumps, and Fox would actually benefit from having Tony DeAngelo back in the lineup since it adds another scoring defenseman who can take some of that pressure off of him. Fox still showed those flashes of a defenseman who can move the puck really well, and you can see the wheels churning when he has it on his stick. I’m really looking forward to him growing into this league.
As of right now, we’re not sure what the defensive group is going to look like — with or without DeAngelo. Fox would want to avoid the Marc Staal pairing, but who knows what Quinn is thinking. That said, game one was a great look for the young defenseman.
Igor Shesterkin — Shesterkin really has the most to gain or lose out of this article of players, since his role on the team is the one everyone expects to not be there right away. Alexandar Georgiev didn’t have a bad game, but Shesterkin looked far more comfortable, made two spectacular saves — one right after he popped into the game — and seemed as poised as you would expect for a guy with all that KHL experience.
Shesterkin is an unorthodox goalie, who is super athletic, and maybe not the best at the fundamentals the way Lundqvist is. Which is why you’ll probably see more of those saves from him like the one where he had to dive backwards to keep the puck out of the net, or some saves where he looks way out of position but uses his athleticism to keep the puck out of the net. You just need to get used to the heart palpitations with him, I’d bet.
Stock Going Up
Jacob Trouba — Trouba had a couple of missed low reads — one of which turned into a goal against — but was otherwise exactly what was expected. He’s got a cannon from the point, moved the puck well on the man advantage too. He’s got a snarl to his game Quinn is going to love, and he can soak up minutes on all sides of the ice. I think it would be good to avoid him leading the defensive corps in ice time at evens, man advantage, and penalty kill — like he did Wednesday night — but we’ll see what comes of that.
Vitali Kravtsov — Kravtsov had an assist, but generated chances all night long. He had two near breakaways — one shot was saved, the other he tried to go through the legs and lost the puck — but was around the net all night. He had an assist on the Andersson goal too.
Lias Andersson — I thought Andersson looked really good even before his goal. The caviat is he looked really good as a desensive center. That’s not a knock on him at all. He came all the way back to break up what would have been a very good goal scoring chance. He played 18 minutes, had three shots, and saw time on the power play and the penalty kill. If Andersson turns into a solid 3C who can play at both ends of the ice I think we’ll all be very happy.
Chris Kreider — They talked about Kreider being in a leadership role all night, which is sort of expected but also kind of odd since, you know, Kreider might not be here come February. Kreider wasn’t with the top line until Panarin got hurt, but obviously looked like Kreider. Not much more on him.
Mika Zibanejad — Same here. Zibanejad was Zibanejad. I think he’s going to love having Panarin on his wing. Also, he’s got to be the captain, right? Especially with the way MSG is promoting him these days.
Stock Is Up But It Probably Doesn’t Matter
Micheal Haley — He played six minutes but scored a goal.
Greg McKegg — The hope if McKegg is fodder for the AHL, but he looked noticeable across the ice last night and Quinn gave him 18 minutes — so he obviously wanted to see what was there.
Stock Is Ehhhhh
Alexandar Georgiev — Not sure you can blame all that much on Georgiev, who gave up three goals on 11 shots. The Rangers did a wonderful recap of last year’s nonsense giving up a goal both 37-seconds into the period and with four seconds left in the period while Georgiev was between the pipes.
I like Georgiev a lot, but I have a funny feeling Shesterkin is going to shake things up quicker than people think.