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Fantasy Hockey: Relevant Rangers Pt.1

Is this real life, or is this just fantasy?

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Boston Bruins v New York Rangers Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The NHL preseason is nearly here, which means the beginning of the 2019-20 fantasy hockey season is upon us. By now you’ve probably finished your fantasy football draft(s) and are now turning your attention to the ice. Last year, the Rangers weren’t exactly a sexy team in regards to the fantasy value of their players. But thanks to a few blockbuster additions to the roster this summer, the 2019-20 iteration of the Blueshirts could be very different.

Here is the first part of our guide to the Rangers most fantasy relevant players for the 2019-20 season.


Artemi Panarin

Yahoo! ADP: 17.4 | FantasyPros ADP: 37.6

The Rangers don’t have any players who should be going in the first round of your fantasy draft, but there is definitely a case to be made for Panarin going in the second.

Jeff Gorton gave Panarin a contract with the second-biggest AAV in the league because he’s going to spearhead the Rangers offense for the better part of the next decade. That means he’s going to get a lot of power play time, and there’s good reason to believe he is going to make sweet music with Mika Zibanejad on the man advantage.

The Russian winger has notched 169 points over the last two seasons in Columbus, which puts him in the Top-10 in scoring among wingers during that period. So, it’s safe to say that anything less than 80 points from him this year would be underwhelming. For what it’s worth, Yahoo! projects him to post 85 points in his first season with the Rangers. With that being said, if he isn’t scoring, Panarin can’t offer any value with hits or blocked shots — if your league cares about those stats.

Last season, Panarin’s fantasy rank slipped from where it was at the end of the 2017-18 campaign as a result of him taking 30 fewer shots, along with a dip in his plus-minus. Still, the Rangers’ biggest offseason addition is one of the best left wingers you can grab on draft day. Remember, in fantasy hockey you aren’t drafting players based on their perceived value to their team; you’re drafting them based on their projected boxcar stats.

Unfortunately, Panarin is probably going to be drafted ahead of where he should due to all of the hype. As things currently stand, he’s the fourth left winger off the board in Yahoo! drafts, ahead of names like Johnny Gaudreau and Timo Meier. So, it’ll be tough to end up with Panarin on your team without taking him slightly ahead of where he “should” go, but it’s hard to feel bad about taking a winger who is good for 80 points.

Mika Zibanejad

Yahoo! ADP: 80.3 | FantasyPros ADP: 156.2

It’s no secret that — generally speaking — centers have more value than wingers in fantasy leagues with standard scoring categories. Unsurprisingly, if your league cares about faceoffs, then they will have even more value. However, it’s not a bad idea to wait on centers so that you can prioritize elite d-men and goaltenders, who are far more rare than valuable pivots. This year, Zibanejad is a center you can grab after the first few rounds and feel really good about.

Did you know that Zibanejad was a more valuable player than Panarin in leagues with standard scoring categories last year? The Swedish center was a Top-50 fantasy player despite being a minus-12. Although last season was the first time Zibanejad cracked 30 goals in his career, it’s not unreasonable to think he could approach or even eclipse 40 this year with Panarin on his wing. He certainly shoots enough to make it happen.

He’s a big power play threat, the undisputed first line center of a team that should have a productive top trio, and is in the prime of his career. Zibanejad’s name should be circled on your cheat sheet, especially if your heart has any influence over your picks.

Kaapo Kakko

Yahoo! ADP: 113 | FantasyPros ADP: n/a

Do you like to live dangerously? If so, taking Kakko — who is listed as a RW by Yahoo! — sometime after the first 100 picks of your draft have been made is definitely something you can do. But should you do it?

Consider the fact that Only four wingers — Clayton Keller, Patrik Laine, William Nylander, and Mitch Marner — have cracked the 60-point mark as rookies over the past three seasons. Then again, we also need to consider the fact that Kakko looked right at home playing against men at the 2019 Worlds and in Liiga last season. This kid is definitely the real deal.

St. Louis Blues v Winnipeg Jets - Game One Getty Images

Back in June, NHL.com’s Rob Reese projected that Kakko could finish the year with 30 goals and 60 points and that was before Panarin was in the mix. Rob believes that Kakko has the potential to match the impact that Laine had in his rookie season when he scored 36 goals and 64 points with the Winnipeg Jets. Now that, my friends, is what we call hype. Even if he isn’t on the top line, the Rangers’ top pick of the 2019 Draft will have Chris Kreider as a linemate. All things considered, that’s a pretty good consolation prize for Kakko.

Kreider is a rare winger who has the talent to drive a line, so Kakko could definitely do worse in regards to his opposite winger. Even if it’s uncertain who the Rangers’ second line center will be at this juncture, playing away from Panarin and Zibanejad would also mean easier sledding for the rookie winger. With all of the attention on Panarin and Zibanejad, Kakko and Kreider could feast on lesser competition, assuming that David Quinn finds the right center for them.

There are definitely safer plays than drafting Kakko where he is going right now. But it’s a hard pick to beat in terms of its potential for fun and for upside. After all, this is a Calder candidate we’re talking about.

Roll those dice.