New York Rangers' 20-Game Grades: Forwards Edition
Yesterday, we gave you player grades for the defenseman and goalies on the New York Rangers. Today we will give you grades for all the forwards on the team.
Let me note before we get into the grades that all grades are based on the expectations of the player coming into the season. With that being said, here we go:
Marian Gaborik: The Rangers' sniper was coming off a down season last year in which he only managed 22 goals. Thus far in 20 games this season he already has 10. Gaborik has been dominant night in and night out for the Rangers and even when he isn't scoring goals he is still dangerous on the ice. Although he didn't work out with Brad Richards (a pairing that might be looked at again later in the season) he's still been very effective with both Derek Stepan and Artem Anisimov. A+
Brad Richards: The prize of last year's free agent class, Richards has been as advertised for the Rangers through the first quarter of the season. Remember that being a playmaker is one of the hardest positions to adjust to when you move to a new team, mainly because you need to learn the nuances of your new teammates. Richards has been getting stronger and stronger in each game, and has already come up with some huge goals. He's been as big as Gaborik has for the Rangers thus far, and he will only get better as he gets more comfortable with the team. A
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Ryan Callahan: The Rangers' captain shrugged off a slow start and is on pace for a career-best 32 goals. Obviously a lot can change over the next 62 games, but as of right now Callahan is continuing to prove that he's the real deal. His offense has erupted recently (two goals and five assists the past six games), while still doing everything a Ryan Callahan does. Not much more you can expect out of Callahan. A
Brandon Dubinsky: After inking a four-year pact this offseason the expectations for Dubinsky were high. Expecting him to turn into a point-per-game player, however, was way over the top. Still, the organization needs more then one goal in 20 games. Dubinsky hasn't been playing bad defense, and he does have nine assists (his career-best is 30 assists, he's currently on pace for 36). But the offense (read: goals) needs to start coming, as does his confidence. You can tell Dubinsky is off his game and down on himself, he needs to get back on his horse. C-
Derek Stepan: Last year's rookie sensation, Stepan was expected to take a bigger role on this team this year. He's currently playing first-line minutes, and has been successful with Anisimov and Gaborik. Stepan has done just about everything the team has expected and is truly growing into the players the Rangers saw in him when they drafted him. A-
Ruslan Fedotenko: The Rangers rewarded Fedotenko with a one-year contract this summer after a successful stint with the team last year. Thus far Fedotenko is proving Glen Sather right. Fedotenko has been one of the Rangers best forecheckers and has been a very effective penalty killer (averaging almost two minutes a night) and is contributing offensively where he is expected to. B+
Artem Anisimov: Anisimov is another player who was solid last year and was expected to grow this year. Anisimov is stapled on that first line with Gaborik and Stepan, and he's really been the glue of that trio. All season Anisimov has used his defense to help that line create offense, and he's added some points of his own. While his goal total (just two tallies in 20 games) is low, his 10 assists is best on the team. Aside form the goals, there's not much more you can ask for from Anisimov. A-
Brandon Prust: A fan favorite, Prust has been an important cog in the Rangers' system since Sather acquired him from Calgary for Chris Higgins and Ales Kotalik. According to Hockey Fights, Prust is third in the NHL with seven fights; but tends to drift from game to game. Still, when he's on his game he's an important piece of the puzzle, and he's improved of late. B-
Brian Boyle: After a 20-goal performance last season Boyle has only scored twice this year. Now that's a result of less ice time (he's down to 14:07 from 15:44 last year) and he's seeing an inflated rate of defensive zone starts. There are still games where you don't even know he's on the ice, however, and the offense just hasn't come yet. C-
Andre Deveaux: Nine games with just one assist, although Deveaux obviously wasn't brought up to score goals. Deveaux served his purpose the first few games, but started to play invisible hockey towards the end. He also got suspended for three games. I doubt we see him back up with the club. D+/C-
Eric Christensen: Christensen originally made the team over Sean Avery for both cap reasons and assumptions that he brought more to the table offensively. There are games where you think Christensen can be a 20-goal scorer, and sometimes he dishes the puck with such percision you need to pick your jaw up off the floor. But those events are far and few between, and in 16 games this season he has just four points. More often than not, you don't even know he's on the ice. D-
Sean Avery: I was one of the many who believed that once the Rangers sent Avery to Connecticut this offseason he was never coming back. But he is back in New York and has played in nine games this year, scoring two goals. Avery has been on and off but has never been awful. He's starting to find his groove again, but needs to make sure he keeps drawing penalties and not taking them. B-
Mike Rupp: Only played in seven games before getting injured and hasn't seen the ice since. The Rangers expect Rupp to do good things when he returns but the first seven games he was here he didn't do much (aside from pot a game-winning goal). Still, it's tough to grade a new player in a new system off of seven games. Imagine some of the Rangers grades after seven games. INC
Wojtek Wolski: Another player bitten by the injury bug, Wolski has only played in six games this year. He's also been underwhelming in those six games, only putting together one two-assist effort. The Rangers should be upset they haven't been able to get him onto the ice, but like Rupp, there's just not enough evidence to grade him on. INC
Carl Hagelin, John Mitchell, Matts Zuccarello, Kris Newbury won't be graded at all due to lack of games.