Better Know a Ranger: Right Wingers

September 17th, 2015 at 6:00 am by Derek

The August doldrums are over, and training camp is just around the corner. To get you primed for a season that will take another two or three years off of your life, we’re doing position-by-position breakdowns of the Rangers’ roster. These opinions are trash so please disregard them immediately after reading.

Mats Zuccarello #36
Vital Info
Age: 28
2014-15 stats: 78GP, 15G, 34A, +4.2 Corsi% rel
Contract: 4 years, $18M ($4.5M AAV through 2018-19, UFA)
What he wants to be when he grows up: Firefighter

2014-15 Season Recap
After a breakout season in 2013-14 during which he led the Eastern Conference champs in scoring, expectations were high for everyone’s favorite Norwegian heading into 2014-15. However, Zuccarello’s goal and assist totals both dropped, leaving fans wondering what happened. The issue wasn’t at even strength, where his goal and assist rates were virtually identical in both years (0.8G/60, 1.4A/60). The issue came on the power play, where Zuccarello struggled mightily for the whole season. After putting up 4 goals and 13 assists at a robust 5.2P/60 in 2013-14, he scored zero goals and had a paltry 5 assists at a rate of 2.1P/60 on the power play last season. The Rangers’ scoring chance generation went from 52.5 per 60 to 40.4 with Zuccarello on the ice between 2013-14 and 2014-15. I’m not sure what changed tactically that caused such a large drop in scoring chance rate, but hopefully AV and Scott Arniel can get it figured out. Zuccarello’s playoffs were cut short after he took a puck to the head in the Penguins series, suffering a fractured skull that made him temporarily lose his ability to speak. Thankfully, he’s back at 100% and presumably ready to have his height mentioned on every opponent’s broadcast this season (hey did you know that Mats Zuccarello is only 5’7″???)

2015-16 Season Outlook
Zuccarello should play with his usual mates Brassard and Nash again this season. Those three had some killer chemistry last season, as evidenced by the following goal, which is pure, uncut sex:

Sweet, merciful tits, what a play. Good luck defending against that, NHL teams! This should be another big season for Zuccarello. 17 goals, 38 assists.

Relevant GIF
zukebrasshug
(via GIF Goldmine)

This was a fun game from the first month of the season. The Rangers scored five (5!!) goals in the third period after going down 3-0 and 4-2 to beat the Wild 5-4. Anthony Duclair (we hardly knew ye) tied the game with less than four minutes to go, and Zuccarello scored the winner 37 seconds later. It was a good goal, but the jump-hug with Brassard that followed was A+. Just two bros happy to be playing hockey and scoring daggers together. I’d like to think that Brass and Zuke are normal dudes who do normal dude stuff together, like going to Target and talking to ladies at bars. They’re everyday fellas just like you and me, except for the fact that they’re multimillionaires engineered to perform incredible athletic feats on ice skates.

Kevin Hayes #13
Vital Info
Age: 23
2014-15 stats: 79GP, 17G, 28A, +1.9 Corsi% rel
Contract: 2 years, $7.5M ($900K AAV + bonuses through 2015-16, RFA)
What he wants to be when he grows up: Astronaut

2014-15 Season Recap
I know, I know, Hayes spent most of last year playing center, and we don’t have any indication yet that he’ll be changing positions this year. However, he’s listed as a right wing on the Rangers’ website, and JT Miller is listed as a center, so that’s where I’m putting them. These are my season previews, damn it, and I will categorize players as I please. If you’re so high and mighty with your knowledge of player positions, you can start your own Rangers blog and talk about them! *breathes heavily* Uhhh, Hayes was pretty good last year, so thanks for having outrageously good forward depth which made you unable to sign him, Chicago!

2015-16 Season Outlook
So yeah, maybe Hayes is on the right wing this year, or maybe he stays at center. With the loss of Martin St. Louis to retirement, the Rangers are short a top-six right winger. JT Miller could be an option there, as he spent some time at right wing last season, but I think Hayes makes a more natural fit. His offensive ceiling is higher than Miller’s, and it would get Sam and Joe to shut up about faceoffs already (Big Kev wasn’t very good at them last year, you see). Hayes should be a key component of the Rangers’ success this season whether it be as a top-six winger or third line center. 14 goals, 27 assists.

Relevant GIF
HayesIslanders
(via @AGretz)

Say, that was a pretty nice individual effort there. Remember when Islanders fans were chanting “you can’t beat us”? Well guess what, dorks? We got the last laugh, because these are your new jerseys and they are a pile of diarrhea-trash so offensive that they made John Tavares a terribly sad man:

Tavaresblackjersey

He may be breathing and his heart may be beating, but that is the look of a man who has lost the will to live. Also, did the photographer not mention to him that he had some hair sticking up in the back? Somebody get this poor guy a comb.

Emerson Etem #96
Vital Info
Age: 23
2014-15 stats: 45GP, 5G, 5A, +2.8 Corsi% rel (with Anaheim)
Contract: 1 year, $850K (through 2015-16, RFA)
What he wants to be when he grows up: Assistant manager at Strickland Propane

2014-15 Season Recap
I’ve got to be honest, I watched maybe half a dozen Ducks games last year and didn’t take any notice of Emerson Etem. A five-second look at his HockeyDB page shows that he absolutely tears it up in the AHL, but hasn’t been able to replicate that scoring touch in the show. He split last season between Norfolk and Anaheim, getting mostly fourth line minutes (or healthy scratched) with the Ducks. He’s spent parts of three seasons with Anaheim and hasn’t done better than 11 points in any of them. On the surface, it seems like a no-brainer for them to have included him in a package for Carl Hagelin. They had the cap space to spare and needed established NHLers more than slowly-developing prospects to compete in the West.

2015-16 Season Outlook
I’m cautiously optimistic about Etem, though. He’s still fairly young at 23 and hasn’t been trusted with full-time NHL minutes yet. He’s clearly got skill, as evidenced by his point-per-game scoring in the AHL. Sure, he could be one of those guys who can dominate the A but never put it all together in the NHL (think Keith Aucoin and Jason Krog), but it’s still early enough in his career that the right coach and system could help him break out. Best case scenario: he turns into a top-six scorer. Worst case: he’s the new press box attendant at MSG (i.e. Petr Prucha’s old job). I see him getting scratched for Tanner Glass on more than one occasion, so we’ll say 10 goals and 13 assists in somewhat limited action.

Relevant GIF
EtemGoal(via UnknownPenguins)

Skill like that is what makes Etem such an intriguing player. If he can somehow find a way to do that more often, everything will be A-OK for him in New York. No pressure, my man! How do you think Jacob Trouba is doing now after getting totally pantsed in front of God and country in an elimination game? Should we send him a sympathy card? I know it’s probably too late now, since that game happened almost five months ago, but it’s the thought that counts here.

Jesper Fast #19
Vital Info
Age: 23
2014-15 stats: 58GP, 6G, 8A, +0.9 Corsi% rel
Contract: 2 years, $1.9M ($950K AAV through 2016-17, RFA)
What he wants to be when he grows up: Mall Santa

2014-15 Season Recap
Fast had a pretty solid season with the Rangers after a bit of time in Hartford at the beginning of the year. He was a staple in the bottom six and penalty kill, and everyone seemed to like him pretty well. I think he’s actually the reincarnation of Fredrik Sjostrom. Remember Freddie the Shoe? He came over to the Rangers in a trade with Phoenix (ed. note: the original version of this post made mention of the wrong trade. Sorry for being dumb.), played on the fourth line for a bit, and then left. You know, your generic fourth liner who’s got a bit of speed and skill, but not enough to make a big impact? Jesper Fast is pretty much the same guy, and he’s Swedish too. This can’t be a simple coincidence. Are we sure Sjostrom isn’t back to relive some of the magic of his NHL career? #STAYWOKE

2015-16 Season Outlook
Fast will probably be asked to take up a bigger role on the penalty kill after the departure of the trusty Carl Hagelin. I’m cool with that; his shot suppression numbers were pretty solid last year. While he did get a bit of time on the top two lines late in the season and in the playoffs, I don’t see him getting more than spot duty there this year. He should be a valuable 3rd/4th liner and PKer that everyone adores more than they should. 8 goals, 8 assists.

Relevant GIF
fastflop
(via 25Stanley)

Dawg. Dawg. How are hockey fans supposed to claim superiority over basketball and soccer fans if their favorite players take outrageous dives? The #pleaselikemysport movement is being RIDICULED because of plays like this, Jesper. Maybe in Sweden you can fall flat on your back like Charlie Brown after that slimy worm Lucy pulls the football away from you (go climb into that tree that eats kites, you hag). But this is America, and in America, you stay on your feet and then punch that guy right in the face. *unironically plays God Bless the USA by Lee Greenwood*

Next up on Better Know a Ranger: centers.

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