The New York Rangers are in an interesting situation as they enter the 2023-24 season. Many of last season’s key contributors have moved on in free agency, and it is now up to some of the young talent on the roster to step up and make an impact. Three young players stand out as they could have breakout campaigns this upcoming season.
Kaapo Kakko is an emerging star
Kaapo Kakko is primed for a breakout. The 2019 second-overall pick has been primarily viewed as a disappointment through the beginning of his career, but he made massive strides during the 2022-23 season.
The Finland native played in all 82 games, scoring 18 goals while having 22 assists and a +12 plus/minus, all of which were career highs. Additionally, the 22-year-old has improved in aspects not seen on the stat sheet, such as being able to dump and cycle the puck in the offensive zone and applying pressure to opposing defenders when the puck is in the Rangers zone.
Kakko’s improved overall game, alongside the expected top-six minutes on a line with Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider, should lead to the breakout season that fans of the Blueshirts have been clamoring for.
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The Rangers need a breakout on the defensive end
Rangers 2020 first-round pick Braden Schneider made quite the impact in his first full NHL season, but he may just be scratching the surface.
In 81 games last season, Schneider scored five goals and had 13 assists while being a plus-nine. The 21-year-old mainly contributed defensively last year with 130 blocks and 141 hits but does have some offensive ability that he displayed in Juniors.
Schneider should improve playing with new linemate Erik Gustafsson and break as a two-way defenseman by putting up over 30 points while having a positive plus/minus.
The next kid in line to breakout
The center of the Rangers’ kid line Filip Chytil captured fans’ hearts during the 2022 playoffs and has since made massive strides during the 2022-23 campaign.
Chytil played in 74 games, scoring 23 goals while having 22 assists and a +15 plus/minus, all of which were career highs. The Czech Republic native became a much better finisher last season, scoring 12.4% of his shots, the highest total of his career.
The 24-year-old will likely start this season on the third line, but his combination of speed, size, and a fantastic shot could lead to him jumping Vincent Trochek and becoming the second-line center. If that happens, the sky’s the limit for the Czech Republic native.