Rangers: 3 underrated players with incredible starts to the season

New York Rangers defenseman Erik Gustafsson (56) at Madison Square Garden
Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers have exceeded expectations to begin the 2023-24 regular season. Fans knew the Blueshirts would be a playoff contender, but the Rangers’ dominant start through 12 games was unforeseen. The Rangers are currently fourth overall in the NHL and lead the Metropolitan Division by five points with one game in hand.

Many of the Rangers’ top stars are receiving the spotlight in this elite stretch of play to start the year. Artemi Panarin’s 13-game point streak has been a major talking point, as has the recent heroics of Vincent Trocheck. But the Blueshirts’ success has been a team effort overall, and there are a few underrated players who are not receiving the attention they deserve.

Lafreniere is showing why he deserves to be a member of the Rangers

Alexis Lafreniere had a pretty rough start to his NHL career. For a first-overall draft pick, Lafreniere was expected to enter the league and begin producing points immediately. Instead, he averaged pretty mediocre stat lines and did not produce anywhere else on the ice. But this season on the second line, Lafreniere has shown significant improvement.

Lafreniere currently sits at nine total points in 13 games played. The Rangers’ most recent victory came with a three-point night from Lafreniere, possibly his best-looking performance of the season. With point production finally beginning, the young star is finally proving why he deserves to be a member of this Ranger team.

Gustafsson seems to be the best offseason addition the Rangers made

When Rangers’ GM Chris Drury opted to sign defenseman Erik Gustafsson to a one-year contract this past summer, many heads turned with confusion. He had past experience with head coach Peter Laviolette, but other than that, Gustafsson didn’t really provide the type of play the Rangers needed.

Thirteen games deep into the season, fans are starting to realize just how valuable Gustafsson is. With Adam Fox out on the LTIR, Gustafsson has stepped up to fill the massive hole in the lineup. His defensive skills are flashing each game, as he flexes a current +6 rating. He also has recorded nine points so far, proving that he can be an offensive threat as well.

Miller is on pace for a career year

K’Andre Miller is another Rangers’ defenseman who has been excellent to begin the season. He received much criticism last year for being a forward stuck in a defensive role, but Miller has managed to flip the switch rapidly this year. He currently leads the Rangers in +/- ratings with a +7, showing that he and Jacob Trouba are stepping up as an elite defensive pairing.

Miller’s offensive abilities are also continuing to flourish. He only has seven points to start the season, but is on pace to break his personal season record of 43 last season. Other defensemen such as Adam Fox or Ryan Lindgren have been getting all the spotlight, but Miller definitely deserves more recognition.

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