Rangers: Two players who might regress in 2023-24

Rangers, New York Rangers, Artemi Panarin

Although the New York Rangers are a highly skilled team with the potential to make a deep run for the Stanley Cup, many of their star players are beginning to grow out of their prime years. The upcoming 2023-24 season should be another promising campaign for the Rangers, but there might be the initial signs of regression shown by their top players.

The Rangers’ top scorer may carry playoff struggles into the regular season

Artemi Panarin has been the most productive forward on the Rangers in recent years, scoring 341 points in 268 games, but the 2023 postseason was unforgiving to the Russian superstar. After collecting two assists in game one against the New Jersey Devils, Panarin went scoreless for the remaining six games of the Rangers’ playoff run.

The 2023 regular season saw Panarin go over a point per game, with 92 total points, but everything seemed to collapse once the postseason began.

The cause of this major downfall seemed to stem from Panarin’s lack of confidence. Once he was shut down, he was never able to regain his pace and get back on the scoresheet. Although the 2023-24 season is a blank slate for Panarin, it is possible that his emotions may get the better of him once again.

After scoring those 92 points in 2023, a regression is certainly possible this upcoming season. Panarin is officially over halfway through his seven-year contract with the Rangers, and he’s beginning to reach the tail end of his career. At 31 years old, it’s not likely that his age will cause a major regression, but the early signs may begin to show.

New head coach Peter Laviolette will attempt to implement a system to help Panarin get over his past failures and hit the ground running this season. An early hot start is essential to the Rangers’ season, and Panarin must be the catalyst. While Panarin has the opportunity to produce another positive point-per-game season, there is also the chance that he falls down to the 80 or 70-point range.

An aging Blake Wheeler may continue a steep decline in point production

Perhaps the biggest offseason acquisition the Rangers made this year came in the form of signing free agent Blake Wheeler. With just a one-year deal coming at under one million average annual value, this signing is a very low risk-high reward deal for the Rangers.

Wheeler managed to tally 55 points last season with the Winnipeg Jets, and although that’s a pretty respectable point total for an NHL veteran, it’s nowhere near where Wheeler used to be in his prime.

Having just turned 37 years old this offseason, Wheeler is coming close to the end of his career. It’s possible that this one-year deal could be his final NHL season, but the Rangers may choose to keep him around if he has a spectacular bounce-back campaign. It will be interesting to see how Wheeler performs, however, as he’s been on a steep decline throughout the last few years.

Looking back at all of Wheeler’s career performances, his point totals gradually increased until he peaked with back-to-back 91-point seasons in 2017-18 and 2018-19. Ever since then, his point totals have slowly regressed (65, 46, 60, 55). Heading into a fresh start with the Rangers, there’s a chance that Wheeler can bounce back after being surrounded by elite talent.

It’s still unclear exactly where Wheeler will fill in on the roster, but the chances of him playing in the top six are almost certain. Wheeler’s age may very well cause an even further point regression in 2023-24, but the Rangers hope he can still be valuable in other aspects of the game.

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