Rangers veteran finally earning his spot on the roster after early struggles

New York Rangers right wing Blake Wheeler (17) skates with the puck against the Toronto Maple Leafs during the second period at Madison Square Garden
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers recently signed veteran forward Blake Wheeler to a cheap one-year contract this past offseason. It appeared to be the steal of the summer for the Blueshirts, as the 37-year-old winger came with a deal worth less than $1 million with tremendous potential due to his solid performance last season.

Despite this potential, Wheeler had a rough start to his tenure in New York. He was skating slow, getting beat defensively, and not putting up any points in the offensive zone. Fans began to question his place on the Rangers’ roster, but he’s recently begun to prove his worth to the team.

Blake Wheeler has started to produce offensively

Perhaps the biggest disappointing statistic from Wheeler to begin the season was his lack of point production. It was predicted that he wouldn’t score as many as the 55 points he tallied last year, but expectations were still high for his first season with the Blueshirts. Wheeler was tested all throughout the lineup, but nothing seemed to help him score.

At this point of the season, Wheeler has finally started to score at a decent rate. He has seven points across his last six games played, a span in which the Rangers have played well with a winning record. It seems that Wheeler has finally woken up from his slump, and has quickly become a vital piece of the top six’s point production.

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Has Wheeler been the solution for the Rangers’ first line this whole time?

One of the main storylines throughout this season has been the Rangers’ search for a suitable first-line right winger. Many players were tested out alongside Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad, including Wheeler, but none of them seemed to be permanent solutions to the hole left in the lineup. This problem has caused many fans to cry out for a trade, but their wishes may have been a bit preemptive.

Now that Wheeler has begun to heat up, the first line is scoring at an elite rate. Zibanejad and Kreider have finally begun to produce points consistently, and Wheeler has been a major part of this success. If he is able to keep scoring at this rate for the remainder of the season, it’s possible that the Rangers have had the answer to their problems hidden in their lineup this entire time.