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Posted - 10/09/2014 :  17:43:39  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
This week, the Eastern Edge looks at some of the New York Rangers danger players.

I've seen the predictions for 38-year-old defenseman Dan Boyle range anywhere from between 25 and 35 points for the upcoming season. Last year, the old man recorded 12 goals, the 12th most amongst defensemen, and 36 points.

Clearly in the twilight of his career, Boyle's production has been trending downwards. In the lockout year, he was on exactly the pace he finished this past campaign with, 12 goals and 36 points. In the four preceding seasons, Boyle scored an average of 56 points while playing an average of 77.5 games per year.

What does all that mean today? No doubt he is on the downside of an excellent career, but sometimes change is good. A rejuvenated Boyle should slide in nicely on the Rangers top power play, opposite Ryan McDonagh. The power play was 15th in the league last year and Boyle may boost it to a top ten unit. I would count on Boyle to miss a handful of games while outscoring his age.

I'm sure Boyle will appreciate not being the oldest guy on the team. That honour goes to fellow greybeard, Martin St. Louis. The 39-year-old had a tumultuous season last year that included a much publicized rift with Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman over his place on the Canadian Olympic hockey team, culminating in a trade to New York last March.

Prior to the trade, Mad Marty had 61 points in 62 games with Tampa Bay. After the trade, he struggled and put up only eight points in 19 games with the Rangers, resulting in a 69 point campaign. It was only one season earlier that he led the entire league in scoring with 60 points in 48 games in the lockout shortened season. The year before that, he looked like he was on the downward slope, recording 74 points in 77 games after posting 94 and 99 point campaigns.

The knock on many small players is that they can't handle the physical play and abuse from the larger players (bullies). That hasn't really proven to be true in St. Louis' case. In the 11 seasons from 2002-03 until this past year, St. Louis had missed a grand total of seven games. He missed two games in 2005-06 due to a broken finger and five games in 2011-12 after taking a puck to the face in practice, sustaining facial and nasal fractures. That's pretty durable.

What can we expect from the two-time Art Ross Trophy winner this season? How about a slight resurgence to 75 points as he settles in to life in the Big Apple? Yeah, that sounds about right.

Another pint-sized player on the Rangers is Mats Zuccarello, who broke out in a big way last year, recording 19 goals and 59 points in 77 games. The petite Norwegian played with Metallurg Magnitogorsk of the KHL during the lockout and signed a contract late in March to finish the season with the Rangers, where he scored eight points in 15 games.

Zuccarello spent the vast majority of his even-strength ice time with Derick Brassard and Benoit Pouliot. The injury to Derek Stepan will wreak havoc with the top two lines, but one thing is certain, Zuccarello will get top six ice time and very likely top power play duties. The 27-year-old is on a one year contract and needs to prove that he can consistently put up points at this level. There is a possibility for regression here, but only to 50-55 points.

What to make of Rick Nash this season? He struggled much of last season, yet still finished with 26 goals in 65 games (33 goal pace). His first season with the Rangers was very solid, registering 21 goals and 42 points in 44 games during the lockout campaign. That pro-rates to a 39 goal, 78 point full season. A look via Frozen Pool shows that in the lockout season, he played with a combination of Marian Gaborik, Brad Richards, Carl Hagelin and Derek Stepan. Last year, he spent most of his even-strength shifts with Stepan and Chris Kreider, not exactly chopped liver.

I am leaning towards chalking last season up as just a bad year for Nash. He was dealing with returning from a concussion and may have been a little gun shy about taking the physical abuse necessary to get to the areas he needed to be in to score. He has noticeably reported to camp in excellent shape and if I'm a betting man, I think we see a return to 35 goals and at least 60 points.

Written by Russ Miller of www.dobberhockey.com

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