Head coach Gerard Gallant believes his New York Rangers team enter 2022/23 with a legitimate chance of winning the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1994.
The Rangers finished last season with a 52-24-6 record and 110 points which ranked second in the Metropolitan Division.
In the playoffs they held a 2-0 series lead against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Finals before the defending champions turned it around, but overall the season gave them plenty of reason for optimism.
|What||NHL Season 2022/23|
|Where||USA and Canada|
|When||7th October 2022 - June 2023|
|How to watch||Premier Sports & bet365's Sports Live Streaming|
COL Avalanche +425, TOR Maple Leafs +800, FLA Panthers +900, TB Lightning +1000, CAR Hurricanes +1100
Gallant's confidence begins with netminder Igor Shesterkin, who won the Vezina Trophy as the league's best goalie in 2021/22. The 26-year-old received 29 of 32 first-place votes after going 36-13-4 in 53 games and leading the NHL with a .935 save percentage and 2.07 goals-against average (GAA).
Shesterkin was third in voting for the Hart Trophy, which goes to the NHL's most valuable player.
In the playoffs he won 10 of 20 games registering a .929 save percentage and 2.59 GAA.
New York can also expect significant contributions from several other star players. Chris Kreider scored 52 goals last season, which ranked third in the league, while Artemi Panarin registered 74 assists which was fourth overall in the NHL.
Former Norris Trophy winner Adam Fox scored 74 points from the blue-line (11 goals, 63 assists) proving again to be one of the most dynamic players in the league.
Gallant stumbled on a combination which found instant chemistry in the playoffs, affectionately labelled the 'Kid Line'.
Featuring Alexis Lafreniere, 20, Kaapo Kakko, 21, and Filip Chytil, 23, the trio combined for 23 points in the post season (11 goals, 12 assists) and are expected to line-up together for season start in 2022/23.
All three were high draft picks of the Rangers between 2017 and 2020 and their emergence provides New York with an impressive amount of scoring depth under Kreider, Panarin, Mika Zibanejad and the newly-acquired Vincent Trocheck.
Zibanejad had 81 points (29 goals, 52 assists) in the regular season and then led the Rangers in the playoffs with 24 points (10 goals, 14 assists).
The Rangers lost Ryan Strome to the Anaheim Ducks in free agency, but more than made up for his departure capturing Trochek, who had 51 points (21 goals, 30 assists) in 81 games last season with the Carolina Hurricanes, on a seven-year, $39million contract.
Strome, also 29, had 21 goals, 33 assists for 54 points in 74 games. In the playoffs he contributed nine points (two goals, seven assists) in 19 games, being outperformed by his replacement Trocheck who scored 10 points (six goals, four assists) in 14 games for the Hurricanes.
New York enjoyed the second-best defensive record in the NHL last season, conceding 207 goals (2.52 goals per-game) which contributed to a +47 goal-differential, 9th in the NHL.
The Rangers' top two defence pairs are set with new Captain Jacob Trouba expected to reunite with K'Andre Miller and Ryan Lindgren back with the aforementioned Fox.
Braden Schneider, 21, established himself as a top-six NHL defenceman last season as a rookie, and there is much competition for the final spot, with Zac Jones (21), Nils Lundkvist (22), Libor Hajek (24) and Matthew Robertson (21) all hoping to earn their place on the roster.
Back-up netminder Alexander Georgiev was traded to the Stanley Cup Champion Colorado Avalanche following the season, prompting the Rangers to search for a new partner to Shesterkin.
In a crowded goalie marker, New York were able to add a very stable option in 37-year-old Jaroslav Halak, who signed a one-year deal to join from the Vancouver Canucks.
While in the twilight of his career, Halak performed well when called upon by the Canucks last season, posting a .903 save percentage and 2.94 GAA. His career save-percentage is a solid .916 and GAA 2.49.
Halak has also performed well in the playoffs with a .919 save percentage and 2.48 GAA in 39 appearances.
Adding to the Rangers goalie depth is Louis Domingue who signed from the Pittsburgh Penguins on a two-year $775k contract. The 30-year-old owns a respectable .905 save-percentage over 142 NHL regular season games and is .902 in seven playoff appearances.
Few teams have the luxury of such depth in net, a statement which can also be made towards the Rangers' defence and forward group.
With a new-found confidence from an excellent 2021/22season, Rangers will not only expect to qualify for the post-season again, but will be disappointed if they aren't major challengers again.