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SportsColumnistsSteve Zipay

Many Rangers trending up, especially star player Rick Nash

The New York Rangers' Rick Nash, center, celebrates

The New York Rangers' Rick Nash, center, celebrates his goal with teammates J.T. Miller, left, and Mats Zuccarello during the first period of an NHL game against the Calgary Flames in Calgary, Alberta, Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2014. Photo Credit: AP / Jeff McIntosh

Ten games aren't enough, nor 20. But the first 32 games of the season provide enough of a platform to begin separating the wheat from the chaff on the Rangers roster. Some players are trending up, others down. Some are flatlining. Others, due to injuries, haven't played enough.

I generally don't vote on the three stars at the end of home games. But here's a post-Christmas report on the body of work so far, the star-worthy, the strugglers and the surprises.


Just one: Rick Nash. Consistently carrying the offense, using his size and speed for clutch goals, playing on the penalty kill, doing everything you'd want a star player to provide. Not sure where the Rangers would be without him. Nash entered Saturday night second in the league in goals with 23, two behind Dallas' Tyler Seguin.


Derick Brassard. The smooth center is leading the team in assists, second in points, and on pace for his most productive season. Should shoot more, but likely to post 50-60 points.

Derek Stepan. Missed the first 12 games with a broken fibula, but returned to the No. 1 center role with 19 points in 20 games. Sublime passer and key righthanded shot on power play.

Kevin Klein. His career-high seven goals are only part of the reason he's in this company. Defensemen played increased minutes when injuries sidelined Ryan McDonagh and Dan Boyle. He stands up for his teammates and is a plus-13.

Martin St. Louis. Was willing to play center in Stepan's absence, and once he returned to right wing, where he's played his entire career, produced at accustomed pace. Now 39, will probably score 25 goals and deserve another one-year contract.

Henrik Lundqvist. For the second season in a row, a rocky start. But has steadily gained confidence and in his recent six-game winning streak posted a 1.93 GAA and .938 save percentage.

Dan Girardi. Leads team in average ice-time, blocked shots and hits. Played more than 30 minutes in three straight games in early November. Warrior.


Mats Zuccarello. He still is trying to shake off a slow start -- he had eight points his last seven games -- plus he is rediscovering his touch in shootouts.

Kevin Hayes.The Big Wolf from Boston College can hang onto the puck (sometimes to a fault) and is anxious to go to the net, but hasn't been able to finish. As a rookie, not adept on faceoffs, and might be more suited to wing. Wants to learn and will improve.

Marc Staal. Leads team in takeaways, stepping up into the play more, adjusting to playing with veteran Dan Boyle. Deserves to be re-signed. Wonder if impending free agency is on his mind.


Chris Kreider. much more than expected. Strong as ever, but still some gaps in his game. Some unnecessary penalties and having only five goals is an issue.

Carl Hagelin. When he uses his blazing speed, can be very disruptive. Seven goals, but only two in last 12, and both were empty-netters. Adjusting to shifting trio on third line.

Lee Stempniak. Veteran who may be better suited as a fourth-liner. Seems a step behind at times in up-tempo games. Righthanded shot gives him value on No. 2 power-play unit.


Tanner Glass. Fourth-liner keeps teams honest, the Rangers' only enforcer.

Dom Moore. Veteran wins faceoffs, and like Glass and Fast, valuable on penalty kill.

Jesper Fast. Defensively savvy, should improve.

Cam Talbot. Three shutouts so far as Lundqvist's backup and a 2.02 GAA. This month's one-year contract extension was certainly earned.


Ryan McDonagh. Separated shoulder sidelined him early. Showing flashes recently of team MVP form. Will be a major factor in second half.

Dan Boyle. Was acquired to quarterback the power play, but broken hand and flu undermined his start. At 38, he seems to have lost his fastball. Need more offensively from him in the next few months.


J.T. Miller. Has looked like a more assertive, determined player with four goals in 10 games since he was recalled from Hartford.

Matt Hunwick. The 29-year-old, who signed as a free agent, nudged John Moore out of the sixth spot on the d-man ladder.

John Moore. See above. Has the tools, but maybe not the makeup. Still has time to prove himself.


Four Rangers, who are on three teams -- Canada, U.S. and Russia -- are skating in the World Junior Tournament in Canada. Both the Russia-Slovakia (5 p.m.) and U.S.-Germany (8 p.m.) preliminary round games will be carried todaySunday on NHL Network. Top match coming up? U.S.-Canada, New Year's Eve, 4 p.m., also is on NHL Network.

1. Anthony Duclair. The right wing had a goal and assist in Team Canada's opener. Duclair who scored 50 goals in juniors last season, collected seven points in 18 games for the Rangers before being loaned to Canada.

2. Pavel Buchnevich. Like Duclair, a third-round draft pick, but in 2013, is a top player for the Russian team. He's 19 and had 21 points in KHL. Didn't score in tournament opener.

3. Brandon Halverson. Michigan-born backup goalie for Team USA, was second-rounder in 2014 draft. He had 16-3-2, with a 2.93 GAA and .908 save percentage for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the OHL.

4. Igor Shesterkin. Backup goalie for Team Russia, fourth-rounder in 2014, did not play in the team's opener. The 18-year-old appeared in one game for St. Petersburg in the KHL this season, made 19 saves, allowed two goals and got the win.


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