Hartnett: 20 Most Underrated Rangers Of Past 20 Seasons

These Are Some Unsung Heroes Of Madison Square Garden

Sean Hartnett
March 25, 2020 - 1:35 pm
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Not every Ranger gets Broadway billing during their time at Madison Square Garden. Here’s a list of 20 underrated Rangers who probably deserved greater fanfare over the past 20 seasons.

1. Anton Stralman – Stralman’s dependability was overlooked until his role in the Blueshirts’ run to the 2014 Stanley Cup Final shined a light on his possession-dominant play and his ability to handle top matchups. The Rangers prioritized extending Dan Girardi that spring and signed veteran blue liner Dan Boyle when free agency opened, allowing Stralman to slip out the door to the Tampa Bay Lightning. His departure haunted the organization and fans for years to come, leaving everyone with a feeling of what-if.

Perhaps, Alain Vigneault’s Rangers could have captured the Stanley Cup had Stralman been retained. As a member of the Lightning, Stralman helped prevent the Blueshirts from making a repeat trip to the Stanley Cup Finals, as the Lightning eliminated the Rangers in Game 7 of the 2015 Eastern Conference Final.

2. Michael Nylander – The playmaking Swede centered a dominant line with Jaromir Jagr on his right and Martin Straka on his left, yet he’s probably the least talked about point per game player in Rangers’ history. Nylander recorded 162 points in 160 regular season games over two seasons, striking up a telepathic connection with Jagr.

Michael Nylander of the Rangers controls the puck as Jason Pominville #29 of the Buffalo Sabres defends during Game 1 of the 2007 Eastern Conference Semifinal game on April 25, 2007 at HSBC Arena in Buffalo, New York.
Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images

3. J.T. Miller – Never a favorite of Vigneault’s, Miller never fully gained AV’s trust. Regardless of whether you believe Vigneault’s tough love tactics stunted Miller’s early development or paid off in his long-term growth, the Rangers could have opted to take a patient approach. Miller was included in the one-sided 2018 trade deadline swap that sent him and Ryan McDonagh to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Vigneault would ultimately be fired by the Rangers months after the trade. It’s worth pondering how Miller would have fared under current head coach David Quinn. The 27-year-old is currently enjoying the finest season of his career, having registered 72 points in 69 games as a Vancouver Canuck.

4. Martin Straka – Straka probably didn’t receive enough credit for his part in the Rangers’ revival following the 2004-05 lockout. The Czech forward recorded 187 points in 224 regular season games as a Blueshirt. His speed and quick-release shot allowed him to benefit from all the attention that opponents paid to Jagr.

5. Brian Boyle – Alongside Stralman, Boyle joined the Lightning after the Rangers were defeated by the Los Angeles Kings in the 2014 Stanley Cup Final, and the Blueshirts sorely missed his contributions. Boyle made a habit of elevating his game during the playoffs and was integral in shorthanded situations. Some fans expected him to become a reliable goal scorer after a 21-goal season in 2010-11, but Boyle developed into an excellent defensive forward with a fair share of scoring punch.

Brian Boyle of the Rangers celebrates his second period goal past goaltender Jonathan Quick #32 of the Los Angeles Kings during Game Five of the 2014 Stanley Cup Final at Staples Center on June 13, 2014 in Los Angeles, California.
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

6.  Mike York – York made an instant impact in his 1999-00 rookie season, finishing third in the Calder Trophy voting. A member of the “FLY Line” alongside Theo Fleury and Eric Lindros, York wasn’t a superstar, but he registered 138 points in 230 regular season games as a Blueshirt. A regrettable trade sent him to the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for defenseman Tom Poti and veteran forward Rem Murray. York continued to be productive for the Oilers and later, the rival Islanders.

7.  Dominic Moore – Moore was the one who got away when he was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the summer of 2006. He would establish himself as one of the league’s best defensive centers and re-joined the Rangers in 2013. Alongside Boyle and Derek Dorsett, Moore was part of a fourth line that drew tough assignments and excelled during the Rangers’ 2014 run to the Stanley Cup Final. Fans will fondly remember his series-winning goal in Game 6 of that year’s Eastern Conference Final.

8. Jesper Fast – Probably the hardest-working Ranger since Ryan Callahan, Fast probably doesn’t get enough attention for his hands and scoring touch. Through 69 games this season, the Swede has collected 12 goals and 17 assists for 29 points.

Goaltender Carey Price #31 of the Montreal Canadiens tends goal near Jesper Fast of the Rangers during the first period at the Bell Centre on February 27, 2020 in Montreal, Canada.
Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

9.   Vaclav Prospal – Prospal and head coach John Tortorella had an interesting relationship. Tortorella stated that he and Prospal “fought like cats and dogs,” but that didn’t stop the Czech from enjoying splendid seasons in Tampa Bay and New York under Torts’ watch. Prospal struck up strong chemistry with star wing Marian Gaborik. He tallied 81 points in 104 regular season games across two seasons at The Garden.

10. Artem Anisimov – Anisimov’s large frame, intelligence on both ends of the rink and goal-getting ability made him a unique and versatile forward across 244 regular season games with the Blueshirts. Some fans will probably remember him most for his 2011 sniper celebration that angered the Lightning and the aftermath was captured by HBO’s 24/7 series.

11. Martin Biron – Before Cam Talbot and Antti Raanta, Biron served as a valuable understudy to Henrik Lundqvist. He posted a 2.47 goals-against average across 46 regular season games as a Ranger.

12. Ruslan Fedotenko – The gutsy, bottom-six wing didn’t receive the plaudits of Brandon Prust and Boyle, but he thrived as a defensive forward under Tortorella.

13. Kevin Klein – Klein was immediately a dependable fit on the blue line after arriving from Nashville, helping the Rangers to the 2014 Stanley Cup Final. Who could forget him losing a piece of his ear, having it sewn back on and scoring the overtime-winning goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Dec. 9, 2014? Back spasms played havoc during his final season in New York in 2016-17.

Kevin Klein of the Rangers hits Brendan Gallagher of the Montreal Canadiens during the first period in Game Three of the Eastern Conference First Round during the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden on April 16, 2017 in New York City.
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

14. Petr Prucha – The Czech wing posted 47 points in his debut campaign for the Rangers in 2005-06 and followed that up with a 40-point sophomore season. He struck 16 power play goals and 22 power play points in his rookie season and recorded 16 power play points in year two. Prucha’s numbers declined sharply in the seasons that followed and he was traded to the then-Phoenix Coyotes.

15. Benoit Pouliot – Pouliot was probably the most overlooked member of 2014 Eastern Conference champion team. The big-bodied wing developed excellent chemistry with Derick Brassard and Mats Zuccarello and was a dominant puck-possessor in his lone season at The Garden.

16. Blair Betts – The hardworking center, face-off expert and key penalty-killer served as a respected leader under Tom Renney and Tortorella.

17. Jan Hlavac – Forming the “Czech Mates” line alongside Petr Nedved and Radek Dvorak, Hlavac’s skill allowed him to record 132 points in 218 regular season games as a Ranger.

18. Michael Sauer – Sauer was on track to a promising career until a Dec. 5, 2011 concussion ended his career.

19. Steve Valiquette – Now hailed for his insight as an MSG analyst, Valiquette enjoyed a strong 2007-08 campaign by posting a .916 save percentage in 13 appearances. He often brought his best against the rival Flyers, finishing his career with a 5-1-1 record, .939 save percentage and 1.65 goals-against average against Philly.

20. Fredrik Sjostrom – Alongside Betts, the speedy Sjostrom formed a dynamite combination on the penalty kill.

You can follow Sean on Twitter at @HartnettHockey.

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