Connect with us

Arizona Coyotes

Coyotes vs. Rangers Player Spotlight: Nick Schmaltz vs Mika Zibanejad

© Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Right before the puck drops at Madison Square Garden between the Arizona Coyotes and New York Rangers, both teams look to get their second win of the season, but which players can stand out from the rest?

Thank you for reading this post, don't forget to subscribe!

For the Coyotes, right-winger/center Nick Schmaltz has had a consistent tenure with the team since 2018 and this season he is already off to a hot start.

In Arizona’s 4-3 win over the New Jersey Devils on Nov. 14, Schmaltz had an assist, scored the game-tying goal and the game-winning shootout shot.

As for Zibanejad, he led the Rangers in goals last season with 39 in 82 games and has consistently been one of the Rangers best players.

The Swedish native already has 3 assists in two games this season, all three came against the Buffalo Sabres in the Rangers 5-1 win on Oct. 12.

Even though the Coyotes and Rangers have some other players that could be featured, here is why both of these two deserve the attention for tonight’s game.

Nick Schmaltz

In the last two years that Schmaltz has played for the ‘Yotes, he has had almost identical numbers.

Same amount of games with 63 played and 36 assists in the past two seasons, but the only difference was that Schmaltz had one less goal in 2022-23 with 22 than the year prior, 23.

Going into his eighth season, Schmaltz has yet to play in a full-82 game schedule.

If healthy, Schmaltz has the talent to reach the 70-point plateau.

Additionally, him linking up with Coyotes star Clayton Keller has really changed both of their games.

Remarkably, Keller became an over-a-point-per-game player with 86 in 82 games.

And some of the credit has to go to Schmaltz for that.

So far this season, Schmaltz was the most impactful player for the Coyotes in their first and only game against New Jersey.

On defenseman Matt Dumba’s first goal as an Arizona player, Schmaltz passed it to Keller who set up Dumba for the goal, so Schmaltz had an assist.

While on the power play when down 3-2, Schmaltz received a pass from Coyotes rookie Logan Cooley and found just enough room to score past Devils goaltender Akira Schmid with 6:05 left in the third period.

As the game eventually went to a shootout, ‘Yotes center Nick Bjugstad scored and goaltender Karel Vejmelka made two saves in-a-row.

With the game on his stick, Schmaltz came in and scored the winner for the Coyotes to win 4-3 and give them a 1-0 record.

Known as a playmaker, two 20+ goal seasons from Schmaltz indicate that he is becoming an all-around threat.

Tonight, look for his puck battles with the Rangers players since Schmaltz will fight for every loose puck and find a teammate open when he needs to.

Mika Zibanejad

Since being traded to New York by the Ottawa Senators in a deal that included former Coyote Derrick Brassard in 2015, Zibanejad has arguably been a top-10 center in the NHL.

His first two years after getting dealt weren’t anything special, but since the 2019-20 season, Zibanejad has been the main focal point of the Rangers offense.

Seeing his average time on ice go from around 17 minutes on the second line to solidifying into the number one center role on New York with 20+ minutes in action a night, Zibanejad’s stats have increase even more because of it.

Two campaigns ago, Zibanejad had 81 points in 81 games which was his highest total since the 2019 season where he had 75.

However, last year’s total for Zibanejad’s skyrocketed.

The Rangers star scored 39 goals and assisted 52 times for 91 points in 82 games. His goal tally was the second highest he had since four years ago when Zibanejad potted 41 goals in only 57 games.

Even though he hasn’t scored yet, Zibanejad has only played two games and has three assists.

The goals will come and maybe they will show up tonight.

Having 252 shots last year, Zibanejad is becoming more and more comfortable shooting the puck than ever before.

Additionally, with him on the first line and top power-play unit alongside players like defenseman Adam Fox and left-winger Artemi Panarin, Zibanejad’s supporting cast will set him up for yet another successful season.

Coyotes vs. Devils Player Spotlight: Logan Cooley vs. Jack Hughes

*Get the BEST Phoenix sports insider information, exclusive content, and access to our seasonal magazines! SIGN UP HERE to unlock our premium content!*

Alec Cipollini is a journalist covering the Arizona Coyotes, Cardinals and Phoenix Rising for Burn City Sports. You can follow him on his X account @AlecCipollini

More in Arizona Coyotes