For the first time since 1997, the Rangers are actually being thought of in the hockey world as an actual contender for Division title and have a legitimate chance at a solid run for Lord Stanley this season. After the additions of #1 center Brad Richards and rugged Mike Rupp to add to the core the Rangers have built of captain Ryan Callahan, Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, Marc Staal, Dan Girardi, and King Henrik Lundqvist; the Rangers seem to have all he pieces to not only be a power in the regular season, but to be a strong playoff contender for the Cup.
The first step towards this season was the Traverse City Tournament. Ranger prospects and draft choices played well and made it to the championship game where they lost to a more mature and better overall team in the Buffalo Sabres. Players that stood out for the Rangers were Defensemen Tim Erixon, Blake Parlett; wingers Carl Hagelin, Ryan Bourque, Christian Thomas, and J.T. Miller. While most of the prospects are getting to experience the Rangers main camp, I can only see Erixon,Hagelin, and/or Bourque having a legit shot at the big club.
Erixon clearly looked like the best player on the ice almost every shift he was out there. He has a good shot from the point, good outlet passes, and was rarely out of position defensively. Hagelin looked very fast, had good hands passing and shooting, and wasn't afraid of the physical aspect of the game. Ryan Bourque also looked very quick, was good on faceoffs, and also wasn't afraid of body contact, actually initiating a huge hit on a 6'5" defenseman that sent them both crashing to the ice. Christian Thomas seems to let the physical aspect of the game affect the way he plays at this time, so hopefully he will find a way to make his game work better. Blake Parlett is signed to only an AHL contract but maybe that will change soon in the future as he was a very good offensive defenseman during the tournament, even while nursing an injured knee.
Tommorrow night is the NHL Rangers first preseason game in Albany against the Newark Devils. Per Andrew Gross on RangerRants, the Rangers have announced their roster:
GOALIES Lundqvist,Talbot DEFENSE DelZotto,Girardi,Bell,Eminger,Erixon,McIlrath FORWARDS Avery,Hagelin,Dubinsky,Weise,Deveaux,Mitchell,Christensen,Anisimov,Miller.Thomas,Bourque,McColgan.
Lets see who the Newark Devils dress to see if this first game will be to see who can play or who can fight. I would like to see Hagelin get a shot at playing with Dubinsky and Anisimov to see if he can play on an NHL line although a line of Bourque with Thomas and McColgan would be great to see how their speed and skillset compares against NHL/AHL players.
There seems to be a battle for the last 3 defense spots between DelZotto,Pavel Valetenko,Erixon,Brendan Bell,Steve Eminger,and maybe Tomas Kundratek. Up front, it seems like a battle for the last 2 spots for Eric Christensen,Mats Zuccarello,Kris Newbury,Hagelin,Bourque,and Dale Weise. It is great thing that the Rangers have depth, but sometime in the future some of these pieces will have to be moved. Who will Sather be the first to move? The summer has been too quite in Rangerland. LET THE GAMES BEGIN!!!