It is now crunch time for all fringe players hoping to make the Rangers opening night roster. Ranger fans got a good look into the Rangers practice and how the players deal with each other during the Rangers Training Camp Special on MSG yesterday. Along with seeing the Rangers do their drills and scrimmages, you were able to see interviews, players interactions with each other, and how players did during scrimmages. The Ranger prospects know that the Rangers will most likely start the season with players from within this camp and if each play well enough they can beat out a veteran brought in to fill the holes made by this summers departures. Coach Alain Vigneault said in his interview that the players fighting for a positition will have to win a spot as they play in both of the last two games.
The biggest surprise is Anthony Duclair that the Rangers don't even have a spot for on their 50 NHL contracts allotment. He has been outstanding this preseason and puts the Rangers in a position that if he stays with the Rangers and not sent back to Jr.'s, The Rangers will have to either trade a player already on contract, hope a player under contract gets picked off of waivers, or will have to put someone on unconditional waivers andjust cut loose a player while paying the contract amount (most likely a player that passes through to the AHL that has no chance of getting a call-up). He was even an interviw along with coach Alain Vigneault, Carl Hagelin, Rick Nash, Ryan MsDonagh, Marc Staal, Chris Kreider, John Moore, and J.T. Miller. The Rest seem to key players on this years roster, so it would seem like the Rangers expect Duclair to be around for the start of the season. Duclair is expected in the lineup on Friday.
Ryan Haggerty was seen throughout the show talking with many veterans during breaks such as Martin St. Louis, Dan Boyle, and Tanner Glass. His 3 goals this preseason hasn't hurt his chances at all but the contract signing last year that forced the first year of the contract to be used up and having to stay with the Rangers and not play in the AHL getting experience is something that G.M. Glen Sather isn't a fan of that type of "negotiations" but had to agree to in order to get him to come to the Rangers. From a G.M. that loves to send messages, he should start the season in the AHL and be one of the first call-ups and he has shown NHL talent. Haggerty is not in the lineup on Friday.
Jesper Fast has also shown that he can find the back of the net with 3 goals in his games. Fast has speed and a strong skillset which is what the coach is looking for and is a "scorer". Fast is in the lineup for Friday.
Kevin Hayes is the ex-Chicago 1st round pick that chose the Rangers this offseason and is the type of big body center that the Rangers have needed for years. Whether he is ready is the real question. By his play so far this preseason, he has played a more defensive type game and because of Derek Stepan's injury, he has a better spot at making the team than does a player like Oscar Lindberg who is a less physical and can't fill the role that Hayes can. Hayes is in the lineup for Friday while Lindberg is not.
The veterans hoping to make the team that still have a spot at the forward position are Lee Stempniak, Ryan Malone, and Tanner Glass who are all in the lineup for Friday. Tanner Glass adds the grit that nobody else on the Rangers have up front so he would seem like a lock. Lee Stempniak was brought in to help the powerplay but could be beat out by one of the prospects as his contract could be sent to the AHL without an NHL penalty as it is under the $925,000 cap hit. Ryan Malone is a friend of St. Louis and a proven NHL player but is injury prone. If the Rangers choose one of the kids, a pairing of Glass and Malone switching on and off games depending on what type of team the Rangers are facing.
On defense, it seems like it is a two man battle for the 7th defenseman spot. Dressing for Fridays game will be both Matt Hunwick and Michael Kostka. Kostka has a connection with the Tampa players now on the Rangers and both seem to have the same type of game.
This years version of the Rangers can actually be better than last year when the Rangers added young players for a major part of the season with goalie Cam Talbot after Martin Biron retired early in the season. Chris Kreider started in the AHL but quickly was brought up and made a huge impact. J.T. Miller did a solid job when brought up and will be a huge asset this season going forward. This year the additions of Lee Stempniak, Tanner Glass, Ryan Malone, and rookies Anthony Duclair, and Kevin Hayes will start the season with a well rounded group until Derek Stepan comes back around the 15 game mark. On the defense, adding Dan Boyle and a 7th dman of Michael Kostka will solidify a Ranger advantage and work well in the locker room. The Rangers actually will have real depth this season as players like Haggerty, Lindberg, Lombardi(with his injury never had a real chance at making the NHL club) and on defense having players like Matt Hunwick, Dylan McIlrath, and Conor Allen ready to go is a bonus.
Opening night roster will be happening soon and check the waiver wires as there will be NHL level players from all teams being able to be picked up. For the 1st time in a while, the Rangers will have to make some hard choices to get an opening night roster!!
Let's Go Rangers!!!!