Day two of training camp started this morning at 8:00am for the Rangers, with more conditioning exercises expected. They won’t get to use pucks until tomorrow when the first scrimmages are expected to occur.
One player who will be no doubt eager to get on with the show is late season signing Tim Kennedy, the subject of today’s Ranger Countdown.
Going into this off-season, if you’d asked Buffalo native Tim Kennedy where he’d be playing his hockey this Winter, and he would have answered you “In Buffalo”. But sometimes things don’t always go as planned. After filing for, and winning arbitration against the Sabres – to the tune of $1M – the team elected to buy him out rather than to re-sign him, leaving the 24 year old forward an unrestricted free agent.
Sabres coach Lindy Ruff explained the move, saying that Tyler Ennis had already passed Kennedy on the depth chart, while Nathan Gerbe had arguably done the same. Whether that was just rationalization, or how the team really felt is up for debate.
Also up for debate is where he fits in with the Rangers. A crowded center position – Kennedy can also play wing – means that the undersized pivot will have plenty of competition during camp in New York as well.
Having demonstrated some offensive ability at Michigan State (20-23-43 in 42 games during his last season in the NCAA), in the AHL (18-49-67 in 73) and putting up solid numbers in his rookie season (10-16-26 in 78), he looks best suited for a number three role down the middle. But to win that spot, he’s going to have to likely jump ahead of the likes of White, Drury and Anisimov.
In 2009-10 he wasn’t used on the PK and had limited PP time, which will no doubt also factor into the equation. While that doesn’t prove he can’t, it does mean that he has yet another challenge that he needs to overcome to get ice time.
With all that said, the competition for spots is by no mean settled. Tortorella has already indicated he thinks Brandon Dubinsky is best used as a left wing, while veterans Vinny Prospal, Chris Drury and Todd White can also play that position. It also doesn’t hurt that Drury and White are coming off poor seasons, and that Erik Christensen – while he seems to be one of the coach’s favorites at the moment – hardly locked down a spot.
Artem Anisimov only had two more goals than Kennedy last season and could be vulnerable to being pushed, but Tortorella has made positive remarks about “Artie” in the past, that would seem to indicate he’s got an edge over the newcomer.
Another option would be to play Kennedy on the fourth line. Brian Boyle realized his job was in jeopardy over the summer and has worked hard, but will have to overcome an unimpressive first season in New York. Using the 5-10 176lb Kennedy between Prust and Boogaard is likely not to do him any favors, but might be where he ends up.
No doubt they’ll look at him on the wing, and may even consider using him as a 13th forward or sending him to Hartford. The reality is, with so many forwards on the roster almost anything could happen.
Team: Buffalo Sabres (NHL)
Stats: 10 goals, 16 assists and 50 penalty minutes in 78 games
Team: New York Rangers (NHL)
Stats: 2 goals, 5 assists and 12 penalty minutes in 35 games
Kennedy played with former Ranger Corey Potter and current Wolf Pack blueliner Jared Nightingale on the 2005-06 Michigan State team.