The first five profiles of our Ranger Countdown this off-season, have focused on players who have a good shot of making the opening night line-up. In our sixth edition, we turn our attention to one of the players on the outside looking in.
Dane Byers has played a handful of NHL games, but has yet to break through into the Rangers line-up for good. This year he again finds himself having to prove something to make the jump.
The Rangers selected Dane Byers in the second round – 48th overall – of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, one of thirteen picks made by the Rangers coming out of the lockout. Six of those picks made it to the NHL, including current Rangers Ryan Callahan, Brandon Dubinsky and Byers.
While Callahan and Dubinsky have moved on to become permanent fixtures in the line up, Byers has toiled away in Hartford trying to build his own case. While the Wolf Pack captain has proven not to be as talented as his more well known draft mates, he has made a case for consideration, at least for fourth line duty.
After a one game cameo appearance in 2007-08 to mark his NHL debut, Byers appeared in five games last year, and picked up his first NHL goal along the way. He also demonstrated another aspect of his game that might come in useful, should Brandon Prust and Derek Boogaard run into injury trouble, picking up 31 penalty minutes.
The rugged winger has certainly demonstrated his willingness to drop the gloves, and perhaps one criticism would be that he can lose control at times and cross the line, something that has drawn him multiple suspensions at the AHL level and one for a late game fight against Vancouver last season in the NHL.
Still, you have to appreciate his enthusiasm, and at times the Rangers could sure use it. His ability to chip in a few goals at both the Canadian junior and AHL level – 25 goals and 26 assists in 74 games with Hartford last season – also suggests he might be able to add a little to the score sheet at times too.
With all that said, Byers’ way to the NHL is clearly blocked with the current roster. Already well provisioned with forwards, the Rangers are hardly looking to add fourth line depth at this stage, particularly when they already have Prust, Boogaard and perhaps Sean Avery too if he gets relegated to the fourth line, to play the role of rugged checking forward.
In the event of injuries though, there’s a good chance that Byers will be one of the first called up.
Team: New York Rangers (NHL)
Stats: 1 goals, 0 assists and 31 penalty minutes in 5 games
Team: Hartford Wolf Pack (AHL)
Stats: 25 goals, 26 assists and 100 penalty minutes in 74 games
Team: New York Rangers
Stats: 1 goal, 1 assist and 50 penalty minutes in 10 games
Team: Hartford Wolf Pack
Stats: 20 goals, 20 assists and 120 penalty minutes in 70 games
Dane Byers is set to become a Group VI unrestricted free agent next summer if he doesn’t play almost the entire season in the NHL.