The Rangers got a first chance to skate under their new coach Peter Laviolette today, and as you’d expect the feedback was positive. If Chris Drury is to be taken at his word, then at least some of the veteran leadership core asked for this, and it wouldn’t surprise if a few of the younger players are also looking forwards to this preseason.
One of those younger players who’ll be looking for opportunity under the new bench boss is Alexis Lafreniere. Going into his fourth year – and on a new two-year contract – the Quebec native is trying out the right side once again, and sounded as enthusiastic as any player about playing under Laviolette.
Another player looking for more opportunity this season will be Kaapo Kakko. The 22 year old has grown in confidence over the last year or so, but I thought it really stood out today in his interaction with the media. With this being his 5th camp under his 3rd coach, Kakko seems poised to start in the top six and accelerate off of last year’s best season of his young career.
Meanwhile veteran center Mika Zibanejad – who will not play in the first preseason game on Sunday per Laviolette – joked that despite all the speculation about new looks and potential combinations, that he was back with his favored Left Wing in Chris Kreider.
It’s perhaps not surprising that this is a starting point, but perhaps we’ll see some different combinations as the preseason progresses, and no doubt we’ll see a couple of experiments on the right side of that pairing if they are to start together.
The new Head Coach already paints a stark contrast to his predecessor. Laviolette was happy to engage with the media, and provided answers that gave insight into his thinking, rather than opaque empty answers that were the hallmark of Gallant. An example of this came in his response to questions about the system he likes to run.
Finally, Igor Shesterkin wants to approach this season more positively, particularly with respect to his game and results. After winning the Vezina Trophy two seasons ago, Shesterkin came into last year with high expectations and was very hard on himself, perhaps setting unrealistic expectations and allowing the emotions to get the better of him. After a Summer with his family, the 27 year old appears more relaxed, and will look to stay engaged with his team mates, as well as the media.
It’s good to have the Rangers back after a disappointing first round loss in the Spring and a long hot Summer. Lets enjoy these positive vibes as we prepare for the regular season, now just 3 weeks away.