Vinny Prospal

Free Agents Sometimes Prospal

We’re halfway through the Rangers’ preseason schedule, and less than two weeks from the season opener up in Buffalo against the Sabres.

Today’s Rangers Countdown profile is on a player who is expected to make the opening night line-up, but has yet to appear in a preseason game – Vinny Prospal.

Player Profile
Last Summer, the Rangers made a late free agent addition that probably turned out to be one of the best value contracts in the league. Prospal, who had been bought out by the Lightning, reunited with coach John Tortorella and quickly filled in a role as a support player for Marian Gaborik.

A utility forward who can play any of the three forward positions, Prospal’s strength is clearly his ability to produce when paired with the better players in the league, though whether he can raise the level of the players on his line still remains a question.

The Blueshirts allowed him to become a free agent this Summer, but ultimately resigned him for another year, at more than double what he played for last season.

Although he started last season as a wing, the Czech forward ultimately moved to center Gaborik, as the Rangers searched for more offense. This time around, he looks unlikely to even be on the same line as Gaborik, let alone at center…at least to start with.

One of the challenges of using Prospal was his poor performance in the face off circle, where he averages in the mid to low 40s, certainly not a plus when possession is so key to offense.

Perhaps more likely this year we’ll start by seeing him fill in for Chris Drury and then perhaps become one of the guys competing for the second and third line roles.

In limited games where he played the role last year, Prospal was largely ineffective, which begs the question as to where he ultimately fits in. He does have the ability to play in all situations, and his positional flexibility certainly helps, but one could say the same about the likes of Todd WhiteTim Kennedy and even Brandon Dubinsky.

Being held out of games as a precautionary measure following soreness in the same knee he had scoped last year, might not help his cause.

At least initially the expectation is that Prospal will be in the line-up, and has an edge over the new guys, but when Drury comes back and Sean Avery playing well, you have to wonder whether the Rangers might consider moving him.

2009-10 Statistics
Team: New York Rangers (NHL)
Stats: 20 goals, 38 assists and 32 penalty minutes in 75 games

Prediction
Team: New York Rangers (NHL)
Stats: 14 goals, 24 assists 36 penalty minutes in 77 games

Trivia
Prospal got his nickname in Philadelphia when playing with the Flyers. The story goes that his Czech name was simplified to a North American name by his team mates, and perhaps it didn’t hurt that he was in a city with a large Italian-American community where the name Vinny is pretty common.

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