The Rangers wrap up their preseason tonight in Ottawa, and will have until 3:00pm Wednesday to finalize their roster for opening night. There are a handful of decisions still to be made, though injuries to veterans will give some a reprieve.
One player who is a guarantee to be on the roster, is the subject of today’s Rangers Countdown Profile: Marc Staal.
Going into the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, the Rangers had Staal ranked amongst the top five prospects. When he was still available near the midpoint of the draft, the team moved up to select him at #12, feeling they had pulled off somewhat of a coup.
In many ways the Rangers have been justified since making the selection. Of the 230 players selected that year, only six have played more games, and only one of those was a defenseman – Marc-Edouard Vlasic of the San Jose Sharks.
Following another year in juniors, the Rangers brought him into the 2006 camp to take a long look. As a 19 year old drafted from the CHL, the Rangers were faced with two options: keep him in New York or send him back to Sudbury of the OHL.
Ultimately they decided on the more conservative approach, but perhaps regretted the decision in hindsight, as Staal was clearly not as challenged by the opposition on offer.
When he returned to camp in 2007, it was a no-brainer, and the 6-4 defender has been a part of the Rangers blueline since. His successful transition straight from juniors to the pro game, also probably helped those who’ve come since, including Michael Del Zotto, Matt Gilroy as well as the potential addition of Ryan McDonagh this time round.
During his first three years as a pro, Staal has cemented his position as the Rangers’ top shutdown defenseman. In no sense is Staal flashy, but his skating, long reach and size/strength, have allowed to be an effective defender most nights against some of the game’s best.
At times we’ve seen some offensive talent on offer, and the Rangers continue to hope to find ways to take advantage of that part of his game, particularly last year when Tortorella attempted to get him to jump up in the play more, only to see the plan backfire and ultimately prove to be unsuccessful.
Going into 2010-11, the 23 year old defenseman has security for the next five years, and will be counted on to play over 20 minutes a night. There’s an expectation that we’ll see a little more offense from him this year, and an improvement on the career totals he set last year of 8 goals, 19 assists and 27 points.
It’s hoped that the defensive corps is a little more stable this season with the departure of Wade Redden to Hartford, and the addition of a little more depth, while an improved offense can only help those on the back end.
Team: New York Rangers (NHL)
Stats: 8 goals, 19 assists and 44 penalty minutes in 82 games
Team: New York Rangers (NHL)
Stats: 10 goals, 24 assists and 50 penalty minutes in 82 games
On September 2009, Marc Staal appeared as one of ten Rangers to do the Top 10 countdown. He presented #5 of “Top Things Never Before Spoken By A Hockey Player”, his line – Forget all the goals and the awards, Gordie Howe has one nice looking butt.