With today’s final practice cancelled, the Rangers 2021 Prospect Camp has officially wrapped up. The camp featured 27 players who came together on September 10th and finished it off with a home and home series with the Flyers prospects.
The results aside (a 6-3 defeat on Saturday and a 3-2 win in the return match in Philadelphia on Sunday), there were a handful of players who were noticeable.
Chief among them was the top line of Morgan Barron, Will Cuylle and Lauri Pajuniemi. All three featured in the goal scoring, with Cuylle picking up two in the latter game. Barron looked confident and assured in his ice time, and looks set to make a push for a spot in a crowded bottom six.
As for Cuylle, he was already on the radar after a solid performance in an abbreviated season last year with Hartford, but he’s done well in camp and has further raised his profile. His chances of making the roster are probably pretty low right now, with the wing position already congested. Cuylle’s more North-South style and his net front presence though, would certainly be a welcome fit for the team over the longer term, and perhaps a strong performance in Training Camp could earn him a call-up during the year.
Pajuniemi has a longer road to go, but his goal scoring ability will be something the Rangers will keep an eye on. Projected as more of a middle six wing, the Finn will almost certainly start in Hartford this year.
On defense, the Rangers have a lot to look forward to with Nils Lundkvist, Zac Jones and Braden Schneider all showing parts of why they will be in consideration for the big club or at least in the case of Jones, a potential trade chip. Jones showed the same confidence with the puck we saw at the end of last year, while Lundkvist scored the game winner in the second match. The young Swede remains the most likely rookie to win a roster spot this year, though will still have to prove he’s capable of making the jump in training camp.
Schneider is probably the least likely of the three to win a roster spot, but could get a shot later this year, or certainly a look in next year’s camp if he has a solid season in Hartford. A defender who has perhaps sailed under the radar a little more is Matthew Robertson. Upstaged by Schneider in last year’s WHL, Robertson brings a game more similar to K’Andre Miller than some of the others in the mix. His defensive ability and skating in particular are standouts and are worth keeping an eye on, and when injuries happen, we could see him in the line-up this year on the left side, though he’ll likely have to leapfrog Jones for the opportunity.
There’s also Hunter Skinner and Tarmo Reunanen as well. While Reunanen has seen little press this time round, Skinner has caught the eye of a couple of observers. Both will have a tough time moving up the depth chart, but it’s worth highlighting them for the purposes of showing how much depth the Rangers have on the blueline.
Finally in net, Dylan Garand started things off and looked a little shaky. He’ll go back to the WHL this season to continue to work on his game, but reamins worth keeping an eye on. Tyler Wall is looking to bounce back from a rough season, something he did in college, and will compete with Adam Huska in Hartford.
Ultimately the prospect camp is about development, and with the abandonment of last year’s camp due to COVID, it was the first time for many on the team. There’s also a significant influx of new players this time round and with only a few days together, being thrown into a couple of games doesn’t really lend itself to evaluation all that well, other than some individual performances.
We’ll get a little better look int he preseason, especially with those who attended the prospect camp having already working into shape over the better part of the past two weeks. Players report for physicals on Wednesday and will be on the ice for the first time Wednesday.