Less than a month to go before Camp. Who is in danger of missing out? Which players need a strong camp to make the club and fight their way up the depth charts? For the first time in several seasons the Rangers go into training camp with a lot of competition for places. How many places are really up for grabs remains to be seen but there are a few spots seemingly up for grabs. On Tuesday we considered the Sean Avery scenario however Avery is not alone in needing a good camp. For varying reasons, here are a few more guys under pressure.
Brian Boyle; Boyle may be one of the more frustrating Rangers of recent times. A massive body that was very good at the AHL level for Manchester and who had a good college career, Boyle simply hasn’t done it at the NHL level. Doesn’t play physical given his size and hasn’t finished well when the opportunities have been there. He’ll start the camp without a spot and needing to win one back. It’s hard to see how he fits into the equation at present. His NHL career is in jeopardy so it’d be nice to see some desire and passion in camp.
Dane Byers; The talented Byers could be a useful player for the Rangers if only he could stick and stay healthy. Having been repeatedly overlooked it’s hard to imagine he’ll get another chance if he doesn’t make the team this time around. Good size, aggression and decent scoring ability are all facets of Byers’ game and in theory he’d make an ideal bottom six player. With the signings of Prust and Boogaard, the presence of Boyle and the threat of Weise it’s looking cluttered in the bottom 6. If another year in the AHL beckons, surely it’s either a trade or a change of scenery after his current 1 year deal expires.
Erik Christensen; Yes, EC has a new 2 year deal in his pocket. However, a deal that pays less than 1m annually is easy to move (or rid) and Christensen has by no means secured anything at this stage. Flashed his tantalizing skill set enough last year to equally impress and frustrate the coaching staff (‘why couldn’t he do it more’…) but his spot will be under threat if Anisimov wins a top 6 spot and Prospal, Dubinsky and Todd White battle for the other centre spot. That’s without mentioning X factors such as Ethan Werek and Derek Stepan who come to camp with little pressure. It’s hard to imagine Christensen thriving enough lower down the order, to stick. Top 6 or bust?
Artem Anisimov; Yes, the uber-talented young Russian is under pressure. Why? Expectancy. Following excellent progress in the AHL and a solid rookie year given his limited ice time last year, a lot is expected – and required – from Anisimov. An important part of the Rangers future, AA will be expected to grab a scoring role and run with it, especially given the apparent lack of (young) talent the Rangers have at center. Then there’s the threat from below. One poor year and Anisimov may suddenly feel Stepan and Werek breathing down his neck. AA’s progression will cause a rippling effect at the position throughout the entire organisation.
Matt Gilroy; The much discussed Gilroy will need a year of atleast ‘solid progression’ to get another deal in NY, given the prospects coming through. Even that may not be enough. Blessed with speed and great puck skills there is certainly a need for Gilroy on the roster but he needs a good camp and not have a poor start to the year to avoid being on the outside looking in. With guys like Valentenko, Mcilrath, Niemi, Kundratek and Pashnin on the horizon Gilroy needs to secure his roster spot quickly. The BC star needs to earn Tortorella’s trust and make an impact when he plays. He needs to be confident, use his talents and work his way up the depth chart. The apparent impressive off season work outs are a good start.
Mike Sauer; Brian Leetch – remember him? Almost in perpetual prospect mode, Sauer’s the last playing remnants in the organisation of Brian Leetch. Picked with the 2nd round pick acquired from the Leetch to the Leafs deal, Sauer has great tools but poor health. Mismanaged by the Rangers when he was healthy several prospects seem to be passing him by. If Sauer can’t gatecrash the Rangers blue line in this camp, he’s surely gone. A new one year deal in his pocket, Sauer has entered the last chance saloon. A player that doesn’t seem to fit Tortorella’s system, Sauer seems to be a long shot to make the team but if he can stay healthy you never know. It won’t be due to a lack of talent that Sauer doesn’t make it. Is it unfair to mention that Paul Statsny, Kris Letang and John Quick (among others) were picked soon after him? No pressure then…
No doubt, there are several other players that will be under pressure during camp but that’s a good thing. Several roster places (hopefully) aren’t set in stone and therefore there will be plenty to play for. This promises to be the most interesting camp in a long time and a very significant one in the Rangers short and long term future. Next week we will look at some players entering camp with nothing to lose and everything to gain.