The Rangers are ‘counting on Erixon’ to make the team. These words, spoken by Rangers beat writer Steve Zipay on twitter, provided some significant insight on the newest member of the Rangers organisation. Numerous other writers and bloggers – not all from the Rangers community – congratulated the Rangers on the acquisition and many even went as far as to say that the Rangers have already had a good draft day because they will have ended up with two first round talents thanks to Erixon.
Assuming Erixon does make the team what do the Rangers have on their hands? Only 8 defensemen scored more points than Erixon in the SEL this past season. Many of those, including ex NHL players such as Janne Niinimaa and Josef Boumedienne, were veterans who can’t be considered to ‘still be developing’ like 20 year old Erixon.
Indeed, it appears only one ‘prospect’ scored more than Erixon and that was stud prospect David Rundblad. Erixon scored 24 points from the blue line in a league where only two players scored more than a point/game in the entire league (based on a minimum of 44 games played). The SEL is known as being a defensive, lower scoring league.
Erixon’s numbers are impressive whatever way you look at them. At just 20 years of age, listed at 6’3 and over 205lbs, the young Swede has the physical presence and skill to be a smart two way player for the Rangers for a long time. Two full years in the Swedish Elite League will have prepared him well for the NHL and that is without considering his substantial experience internationally.
So where does Erixon fit in?
Going back to Zipay’s words and the fact the Rangers expect him to make the club, one has to assume he’ll begin on the third pairing. The reason this is worth noting is because it will likely mean splitting up one of the top two pairs (Staal –Girardi, Sauer –McDonagh).
Why does Erixon’s arrival mean the splitting of one of the top two pairs?
Assuming Mike Del Zotto makes the Rangers out of camp (very plausible) it would be hard to imagine the Rangers putting Erixon on the third pair with MDZ. While Erixon acclimatizes to the NHL the Rangers will not want to put any extra pressure on Erixon, but especially not on Del Zotto as he tries to re-find his game. Giving Erixon a steady defensive partner like Mike Sauer or Dan Girardi would help him ease into his new role.
In addition to finding the right scenario for Erixon to develop in, upon graduation to NY Erixon probably becomes the Rangers second most skilled blue liner behind Del Zotto. Pairing them together would be a case of ‘putting all their eggs in one basket’. Change is coming to the New York blue line and not just in the arrival of Erixon, but because of the knock on effect he causes. Camp’s going to be interesting.