Improving The Third Line

June 21, 2011, by

Brian Boyle and Brandon Prust are two very important pieces of the Rangers heading into next season. Reports suggest the team is also considering bringing back Fedotenko as well. Does that mean one of the most effective third lines in the entire league could be re-united when the Rangers hit the ice in Stockholm? It shouldn’t. Giving Fedotenko a new deal as a reward for a solid and surprising season is a good idea, giving him a two year deal is a bad idea. Giving him ice time ahead of the likes of Carl Hagelin is an even worse idea.

Michigan product Hagelin should make the team out of camp and he should be thrown on the third line (along with likely 3rd line candidates, Prust and Boyle) straight away. He should be put there, allowed to learn and make mistakes without the threat of demotion or diminishing ice time.

As harsh as it sounds, Hagelin is the future of this team, 32 year old Fedotenko is not. What Fedotenko should be next year is an affordable luxury; a useful player on the 4th line that can be moved up and down the line-up when necessary. The Rangers are deep enough to accommodate Hagelin on the third line and deep enough that they can tolerate any potential growing pains. Boyle and Prust are the type of team-first, hard working guys that could really help a guy like Hagelin develop on the fly.

Then there is the balance of the proposed line. Boyle has the size and ability to go straight to the net effectively. We have seen him score goals this past season by protecting the puck impressively and driving forward. Brandon Prust makes any defense stay honest and will hit everything that moves and forecheck with ferocity. What both of these players may lack is pure skill. Hagelin offers more skill, additional goal scoring ability and great skating and would really round out the line. Hagelin offers more of an offensive threat than Fedotenko would.

The best part of this is that it is a line that could stick together for some time. Boyle is only 26, Prust is 27 and the youngster would be Hagelin at just 22. It could be a line with good two-way ability and physicality and could become an effective third line. All three players have defensive ability and play the penalty kill. Concerned about the positions? Prust and Hagelin in particular appear to be flexible positionally so the fact both are listed as left wings should not pose an issue. Fedotenko was also listed as a left wing yet the trio of Fedotenko – Boyle – Prust thrived in 2010-11.

The Rangers have shown a willingness to blood youngsters in the past few seasons and that shouldn’t change next season. Ruslan Fedotenko has earned a new deal but he should not be a hurdle prospects like Hagelin should have to overcome. Hagelin should get the opportunity to make his Rangers debut in his home country and ideally on the third line. What all this discussion about the third line also highlights is the depth the Rangers boast. Players such as Sean Avery haven’t even entered the discussion for the third line, while Fedotenko would be best served on the fourth .

Should the Rangers sign Brad Richards then all of a sudden even Boyle seems destined for fourth line minutes as there is no way (following such a promising rookie year) that Derek Stepan drops that far and one has to imagine Anisimov is more likely a top 6 rather than a bottom 6 player at this point. Good problems facing the Rangers next season one of which is improving the third line.


  1. Matt J says:

    There we go finally someone understands that Feds is not the answer. I would almost not care if he weren’t resigned at all. Time for in with the new blood. I really expect hagelin to have a stepan type year maybe not numbers wise but through what he can do for the team. You could put grachev in Feds role and I doubt anyone would notice anything different. Thank you chris for coming to this realization that we have to let the kids play.

    • Brian SCS says:

      There is nothing wrong with letting the kids play when they have earned a roster spot, but you must balance optimism with realistic expectations. If Hagelin earns a spot in camp then I’m all for him playing a vital role on the 3rd line.

    • Dave says:

      Playing kids is great. But playing kids before they are ready is bad. I expect Hagelin to make the team too, but it won’t hurt to have an insurance policy.

  2. Zach says:

    seems like you’re offering a few different scenarios, but only looking at one. without bringing in a first line center, you’re advocating hagelin-boyle-prust on the third line. i can get behind that, with a 4th line of avery-feds-weise.

    but then you mention the possibility of richards signing and thus pushing everybody down — so in that scenario, boyle and prust move down to the fourth line. at that point, is it worth wasting hagelin by sitting him on the bench for so few minutes? is it worth resigning boyle to be an expensive 4th liner? who would be the “ideal” third line partners for stepan in that scenario?

    • Dave says:

      I think it’s safe to assume that Hagelin will only be with the Rangers if he were to get significant minutes (third line).

      I don’t see Weise making this team at all.

  3. Brian SCS says:

    Chris, I think it’s very premature to place Hagelin on the opening night roster at this point. Going from the NCAA directly to the NHL represents a substantial jump as you know. I’m not saying that I wouldn’t love him to make the team but it’s doubtful that he is ready to bring what Fedotenko does at this point. Now, I do agree that he could potentially be a nice complement to Boyle and Prust, but I would rather the Rangers bring back Feds on a one year deal in the likely event that Hagelin needs seasoning in the A. And yes, I would only go two years with Feds if it means that we are signing him for under $1.5 mil per.

    • The Suit says:

      I’m with Brian. Placing Hagelin on the opening night roster is a bit premature. His spot needs to be earned as does everyone elses. But that’s what I love about Torts. Players earn their minutes, salaries be damned…just ask Drury and Redden.

      As far as what a third line should be composed of, I change my mind on this all the time.

      You can go the youth route and use the third line as a “scoring line” for your young kids who will hopefully one day be first liners…sort of easing them into the pros, like what Vancouver did with the Sedins.

      Or you can go the physical shutdown route and use veteran grinders to matchup against the leagues best, like what Chicago did with Madden and company, Devils did with Holik, etc.

      Both approaches have their pros and cons. Depends where the team is at in their life cycle I suppose.

      • Chris says:

        If Stepan can make the step up from the NCAA so can Hagelin. He’s been lauded for his fitness, is older and more mature than Stepan and his play at the NCAA level suggests he can do it. He was the go to guy on a major hockey club. He also looked good in a brief pro cameo. He’s going to make it.

        • The Suit says:

          A lot of NCCA players have looked the part, but ultimately needed seasoning in the AHL. What’s your plan B?

        • Brian SCS says:

          I must admit I haven’t watched much of Hagelin other than a couple of the televised Michigan games. I know that he stepped up with 2 big goals in the outdoor game. If he makes the team he would most likely be getting solid minutes on the 3rd line. With Dubi, Wolski, Avery and potentially Hagelin maybe the need for Feds isn’t as great.

  4. Brian SCS says:

    Apologies for being off topic but can anyone explain to me why Del Zotto and Kotalik are carried on the summer cap when they didn’t finish the season in the NHL. Del Zotto is still on his EL deal.

    • Michael Gleich says:

      they dont actually carry the full cap hit on the summer, but they do carry some based on time spent in the NHL last season.

    • Dave says:

      The rate is prorated based on salary and days spent on the roster. Kolarik is a $40,000 cap hit, I think MDZ is about half his current salary.

    • Brian SCS says:

      Gotcha, thanks guys.

  5. Zen says:

    Good article. I do agree that signing Feds to any more than a 1 year deal is a mistake, but I also wonder if assuming Hagelin will be on the team is one too.

    The majority of Ranger fans seem to be in love with Feds. He plays a pretty mistake free game, but he really doesn’t actually do much other than that. He is very bland and blah to me. I personally would rather see a kid (i.e. Hagelin or Grachev) in that spot than over-bidding on a guy who had trouble finding a job last summer.

  6. Leatherneckinlv says:

    I would slot Weise on that line first…Weise can score and help in the fighting aspect of the game and take some pressure off of Prust in those duties, It amazes me that so many bloggers do not think of chemistry and roles on a team..they just look at ability, go back to the dynasty days and you will see that there was always a Dave Langevin and John Tonelli, or a Charlie Huddy and Esa Tikkanen on the Roster…for you newcomers you can look at the importance of Esa on our 94 cup winning team…talanet alone will not win you cups…Weise has the ability to be a huge part of this team in a role of a rugged winger who can score and hit and above all take on some of the fighting duties. The Boyle, Prust line is the 4th line of the Rangers and a quality one at that with penalty killing duties and fighting duties as well as a mucker and momentum shifting presence that can change that out look of a game…Our third line has to have Grachev and Cally in it with a strong Center picked in this years draft in hopefully McNeill and let that line develop without the worries of the mistakes the younger kids will make and why the presence of Cally on that line will benefit them in becoming a very formidable line in 2014 when we really will be competing for the cup…I have news for you folks…we are not there yet..this is another developmental year for players like Thomas, Grachev, Erixon, Del Zotto?, and this experience brings us into the final year of developmental year, Krieder, McIlrath, hopefully Biggs and McNeill and then we are set for the cup runs…planting a seed you have to water it, nurture it to allow it to blossom, so no we do not need Richards, but a Laich would help…our year is 2014 and so being that is the case let the proper players gain their ice time and learn their responsibilities

    • The Dude says:

      Why would Laich help us? Have you seen the cap hit. You can’t be serious about Weise. While his numbers in the AHL aren’t bad, we already have the rugged winger type and plenty of grinders. Just not enough space on the team for him. Also, Tyler Biggs and Mark Mcneil. It’s one or the other not both. We can’t acquire both unless we do a trade with a team.

      • Leatherneckinlv says:

        yes I am serious, Laich is better suited for the direction that the Rangers are going to over a Richards, as for Weise it was only two years ago that he was spoken of as a future letter wearer for the Rangers, he has talent, toughness and heart. He will never be a salary cap problem, he will score 8 to 14 goals a year and handle some of the rough stuff. Is that not a perfect 4th line tough guy? Back to Laich, he can center the third line and as for McNeill and Biggs they both can be had one via our pick and the other through a trade or trading for a pick and drafting both. I would suggest looking at options and not having tunnel vision which was part of what my post was about to people who follow the Rangers

        • The Dude says:

          I don’t think anyone that reads this post has tunnel vision actually and I’ve seen much more far fetched ideas thrown around than what your saying. Don’t tell me I don’t follow the Rangers based on the fact I don’t completely agree with what your saying. Back to your original post. John Tonelli and Esa Tikkanen were pretty good goal scorers actually and other than the physicality aspect of them are nothing like Dale Weise. A big trade is looming for the Rangers and because this draft is horrible it is doubtful that BOTH Mcneill and Biggs become Rangers. Not a chance that Sather will entrust a chunk of this team’s future on a couple of rookies that could be nothing more than bottom six forwards. yes i’m aware how good Mcneill and Biggs are, and their stats, but that doesn’t translate into good NHL careers all the time.

          • Leatherneckinlv says:

            Do you think fighting will be eliminated? Do you think Boyle and Prust are our third liners? I am saying that they are the 4th line and not our third and yes Weise is better suited there and a great fit for reasons I mentioned, he WILL SCORE and he will fight, and then what I am saying is drafting McNeill at 15 and trading for a pick or out right trade for Biggs once he gets traded and i waver on whom we should select because I see Biggs as the perfect fit for Krieder and Stepan on a line and McNeil fits in nicely as the third line center but so would Laich. It would be nice to get both and I believe it to be feasible to do so without giving up too much. We have plenty of high end players that many fans seem to want to under value ie like talks of trading say Anisimov, Gaborik, Del Zotto for a Stastny…now that is ridiculous, and in fact Gaborik for Stastny and a 1st round pick is more ligit in my book..Gaborik is an elite player, Stastny is not

  7. mike says:

    Would love to see Weise be apart of this years team.

    Would be ecstatic if the rangers got both McNeil and Biggs. Can you imagine the rangers actually quality players who can score and fight. No more smurfs!

    Lastly, hopefully fedotenko’s deal does not include a ntc so if and when Hagelin is ready, feds can be moved for a pick.

    • Leatherneckinlv says:

      this is what I picture for 2014 when we begin our runs at the cup

      1st line of Dubinsky centered by Anisimov and flanked by Thomas

      2nd line Krieder / Stepan / Biggs..imagine the vision of Stepan with the speed and sniping of Krieder and the nastiness of Biggs down low…WOW

      3rd line of Grachev / McNeil or Laich / Callahan…gritty tough 3rd line that can score and role players for special teams

      4th line of Prust / Boyle / Weise


      Staal and Erixon 1st pairing

      McDonagh and Sauer 2nd pairing

      Del Zotto and McIlrath 3rd pairing

      Lundqvuist and Biron

      extra forwards Wilson and Hagelin and 7th defenseman being Valetenko

      another possibility on D is
      Staal and Girardi
      McDonagh and Sauer
      Erixon and McIlath
      and 7th D being Del Zotto

  8. Sagebob says:

    Nice problem to have with so many good young players. Let them play and grow and we can compete in 2013 or 2014. Also, Cally is a first or second line player, not third. I like Avery and would rather see a role for him than Fedetenko. And I hope that DelZotto can blend his offensive eye with a steady defense to be a key player.