Improving The Third LineJune 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.