This post is pretty inflammatory as I’m fully aware there is currently room for both players on the roster but depending on how the season goes for both young players (and for some prospects as well) there may be an interesting decision looming for the Rangers in the relatively near future.
Artem Anisimov has developed steadily, if perhaps a little slowly. However, if his pre-season is anything to go by he seems primed for a really impressive season. He is of course in possession of a new contract; confidence from your employers does wonders for your own confidence, in any walk of life. Then there is Derek Stepan, who was at times a revelation as a rookie and seems more mature than his age should allow. Stepan too has had a solid pre-season but his place on the roster (not security, but rather location) seems more in-flux than Anisimov’s.
There is a danger that one of these players could severely out play the other this season, although competition is a good thing. It’s healthy. However, when you consider the spots up for grabs beyond this season maybe the two players are auditioning – to an extent. Captain Ryan Callahan is here to stay, the team have committed long term to Brad Richards, Brandon Dubinsky and (barring a disastrous year) Marian Gaborik. There aren’t many top six spots to give out after this year especially with the Dubinsky – Anisimov – Callahan line looking like a keeper, although with John Tortorella that’s never a certainty.
Now, throw into the mix the much anticipated arrival next year of the likes of Chris Kreider, Christian Thomas, maybe a Ryan Bourque or Carl Hagelin and given his impressive first camp, JT Miller. Just to name a few. Is it therefore possible that one of Stepan (who really needs to improve his face off skills) or Anisimov (who still needs to add muscle) could become moveable? Could they be rendered unnecessary?
Naturally this is hypothetical at this stage and as discussed, depth and competition for places is a nice problem to have. It’s also the product of good drafting. However it is worth considering that two very, very popular young, home-grown Rangers are playing for their futures, against each other – alongside each other this season. Room for both long-term? Maybe. It’s just another little sub-plot to consider during the season.