Carl Hagelin signing in his hometown for Södertälje SK of HockeyAllsvenskan (second tier league) is some of the best news to have happened in recent weeks for the Rangers. With the end of the lockout not to be seen on the NHL horizon the key thing for the Rangers future right now is likely to be the development of the prospects as well as the younger roster players at the NHL level. With Chris Kreider learning the pro game with the CT Whale in the AHL, perhaps the next brightest young thing on the Rangers roster is Hagelin.
While the SEL – and particularly the second tier where Södertälje currently reside –is not of the calibre of the NHL it does offer Hagelin several opportunities to improve his game. The first opportunity is the added ice time and games at the pro level. While Hagelin has made an excellent, immediate impact with the Rangers he is still a young player who has little pro experience and given the length of a NCAA college season, Hagelin can still benefit from as much game time as possible.
Then there is the style of hockey in Sweden. Playing in a predominantly a defensive league, Hagelin will be expected to be responsible defensively as well as trying to impact games with his speed and offensive skill set. Anyone that watches the Rangers knows Hagelin is known for his healthy work ethic and two way ability and it cannot hurt for him to get additional reps focussing on his defensive game.
There is also the benefit for Hagelin personally, and not just from a team perspective. With the emergence of Kreider in the playoffs last spring and the arrival of Rick Nash, Hagelin all of a sudden finds himself in an intense battle for ice time given the presence of Ryan Callahan and Marian Gaborik, both of whom are guaranteed ice time when healthy.
If Hagelin can be at full speed when (if?) the NHL season resumes he’ll find himself better positioned to take on the ice time battle. Additionally, if he has refined his skill set even more thanks to the style of Swedish hockey and the additional ice time, Hagelin will likely be counted on much more as a penalty killer (especially relevant thanks to Brandon Dubinsky’s departure). With a productive period in Sweden Hagelin will also be counted on to help make the Rangers deeper from a scoring point of view.
For some players, particularly veterans, there is possibly more risk than reward when considering going abroad to play during a lockout. As we have seen with Rick Nash injuries can hit and possible hinder a season further down the line while extra ice time isn’t necessarily critical from a veteran stand point. For the younger players such as Hagelin, injury risk remains but the opportunity to play, to learn and to grow outweighs any such risk. Hopefully with a successful spell with Södertälje the reward for both the player and the club is tangible.