Despite being an increasingly integral piece of the Rangers puzzle, Carl Hagelin is facing a nervous few months as a Ranger. Despite being blessed with skating ability and able to play up and down the roster Hagelin’s role when he returns from injury will depend less on his own ability (and track record with the Rangers) than it will on those that take up spots on the opening night roster.
Hagelin has teased the Rangers and their fans with offense but he has been a streaky scorer and at times frustrating offensively. Despite this he has impressed with his ability to get to the puck and unnerve opposing defenders with his speed but opening night will see players such as Danny Kristo, Chris Kreider, Jesper Fast, JT Miller and veterans such as Benoit Pouliot try and make the top six for the opening road trip. With Hagelin and Ryan Callahan not expected to be ready until the season is underway, multiple players have an opportunity to stake a claim for significant roles.
A good start by any of the above names will likely see them get extended looks and may force Hagelin into a lesser role. Thanks to a solid body of work as a Ranger and a new contract Hagelin’s future is not in danger (nor should it be) but where on the roster he starts the season when he is ready is certainly unclear.
In an ideal world Hagelin is the perfect third liner for the Rangers. Defensively responsible, offensively capable and blessed with speed to be an effective forechecker Hagelin would flourish where there are opportunities for mismatches against lesser third (or second) lines. This may be a role that he will have to settle for in the short term. The Rangers would love a guy such as Kreider, Kristo or Fast to demand ice time because they have played their way into a scoring role, even if it means a demotion of sorts for Carl Hagelin.