Dangers of handing roster spots to kids

August 15, 2013, by
Kreider is likely the only rookie to break camp this season.

Kreider is likely the only rookie to break camp this season.

As we get deeper into the dog days of August, we see really bad trade rumors and people like me killing time with a theoretical expansion draft. However, with only Derek Stepan left to be signed, many have started penciling in their starting lineup for puck drop in October, something I’m guilty of as well. It ranges from realistic to mildly amusing, as I’ve received some emails that have about five rookies as starting for the Rangers, three of which haven’t even played the North American professional game.

We learned last season what can happen if you hand a spot to a kid, especially if the kid is not ready for the NHL. Chris Kreider’s AHL play from October-January last season did not warrant a call up, but he got one anyway. What we got was inconsistency, lack of ice time, games as a healthy scratch, and eventually a demotion back to the AHL. It was a stain on the season. But the Rangers had their hands tied, as they needed a forward to start the season and they had already handed that spot to Kreider without seeing if his playoff performance –the one where he shot 20%– was a blip on the radar or the real thing. Turned out it was a blip.

Now that’s not to say that Kreider won’t be a successful NHL player in the future. Personally, I think that AV’s less skating intensive system –and thereby allowing Kreider to focus more on offense and not on his play without the puck– will be good for the kid.

The concern was that Kreider was handed the roster spot, presumably due to his playoff performance the previous season. In defense of Slats and Torts, they had five days to make a decision and went with the known quantity who has potential over any question-marks that they’ve had in the AHL. Had there been a full camp and preseason, maybe they wouldn’t have made the same decision. Then again, maybe Kreider would have been more prepared.

The same theory applies to JT Miller. He played well in his first few games as a Ranger, but after that it was clear that he needed more time in the AHL to round out his game. Regardless, he stayed because the Rangers needed a body that could play 12 minutes a game and not be a total liability on the ice. Miller has great potential, but now is not his time.

This also applies to those that have not played professional North American hockey yet –Danny Kristo, Oscar Lindberg, and Jesper Fast. The Rangers aren’t even sure what they have in these kids, and chances are that only one, maybe two, will actually become full-time NHLers. So why hand them roster spots without seeing if they can play?

The reason why the Rangers went out and added Benoit Pouliot and Dominic Moore without removing Mats Zuccarello, Taylor Pyatt, Darroll Powe, Brian Boyle, Arron Asham, or Derek Dorsett, is that they learned from the mistake of handing the spot to Kreider last season by rounding out their depth. Now, the kids will need to compete and earn their spots. All of these bottom six guys mentioned are signed for at most two more years, which is right around the time it takes for kids to develop in the AHL. The Ryan McDonagh’s and Derek Stepan’s –the kids that make the jump without much need of a transition period– are the exception, not the rule.

Personally, I think only Kreider makes the team out of camp. He has more experience than all of the other kids combined, and his second stint in the AHL was pure domination (7-4-11 in 14 games, including a run of 6 goals in 8 games). The others simply need more time at the professional level. Lindberg is a wild card, but as long as the depth guys remember how to play hockey, I think he gets time to develop in Hartford first. It’s not exactly a bad thing to let kids develop in Hartford instead of rushing them to the NHL. Look what happened with Alex Burmistrov.

Categories : Prospects


  1. WilliamW says:

    Agree with this. Kreider will be given all chances possible to make it from day 1, if he disappoints then Pyatt/Boyle are available to play in the top 9 and Powe/Asham fill in the 4th line

    The other guys need to out play Zuc or Pouliot in order to EARN a spot. If they can’t, will be happy with a strong run at the AHL championship

    I do think Miller is getting a bit overlooked in the preseason prospect excitement. He’ll be a strong player in the league soon

  2. Walt says:

    As in life, you have to earn your way through it, why should this team be any different? Probably Kreider will earn a spot, and some time during the season, JT Miller will be playing, because he earned it.

    Here is what I think the lines will look like, upon the return from injuries:

    Step, Nash, Kreider

    Brass, Cally, Hags

    Ricdards, Pouliot, Zucc

    Moore, Boyle, Dorsett

    during the season, call ups will be :

    Miller, Lindberg, Kristo!!

    We all know what the defense will be, but the first call up may well be Mc Ilrath, that kid is going to be a monster some day.

    • Centerman21 says:

      Thats ridiculous. Kreider on the top line? Callahan won’t be there to start the season and neither will Hagelin. That will change the lineup. Now and when they return. Why are these players being called up? The only time the callups are inevitable is after the regular season is over. They’re called the “Taxi Squad”! I hope Kreider makes the team too in the worst way and I hope he makes a serious impact. You’re putting him on the top line over guys with hundreds of NHL games to their credit. Did you not read a word of this article? Man, people have no common sense.

      McIlrath is a heck of a talent but It’s hard to see him playing in the NHL this season. I thought he’d be ready by this season but that’s not what the Rangers are thinking right now. His skating is not NHL level yet and his offensive instincts need work. He has to be able to put a shot on goal. They plan on allowing him this season in Hartford. Maybe if he plays well and he’s needed, he gets a call for the playoffs or even to play the end of the season. The Rangers want to see him play hockey this year. Not just fight. He was challenged a lot last season in Hartford.

      • Walt says:

        Hay I see these as probable lines, nothing written in stone.

        It sounds like you may want to be the coach, maybe GM of this organization, whatever people say, you challange, so be it, you are right, and the rest of the blogers are idiots!!!!!

        Maybe you should start your own blog, I’d love to see your following!!

        • Centerman21 says:

          I didn’t say you were an idiot but the story is about handing jobs to kids. You’ve got Kreider on the top line? Don’t you think he should earn that 1st? Maybe start on the 3rd line and work his way up if he’s productive. Why should he be put on a line ahead of Callahan and Hagelin who are both good 2 way players. We have no idea if Kreider even makes the team or not! I hope he does and is productive enough to remain there. Nothing would make me happier.
          You also would put Richards on the 3rd line? Didnt he show he’s not a checking line player last season? Even if Brassard out plays him he will probably play below him on the 3rd line. Brassard plays with some jam. He hits and plays a tenacious game. Richie does not. Richies also not the greatest defensively which is where the 3rd & 4th line will likely be used. You’re not stupid at all. If you’re a Ranger fan then you’re ok in my book.

  3. Evan M says:

    Thank you for this article. Regardless of the sport, people always seem to jump at bringing up the prospects right away. Not because the kids earn it, but because everyone loves a bright and shiny, new toy. I think it’s lunacy when I see people wanting a day 1, 3rd line of Lindberg, Kristo, and Kreider (or put Miller/Fast in there). Let the kids earn their way at camp, and ease them in with experienced linemates.

  4. Ray says:

    If the past is any guide, there will be surprises. Two years ago, we were looking at Valentenko and Kundratek while I was actually surprised that the Rangers tendered an offer to RFA Stu Bickel. But it was Bickel who impressed in camp.

    No one expected Stepan to make the team out of camp.

    On the other hand, last year Haley was a better option than Kreider and Miller, but without camp, the Rangers didn’t realize this until the season was nearly over.

    Somebody not penciled in will force his way onto the roster and Sather will have to deal somebody else.

  5. Mikeyyy says:

    All the rookies had the tortarella effect happen to them.

    They came in strong and fast.

    Stepan 3 goals his first game.
    Kreider tore it up the first few of the playoffs
    Miller strong on the boards and putting pucks in the net.

    Then the coach got a hold of them. “Taught” them defense.

    And then they sucked.

    Now I know you torts lovers will say he did well. Yes he did well. He could have done better by channelling that energy into offense instead of suppressing the offense for defensive stability.

    When you have hank in net, you need to push on the o side.

    It will be very telling how the rookies play under av. If it was the effect of torts “lets make the sedans block shots” style or will av be able to turn that young energy into offensive production.

    • Evan M says:

      Since when does Stepan suck?

      • Mikeyyy says:

        He could be doing even better. And while I do think he’s a great player he could be even better if he was coached correctly.

        • Jeff says:

          I’m not a huge Torts fan, but this is a pretty big leap in logic. Stepan, Hags, McDonagh, Girardi, Moore, Artie, MDZ, Brass, even Cally all improved or superseded their scouting reports under Torts watch. Even Dubi credited Torts for making him a better player and how many times was he in the dog house?

          If you guys think AV is gonna let Kreider be a mainstay on this roster if he can’t play in three zones you really need to read up on the Cody Hodgson and Jordan Schroeder situations.

    • Walt says:


      What we need now is for Centerman21 to join the staff, and show us all how it’s done. I’m looking forward to having him call you an idiot as well.

  6. Centerman21 says:

    I agree that some kids won’t play in the NHL. Some of the Rangers prospects may never play a game in the NHL. The top prospects will have it until they lose it or show they’re not what the team thought they were. Most of the kids that are rated as top prospects have the tools to be NHL players. Sometimes it doesn’t translate into the NHL>