Every team has to deal with injuries over the course of the season, it’s a part of the game. The Rangers are one of those teams dealing with such injuries right now, and it’s testing their depth early in the year. Not only is New York dealing with injuries, they are dealing with injuries to significant players. They are missing three of their top six forwards at the moment, and haven’t dressed a full lineup all season.
Ryan Callahan won’t be back until next month. Carl Hagelin won’t be back until the end of this month. Rick Nash is out for the foreseeable future. Any team that is missing three forwards is going to have difficulties dressing a competent roster. Any team missing three top six forwards is even bigger trouble, and that is exactly where the Rangers are at this moment.
Depth becomes a bigger issue when the rookies who were expected to get injury call ups (Chris Kreider, J.T. Miller, Jesper Fast) are now on the roster full time, playing bottom six minutes in the NHL instead of top six minutes in the AHL. While the plan may have been to get these kids some NHL ice time later in the season, October NHL time didn’t give them much time for growth in the AHL.
So where does this leave the Rangers?
Well, a bit S.O.L for the time being. It is too early in the season to start making trades that could sacrifice the makeup of the fully healthy squad, or trades that could sacrifice the future. So for now, they are going to be calling upon rookies to see if they can step up their game.
Fast, who has been with the team since camp broke, and Miller, who has been up and down twice this year, appear to be the kids that Alain Vigneault will keep around for a while. The recently recalled Kreider will hopefully get a shot at top six minutes with Miller, which will add some much needed speed to those top two lines.
Top six depth is almost impossible to come by, which is why we have seen the Rangers run guys like Taylor Pyatt on the top line. It’s why this club has seemed a little slow as well, and the product on the ice has suffered.
The best case scenario has Kreider finally clicking on the top six and playing well, with Miller (and hopefully Fast) playing a top nine role while the Rangers heal. The worst case scenario is that all three struggle, but are forced to remain in the lineup because there is no one else available. The next few games are going to be a test for these youngsters.