What forward prospect could make the Rangers this season?August 7, 2014, by
It’s never too early to look ahead. With the recent Q & A insight from Hartford’s Bob Crawford to fall back on, it’s worth taking a look at what Rangers forward prospects – if any – can make an impact with the Rangers this coming season.
With the significant turnover seen in New York this summer, it looked as though there were several spots for the taking but the additions of Tanner Glass, Lee Stempniak and Matt Lombardi may have impacted the chances for a rookie or younger player to make their mark. With respect to the likes of Chris Mueller it’s in the Rangers’ best interests for one or more of the younger, higher ceiling ‘bubble players’ to stake a claim for an NHL gig.
JT Miller and Oscar Lindberg
As Bob Crawford suggested, Miller is NHL ready. For him it’s about consistency, seizing an opportunity and having the right approach; something that he has been criticised for in the past. Lindberg is a less obvious situation. It seems that Rangers fans have waited forever for the Swedish pivot to get to New York but with the Rangers committing to Derek Stepan, Derick Brassard and Dom Moore for three of the center spots, Lindberg may be forced to start the year in Hartford. That’s not a disaster if it happens.
In theory, both Miller and Lindberg (both left handed shots) could make the opening roster but neither is best suited for a fourth line role while Lindberg is a pure center who, unlike Miller, won’t be considered on the wing. Both players have proven they can score in the AHL but have either dominated at that level? The Rangers mantra used to be ‘dominate before you take the next step’, so it will be interesting to see how the Rangers handle both players. Cap issues may force one or both of these players to start in the AHL but surely, if either player can beat out Matt Lombardi in camp, they have a good chance to grab an NHL roster spot.
Next in Line
With Pavel Buchnevich back in the KHL next year the Rangers don’t have an obvious purely offensive forward ready for full time duty. Jesper Fast is close to a full time gig but his ceiling is still unclear and he’ll likely be brought along the same way as Carl Hagelin and be expected to climb his way up the depth chart, assuming he starts in New York.
Fast’s inclusion will depend on a strong camp given the additions of the likes of Glass for the bottom six and Stempniak for a scoring line all of which make the Rangers veteran heavy up front. It may make more sense having Fast and Lindberg line up together on a dominant line in the AHL first as they continue to develop.
Strong camps will be needed from Ryan Bourque, Danny Kristo, Marek Hrivik and the dark horse of all prospects, Ryan Haggerty. It would take a stunning pre-season, or injury, for any of the aforementioned to force their way on the roster although all would provide the Rangers a useful skill set.
If the Rangers feel they need more size Hrivik may have a chance, skill and finishing ability and it may be Kristo. The wild card however is Haggerty. What does he bring to the table? Was his insistence on no AHL time after signing with the Rangers confidence in his own play or ill advised?
Don’t underestimate the cap ceiling in determining who gets in either. Haggerty comes in at almost a million and without a pro game to his name a guy such as Haggerty would need to stun Vigneault and Sather to make it.
In all, among the organisation’s forwards, the Rangers have six of seven prospects that have a shot at a roster spot depending on what area the Rangers feel least confident in. With a veteran heavy top six and with several players firmly entrenched in their positions (think Nash, Stepan, St Louis, Kreider etc) it’s hard to see anyone being beaten out of a spot at this stage.
"What forward prospect could make the Rangers this season?",