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Category: Players

What is Kevin Hayes’ ceiling?

Kevin Hayes gets better and better with every game

There haven’t been too many 6-5 22-year-old rookie centers in NHL history, so it’s a little difficult to project the player Kevin Hayes might turn into. He seems to be getting better and better with each game and has turned into a solid third-line center in no time.

Hayes wasn’t all that impressive in the preseason. Prospect pundits had been gushing over Hayes all summer, but he was totally overshadowed by the performances of J.T. Miller and Anthony Duclair in camp. Then, Hayes suffered a shoulder injury and missed the final exhibition game, as well as the first three regular season games.

At the time, Miller seemed like a lock to stick in New York for the duration, and coach Alain Vigneault seemed enthusiastic about the Marty St. Louis center experiment. Hayes was an afterthought, or so it briefly seemed. Read more »

Derek Stepan’s Bozak-ian season

Stop being Bozak.

Derek Stepan is always a focal point of discussion for Ranger fans. He’s the teams 1C, but he’s not an elite center, so people think he’s better off as a 2C. Since returning from injury, Stepan has put up 14 points in 16 games, and has helped stabilize –prior to Derick Brassard’s mumps diagnosis– the center position. But something is off this year, and it’s fairly alarming.

As Zachary Ellenthal pointed out, he’s not exactly driving possession this season. It’s not like he’s off by a little bit, Stepan is a 43.6% Corsi player this season, so far the worst of his career. The last time he was under 50% was 2011-2012, and his ability to positively drive possession is what makes him more valuable than guys like Tyler Bozak (a 42% Corsi player), who puts up points because he’s playing with Phil Kessel. Stepan makes his teammates better, Bozak does not.

Except for this year. Stepan’s numbers this year are comparable to Bozak’s, and that’s not a good thing.

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Streaky Kreider in midst of a slump

Photo: Al Bello/Getty Images

Photo: Al Bello/Getty Images

In case you missed it yesterday, Chris Kreider skated on the fourth line with Dominic Moore and Jesper Fast, signaling that the winger’s continued lack of production is starting to catch the coaching staff’s ire. Kreider is certainly having an off-year thus far, with just 13 points (4-9-13) through 24 games. While that isn’t too far off his pace last year (13-20-37 in 66 games), the issue is a bit beyond his point pace.

Kreider hasn’t scored in 11 games, and has just 3 assists in that span. Considering his top-six minutes, primarily with Derek Stepan and Martin St. Louis, that’s a pretty bad slump. Kreider is shooting about 3% below his career average at the moment, with no goals on his last 19 shots.

The good news is that Kreider is still on the positive side of the puck possession arrow (50.8% CF), but that is in 56% offensive zone starts. His QoT is in the top-six on the team in terms of ice time, which is expected. However, Kreider is tops on the team in terms of linemate CF% at 52.6%.

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The odd career arc of Marc Staal

Staal

Marc Staal has been a polarizing player for the New York Rangers this year. A pending free agent with a $3.975 cap hit, the Rangers are facing a critical decision involving another core piece –their third decision to make in two years. On one side of the coin, the Rangers can re-sign Staal, who is looking at a contract rivaling Dan Girardi’s deal (six years, $5.5 million per). On the other side of the coin, the Rangers can trade him, like they did with former captain Ryan Callahan.

On the surface, it’s not an easy decision to make. Trading Staal would mean that the entire leadership core from last season (Cally, Staal, Brad Richards) will have departed. However, Staal’s play has seriously regressed since the concussion and freak eye injury. Or at least, that’s what it seems. Staal has had a very weird career arc.

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Despite “trust,” Fast not getting critical minutes

Probably the most ready (Photo: Blueshirts United)

Photo: Blueshirts United

Jesper Fast has been a bit of a hot topic for the New York Rangers this season. After breaking camp with the pro club for the second season in a row, Fast was again demoted before the month of November. Unlike last season, Fast’s stay in Hartford was temporary, as he was recalled three weeks later, and has stuck with the team since.

Fast was held off the score sheet for the first five games following his recall, but has put up 2-2-4 in the seven games following. All told, he has four points in 14 games while getting absolutely crushed with defensive zone starts (most DZ starts on the team) on the fourth line.

Alain Vigneault has said many times that he trusts “Quickie” in all aspects of the game. But over the past few games –looking at the great shift charts available at war-on-ice, we can see that’s not entirely accurate.

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Rangers may have saved Stralman’s life

Per Dan Rosen, the New York Rangers have saved Anton Stralman’s life. Stralman had been battling lung infections during his time with Columbus, and it caused the Devils to pass on him after signing him to a PTO in 2011. Since the Rangers have access to some of the best doctors, they were able to get him to a pulmonologist, who was able to treat Stralman for his ailments. This led to his successful sting in New York and his pay-day in Tampa Bay.

It’s a great article that you should read, and it’s a feel-good story about a very good and very underrated defenseman.

Marty’s return to Tampa Bay should be met with cheers, not boos

Photo by Scott Levy/NHLI via Getty Images

Photo by Scott Levy/NHLI via Getty Images

Martin St. Louis spent over 12 seasons with the Tampa Bay Lightning before his midseason trade last year brought him to Broadway. Tonight marks the first time he will set foot in the St. Pete Times Forum since that trade. In those 12+ seasons with Tampa Bay, Marty scored 365 goals, had 588 assists (953 points in 972 games), won two Art Ross trophies for most points (’04, ’13), won a Hart and a Lester B. Pearson (’03-’04), won three Lady Byngs (’10, ’11, ’13), was a six-time All Star (’03, ’04, ’07, ’08, ’09, ’11), and –most importantly– won a Stanley Cup in 2004. He should get a heroes welcome in Tampa.

But, the marriage ended poorly. New General Manager Steve Yzerman snubbed Marty for the 2014 Winter Olympics, initially not selecting him for Team Canada’s roster. Marty –who, for a long time, wanted to come to New York to be closer to his family in Connecticut– requested a trade. Not only that, he requested a trade to one team and one team only: The New York Rangers. That puts a GM in a very tight spot.

On March 5, 2014, Marty was dealt to the Rangers with a second round pick in 2015 for Ryan Callahan and a pair of first round picks (2014, 2015). It was the first time in history two captains were traded for each other at the deadline.

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Breaking down Kevin Klein’s great start

Klein is off to a pretty good start.

Klein is off to a pretty good start.

If you’ve been around these parts long, you know that, prior to this season, we weren’t the biggest fans of Kevin Klein. It was nothing personal, we just felt there were better options out there. He was certainly serviceable, but for that contract, the Rangers could probably have done better. It wasn’t an uncommon or unpopular opinion either.

Then this season happened. The injuries mounted, and Klein was forced into a top-four role for an extended period of time. Klein has responded by tying his career high in goals just 18 games into the season (4), and is on pace to shatter his career high in points (21). All that while showing improvement in his possession numbers, despite being paired with Marc Staal (more on that later).

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Why Dominic Moore deserves your NHL All Star Game votes

Moore.

Moore.

If you missed it yesterday on Twitter, a good number of Rangers bloggers, ourselves included, are beginning a campaign to have Dominic Moore get enough votes to make the 2015 NHL All Star Game. Moore is probably the single most unsung hero on the New York Rangers at the moment, and it’s guys like Moore that rarely garner NHL All Star Game votes because they don’t rack up points. Martin broke down his fantastic start to the season, but the appreciation for Moore goes deeper.

Moore, who rejoined the Rangers last year after taking a season off to cope with the death of his wife, has been the one steadying force on the bottom six this season. Originally slated to be the 4C, he played up a role as the 3C when the Rangers dealt with the Derek Stepan injury. Players like Chris Mueller and Kevin Hayes played the 4C role, although Hayes and Moore flipped occasionally. But Moore’s true spot is the 4C, and he’s one of the best in the game.

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St Louis’ return to form critical to Rangers

The Rangers need help in almost every department right now, given the patchwork team that’s being cobbled together because of all the injuries (and suspension) the team has endured. Although the Rangers lost to St Louis Blues – a game they should have won – that game suggested Marty St Louis’ return to his usual right wing position was the tonic his game needed.

St Louis is absolutely critical to the Rangers. He is an elite playmaker, goal scorer and when he is on form, gives the Rangers the potential to stretch opposition defenses when you consider the presence of Chris Kreider but above all Rick Nash. Teams cannot game plan for just one wing elite winger, but three. Teams cannot focus on one player as we saw when he snuck away for his first goal against the Blues.

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