Will JT Miller be in the reckoning for more Broadway hat consideration? Courtesy of Blueshirts United
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.
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What colours will Jesper Fast start in next season? (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
Jesper Fast has acclimatised well to North America despite suffering a few injuries over the past couple seasons. Last year, on a struggling WolfPack team, Fast managed to grab 17 goals and 34 points in his first full year in the AHL. Those totals managed to get him a shot with the Rangers which included 3 games in the playoffs and his first NHL point (an assist). Those totals also showed that his relative offensive explosion the year before in the SEL wasn’t a fluke or a hot streak.
What Fast hasn’t yet done is show that his production in Sweden – and in the AHL – can translate to the NHL. Many fans will see Fast’s cup of coffee with the Rangers, his relative lack of production and the arrival of a slew of depth signings at the NHL level and assume Fast is a prospect in danger of being lost in the shuffle.
What the depth signings suggest is that Fast is not yet ready for full time NHL play and that is probably true. That said, the Rangers haven’t rushed fast nor have they needed to and that’s the right way to treat the young winger. What is also yet to be established however, is what kind of player Fast will be at the NHL level. Will he be an offensive producer or another Hagelin type Swede who excels through his skating ability and work rate?
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Probably the most ready (Photo: Blueshirts United)
It doesn’t matter if you liked what happened on Tuesday or hated what happened on Tuesday. We are all Ranger fans, and we will all cheer for the team. What we can all agree on, based solely on numbers, is that some of the kids in Hartford are going to need to step up and take a roster spot. When I say numbers, I mean this:
In: Dan Boyle, Tanner Glass, Mike Kostka (AHL: Steve Kampfer, Matt Hunwick, Chris Mueller, Chris Bourque, Cedrick Desjardins)
Out: Anton Stralman, Derek Dorsett, Brad Richards, Brian Boyle, Benoit Pouliot, Raphael Diaz, Justin Falk
Seven NHL players left the Rangers on July 1, and only three came back. The defense was more or less a one-for-one swap, with Boyle replacing Stralman and Kostka replacing Diaz (Falk I consider to be a #8 defenseman at this point). So, barring any trades, the Rangers are pretty much done with the defense. It is also unlikely we see Dylan McIlrath or Conor Allen on Broadway this year. The roster numbers just don’t work.
As for the forwards, one forward came in and four left via free agency. If you assume Glass takes Boyle’s spot on Dominic Moore’s left, that leaves two RW spots open for competition (or a 3LW and 4RW, as Mats Zuccarello can play both sides), and a 2C/3C. There are really only three names that come to mind when it comes to kids on the cusp: J.T. Miller, Jesper Fast, and Oscar Lindberg.
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Fast has played well so far. (Photo: Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)
When Chris Kreider went down with his hand injury, the Rangers were left with a problem in their top-six forwards. There were few options to fill in for Kreider, and none that could provide the scoring threat that Kreider provides on a nightly basis. Dan Carcillo has been a pleasant surprise, and Jesper Fast has held his own in his call up this week. Since J.T. Miller is not ready to take on this role, it comes down to Fast or Carcillo.
Acquired for a 7th round pick, Carcillo has been one of those pickups that went under the radar but reaped many rewards for the Rangers. Originally thought to be redundant with Arron Asham in Hartford, Carcillo has fit in nicely with the fourth line. The fourth line continued chugging along with Carcillo in for the then-injured Derek Dorsett. Once Dorsett returned, Carcillo bounced around the lineup, most recently filling in for Kreider on both the top line and second line.
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To help fill the hole left by Chris Kreider’s hand injury, the Rangers have recalled forward Jesper Fast from the Hartford Wolf Pack. Fast, who initially broke camp with the Rangers, was a sixth round draft pick in 2010, and has a line of 17-17-34 in 48 games with the Pack this season. He’s widely believed to be the most NHL ready forward after J.T. Miller, and with Miller faltering at the NHL level, it seems natural that Fast would get the next opportunity.
Per Jim Cerny, the Rangers have returned winger Jesper Fast to the Hartford Wolfpack of the AHL. Fast has been with the Rangers since camp broke, and has skated in eight games so far this season without registering a point. I noted this afternoon that Fast was used primarily as a defensive player, but still managed to drive puck possession. With his demotion, it is all but a guarantee that Carl Hagelin will return tomorrow.
Photo: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
Although they were likely in the lineup due to injuries to Ryan Callahan, Rick Nash, and Carl Hagelin, the three kids who have been inserted into the lineup have shown that they belong. Both Chris Kreider and J.T. Miller –since their recent call ups– have played significantly better away from the puck, and while there is always room for improvement, they haven’t been liabilities on the ice. Jesper Fast has proven to be a reliable defensive player in limited time as well.
Looking at their #fancystats (via ExtraSkater), all three are above 50% in raw CF%, so they are driving puck possession while they are on the ice. Fast is actually third on the team in CF% at a whopping 58%. Considering his splits in zone starts (OZ – 21.1%, NZ – 43.9%, DZ – 35.1%), this is very impressive. He’s not getting the offensive opportunities that Kreider (OZ – 43.3%) or Miller (OZ – 39.1%) are getting, but he is light years ahead of that duo in maintaining puck possession.
Fast’s +6.5% CF% rel (same concept as CF%, just using Relative Corsi, read up on the Metrics We Use page if you need a refresher) is also third on the team, and shows that comparatively to the rest of his teammates, Fast is a puck possession machine. While that is not the case for Miller and Kreider (yet), they are showing improvements so far.
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Per Steve Zipay, Arron Asham will dress for the first time this season when the Rangers are in Los Angeles tomorrow to take on the Kings. He will be taking Jesper Fast’s spot in the lineup. Asham will skate on the fourth line.
While the initial reaction will likely be outrage (How dare this team sit a kid? He should be in the AHL then. Insert complaint here), it’s worth noting that the Rangers need to carry an extra forward since they are out west for a few weeks. When they return east, they will be able to slide with 12 forwards. Hence, Fast in the press box instead of the AHL.
Photo credit: Mike Stobe
The Ranger world was a tad shocked yesterday when the Rangers announced they were sending J.T. Miller to the AHL’s Hartford Wolfpack. Many, myself included, thought that Jesper Fast would be returned to Hartford. One of the main reasons why Miller was sent to Hartford was to get him some solid ice time. Miller needs powerplay and penalty kill minutes, and he will not be able to get that in New York. He will get top-six minutes and prime special teams. However based on the first game’s stats, there are other reasons to support this move.
Based on the stats from Extra Skater, which is a great resource if you haven’t used them yet, Fast was actually the vastly superior player in the game against Phoenix on Thursday. It is something that should be taken with a grain of salt because we are victims of small sample size, but Fast had much better puck possession stats and zone starts. Fast started the majority of his shifts in the defensive zone, with zero offensive zone starts, and still managed to out-Corsi Miller.
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How will Zuccarello fare this season?
Today it all begins. The Rangers open their season today as the season, tone setting, nine game road trip gets under way tonight in Phoenix. Let’s jump straight into the first Musings of the new season.
It will be interesting to see how Derek Stepan starts tonight. Will he be a step behind? Will the lack of reps, preseason games, training camp, and a new system implementation hurt him? He’s going to be under the microscope and has a lot of responsibility to shoulder.
A player that could thrive under Alain Vigneault’s (apparently) more open system could be Michael Del Zotto. Like so many Rangers, this is a big year for him. Is he finally going to put it all together and be a consistent offensive threat from the blueline? Or does he become expendable after this season? A good year from MDZ likely means an improved Rangers PP.
Most unpredictable player heading into tonight? Mats Zuccarello.
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