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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Could Hrivik be well placed to become a Ranger despite being in the AHL?
With the Rangers facing the reality of opening the year without Ryan Callahan for at least a game and Carl Hagelin for much longer – without even considering the lack of practice time for Derek Stepan – would the Rangers be best prepared leaning on the veterans to begin the year?
With Jesper Fast and JT Miller tentatively penciled in for the Coyotes game, the Rangers intend to employ two important pieces of their future, now. Neither player figures to be in the top six based on practices and the varied reports from the beat writers.
As we saw with Chris Kreider, if a prospect doesn’t deserve to be with the big club, he won’t be. Sometimes even when a prospect deserves to be (as could be argued with all of Oscar Lindberg, Marek Hrivik, Danny Kristo, or Connor Allen) it’s in no ones interest to see those players marginalised for the sake of numbers.
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The Rangers announced their final roster cuts this morning, assigning Chris Kreider, Oscar Lindberg, Marek Hrivik, Darroll Powe, Brandon Mashinter, Stu Bickel and Conor Allen to the Hartford Wolfpack. Powe, Mashinter and Bickel must all clear waivers.
The following players made the opening night roster:
Forwards: Arron Asham, Brian Boyle, Derick Brassard, Ryan Callahan, Derek Dorsett, Jesper Fast, Carl Hagelin, J.T. Miller, Dominic Moore, Rick Nash, Benoit Pouliot, Taylor Pyatt, Brad Richards, Derek Stepan, Mats Zuccarello
Defensemen: Michael Del Zotto, Justin Falk, Dan Girardi, Ryan McDonagh, John Moore, Marc Staal, Anton Stralman
Goalies: Henrik Lundqvist, Marty Biron
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