AP Photo/Mary Altaffer
Larry Brooks spoke with Glen Sather yesterday prior to the Rangers 4-3 loss to Winnipeg, and the Rangers GM said that he is looking into re-signing Mats Zuccarello once his KHL season ends:
“I’m definitely interested in talking to Zuke,” Sather said before the Rangers’ 4-3 loss to the Jets last night. “I’ve always liked him as a player. We’ll see what happens.”
It’s worth noting that the Rangers own Zuccarello’s NHL rights, as they tendered a qualifying offer to him way back in June. That offer came after Zuccarello send goodbye to the Rangers in favor of the KHL. It’s also worth noting that Zuccarello’s KHL deal has an NHL out-clasue should the miniature Norwegian decide to return to the Rangers.
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Perhaps lost among the anticipation of the NHL’s Saturday return to action are Ranger prospects Oscar Lindberg and Jesper Fasth continuing their excellent seasons in the Swedish Elite League. Some people are concerned about the Rangers depth heading into the new season but beyond this year it appears the Rangers will have two more pro-ready prospects to choose from come next season.
While Jesper Fasth missed a few games earlier in the year because of injury his 13 goals and 24 points in 31 games is further proof that he’s maturing into a solid player. With serious speed to burn and a healthy work ethic Fasth has recovered from the serious injury sustained last year and is proving his World Junior performance from 2011 was no fluke. Nor was his fast start to the SEL last year that was interrupted by the serious injury.
Then there is Oscar Lindberg. 33 points in 39 games – among the league leaders offensively in the SEL – Lindberg is generating plenty of excitement the way Ethan Werek was meant to but never truly did. Perhaps most important is the fact the two Swedes appear ready for North American hockey. Whether they become immediate competition/alternatives to the Rangers roster or initially offer (much needed) help to the CT Whale, their arrival in the Rangers organisation cannot come quickly enough.
Amid the brief optimism and subsequent let down of the lockout negotiations (aka ‘far apart’) Rangers prospects have been getting it done and, which has been the case all season long, the Swedish contingent are shining bright.
Jesper Fasth continued his strong start to the SEL season and now has 9 points in 14 games for HV71. Fast grabbed two goals on Wednesday as HV71 beat Färjestad 4-3. The most encouraging thing in regard to Fasth is the fact he’s producing on the powerplay (2 of his 6 goals so far) and is seeing considerable ice time at close to 20 minutes/game.
Clearly, Fasth is becoming a go-to option for his club which should stand him in good stead long term. With Oscar Lindberg still scoring at a point/game clip (now 14 in 14) come next season there will likely be another two Swedes making a serious case for inclusion on the Rangers roster.
So how does this affect the roster, aside from player turnover?
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Jesper Fast is among the league leaders in goals in the SEL.
It’s amazing what kind of effect a labour stoppage can have. With Marian Gaborik, Rick Nash and Ryan Callahan firmly entrenched on the Rangers’ wings, with Carl Hagelin and Chris Kreider both not going anywhere any time soon – and on the cusp of being essential Rangers – the pressure grows on all the potential Rangers wingers found at the levels below.
Jesper Fast is having a great start to the season in the SEL with HV71 and is proving that his fast start last season – unfortunately ruined by injury – was no fluke. When Fast is healthy he’s dangerous. What Fast is doing, more than anything else, is putting pressure on other prospects such as Christian Thomas, to be the next guy.
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Despite the 3-1 loss to Albany in Connecticut’s 2012-2013 preseason opener, there were many positives coming from the game. Per Jim Cerny, top prospect J.T. Miller was one player that stood out the most during the loss. Miller recorded the Whale’s lone goal and was a physical and dominating presence on the ice. Miller, playing on a line with Michael Haley and Chad Kolarik, was creative and showed that he belonged on the ice with the other AHL players.
Meanwhile, across the pond, Oscar Lindberg and Jesper Fast continued their torrid starts. Lindberg added another assist to his totals in a 2-1 shootout loss, while Fast scored yet another goal in HV71’2 4-1 win. Lindberg remains in the top five in scoring, while Fast is tied for second in goals.
One other item worth noting is that Thomas Spelling has only dressed for one game for Rogle’s SEL squad. He has suited up every other game in the Swedish Juniors*, and he is not very happy about it. The link is in Danish, but the Google Chrome translator gave this little nugget:
“It is as if the coach doesn’t believe in me, and I never really get any feedback other than being told that “things are going in the right direction”. But he never really speaks to me, unless I come to him first”
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Jesper Fast (HV71) and Oscar Lindberg (Skellefteå AIK) were unable to build momentum stemming from their multi-point night just two days ago. Fast was held pointless in a 3-1 loss to Modo, while Lindberg was held off the board in a 5-3 win over Brynäs. Despite being held pointless, Lindberg is still one of the top scorers in league with seven points in six games, and Fast one of the top goal scorers with three in six games.
Sticking with the SEL, Thomas Spelling’ Rögle BK pulled out a 3-1 win over Växjö, a game in which Spelling did not play.
Peter Ceresnak, the lone CHL prospect in action last night, was held pointless and finished with a -1 rating in Peterborough’s 5-1 loss to Erie. After the jump, check out each player’s line from last night.
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Good news out of Sweden, as touted prospect Jesper Fast (formerly Fasth) is planning on coming over to North America after this season. In an interview with Hockey Sverige (s/t to Adam Rotter of SNY Rangers Blog for finding this), Fast stated that he is happy to be in Sweden for one more year, but plans on coming over to play in North America (either with the Rangers or the Whale) next season.
After suffering a gruesome ankle injury that shortened last year, Fast has come back strong with three goals in his first five games in the SEL this season. Fast will need some polishing, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him play at least one year in the AHL prior to jumping to the NHL. There is a big difference between the Euro game and the North American game. Just ask Mats Zuccarello.
The Rangers initially signed Fast to an entry level deal in May.
It appears that despite rough seasons last year, Oscar Lindberg and Jesper Fast have found their stride to open the SEL season. Lindberg, already off to a hot start, scored a goal and added two assists in Skellefteå AIK’s 5-2 win. Those three points give Lindberg a line of 2-5-7 in just five games in the low-scoring SEL.
As for Fast, the touted prospect is still recovering from a gruesome ankle injury last season. But that didn’t stop him from scoring twice in HV71′s 5-3 win last night. That gives Fast three goals in five games to open the season.
Fast and Lindberg were the only two prospects in action last night. After jump, you can see their scoring lines from last night.
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As the offseason turns to August, and the rosters begin to take shape, the attention turns away from those with guaranteed roster spots and towards the many prospects within the system that are all competing to be that sleeper in camp. Last year Stu Bickel was that sleeper, and Carl Hagelin was the mid-season call up that many expected he would be. This year there aren’t as many spots open for kids, but there is still a spot or two available for a kid who impresses.
With Tim Erixon traded to Columbus, the prospects on defense with a real chance to make the club are few in numbers. In fact, you can really say that only Dylan McIlrath has a legitimate shot at making the club, although he likely needs a full season at the AHL level.
As for forwards, the list is significantly longer. That said, it is a certainty that the Rangers will not rush their prospects just for the sake of saying they have a rookie on the club (outside of Chris Kreider of course). There are a few kids that will need to turn in fantastic camps in order to even have a longer look come the preseason.
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Before Friday’s draft it’s a good idea to take stock of what the Rangers already have in the system. If New York follows suit, then the Blueshirts will pick the best player available regardless of position. However, it’s worth evaluating where the team’s strengths lie, starting with a status update for the organization’s forwards.
J.A.M. burst onto the scene in 2011-2012 with a surprisingly strong showing at the Traverse City Tournament in September and he was only just getting started. Ryan Bourque’s old teammate with the QMJHL’s Quebec Ramparts earned a one-year contract with the Whale and made the most of the opportunity. He battled for the team points lead all season and finished with 64 (24 goals, 40 assists), tied for the team lead and good for third among AHL rookies. Audy-Marchessault still faces an uphill climb to the NHL thanks to his (listed) 5-foot-9, 175-pound frame, but he is much closer to achieving his dream than he was a year ago. The bad news is that J.A.M. may not even be Rangers’ property come July; the 21-year-old is an unrestricted free agent and may prefer to sign with a club that could better use his services. It’s hard to see exactly where Audy-Marchessault fits in the prospect depth chart and he’d likely garner several other offers following his banner year. GM Glen Sather will surely offer J.A.M. a contract, but the rest is up to him.
Bourque was one of the last cuts at training camp but disappeared for the first chunk of the season with Connecticut after suffering a concussion in his third game. He drew little attention the rest of the way because of his irrelevant offensive production (six goals and eight assists in 69 games), but suddenly Bourque was in the spotlight again as the Whale began its playoff run. Bourque was one player that noticeably raised his game in the postseason and even contributed a bit more offensively with two goals and an assist in nine postseason games. It’s tough to imagine Bourque being much of a scorer at the NHL level, but he has a very well-rounded game, is a terrific skater and is a major pest on the forecheck, qualities that could endear him to the Rangers’ coaching staff sooner than some of the organization’s more touted prospects. Bourque’s confidence is surely higher after a strong late season push and since he was one of the last cuts last year, it stands to reason that he could push very hard for a bottom-six role in New York next year.
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