The battle for forward positions has been the talk of training camp thus far, and several of New York’s youngsters have made strong cases to be on the opening night roster. Chris Kreider, Oscar Lindberg, Jesper Fast, Danny Kristo and Marek Hrivik have all impressed, while 2011 first-round pick J.T. Miller hasn’t gotten the opportunity due to injuries. With Carl Hagelin and Ryan Callahan out for the first chunk of the season, one or more of these players will likely be thrust into significant roles come October 3rd.
Chris Kreider has been skating with Brad Richards and Rick Nash for much of camp and it seems like a foregone conclusion that he’ll be locked into a top-six role at the start of the season. But after Kreider, the roster battle is still ongoing. Read more »
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With the first round of cuts made, the attention now turns to trimming the roster down even further from those who will either serve as AHL call ups or rookies who might get their first cuppas this season. With news that Ryan Callahan and Carl Hagelin might miss the season opener, the Rangers are going to be looking for two extra forwards to break camp. There is a chance that these forwards might be Arron Asham and Darroll Powe, but there is also a chance that the coaching staff will want to take a longer look at some of the kids who impress at camp.
1. Oscar Lindberg
Lindberg is one prospect who we have talked about extensively at this blog since the Rangers acquired him from Phoenix for Ethan Werek. Lindberg was top-ten in the SHL in scoring last season. Upon arrival in the US, he promptly dismantled the competition at the Traverse City Tournament scoring five goals and seven points in the four game tournament. Lindberg has already had a strong camp, which just adds to the intrigue for the young Swede. Throw in his ability to win face offs and his play without the puck (the SHL is a notoriously defensive league), and he is someone who could force his way on to the roster.
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The Rangers prospects need more seasoning
Oscar Lindberg and Danny Kristo are clearly ready for more demanding challenges. With four goals in two games, Lindberg has continued his offensive production from Sweden and at this stage is well beyond the average prospect considering his experience in the SEL. Kristo too – being older, physically ready and with a senior world championship under his belt – is clearly a hot candidate to make the Rangers while key players such as Ryan Callahan continue their injury recoveries.
However, Traverse City is also useful to point out deficiencies in the prospect pipeline and while not as exciting to fans it’s just as important. The Rangers have shipped ten goals in two games. They were clearly outdueled in net against the Hurricanes and the defense has come up short in both games.
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We have already discussed the expectations that may surround Jesper Fast as he looks to make the Rangers next season. When it comes to dealing with ‘reasonable expectations’ however, Oscar Lindberg may be on a hiding to nothing. When you’re an MVP, a league winner, and an elite scorer in your domestic league, people take notice and many people – media and fans alike – now eagerly anticipate Lindberg’s arrival in North American hockey.
With 42 points in 55 games in the defense first SHL (only three players scored over a point/game in 12-13), Lindberg exploded offensively compared to previous seasons. The Rangers may have anticipated a defensively sound, faceoff specialist (a team need). What they didn’t expect was a prospect arriving in North America as a potential NHL scoring forward.
Make no mistake, in the NHL Lindberg will still be judged primarily on his two way ability and his face off skills, but the Swedish center has developed such an all round game that people have already speculated how high he can go in the franchise, and whether he can be a legitimate offensive producer as an NHLer. It appears people are of the opinion that it’s when not if Lindberg becomes a Ranger. Ethan Werek who?
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The 2013 draft is now in the books and the Rangers have added five more youngsters to their prospect system. Let’s take a look at where all the prospects stand heading into the offseason.
On the cusp
After bursting onto the scene during the 2012 playoffs, Kreider struggled out of the gate with the CT Whale to start the 2013 season. He joined the Rangers following the lockout, but never earned major minutes under coach John Tortorella and was frequently sent back and forth from New York to Connecticut. Still the crown jewel of the Rangers’ system, Kreider should be handed a much bigger offensive role next season under Alain Vigneault.
Miller’s quick climb up the ladder to New York was extremely impressive and though his 2012-2013 season was cut short by a wrist injury, he should also have a job to lose in September under Vigneault. Miller’s game is very much a work in progress – he was guilty of some horrible defensive mistakes and didn’t contribute much offensively, but Miller looked like he belonged in the NHL. He’s proven to be a very quick study all along and will be expected to continue his growth as a Ranger next season. Read more »
Every year as free agency approaches Ranger fans spend most of their time talking about the big fish, the top five or so guys available. We’ve kind of been trained to do that thanks to the free-spending ways of GM Glen Sather, but it’s also only natural to think about the impact that recognizable players might be able to make on New York’s lineup.
Though we’re exercising the same behavior this June, it probably makes more sense –for a couple of reasons– for us to discuss stopgap third and fourth liners that could be inked for just a year or two. First, this just isn’t a great free agent class and there aren’t many players that are worthy of long-term financial commitments. Secondly, the Rangers will need to spend most of their available cash to re-sign their own free agents. Even if New York does buy out Brad Richards, management must still keep an eye on the bevy of significant players up for new deals next summer.
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With this summer’s free agent market perhaps the weakest in recent memory, and with the Rangers having multiple holes to fill, nothing would please the organization more than a prospect (or two) stepping up and forcing their way onto the 2013-14 roster. With the Rangers needing more of everything – scoring, depth, size, physical presence, face off ability, special teams upgrades – there are plenty of prospects close to making the jump.
The problem for the Rangers is timing. They already have a slew of bottom six forwards who could be moved, and should they spend cap dollars on forwards in the offseason they are, to an extent, committed to inserting the new recruits into the line up regardless of how the rookies play pre-season. That said, players such as Jesper Fast, Oscar Lindberg and the usual suspects – Chris Kreider and JT Miller – are surely close to securing roster spots. Let’s consider the merits of the Swedish pair who so many Rangers fans are eagerly awaiting.
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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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