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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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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Lindberg has been tearing it up in the SEL so far.
Any Ranger fan regularly casting eyes over the club’s prospects throughout the lockout will no doubt have seen the immense start to the season Oscar Lindberg has enjoyed over in the Swedish Elite League. With 13 points in his first 13 games, Lindberg has enjoyed an unexpected offensive explosion of sorts.
The great start by Lindberg – playing on the top line for Skelleftea – could at the same time cast uncertainty over current Rangers players hampered with no competitive hockey because of the lockout. Brian Boyle in particular should have cause for concern.
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Not known for scoring, Oscar Lindberg is having a breakout season in Sweden.
Image Source: Rick Stewart/Getty Images North America
When the Rangers traded Ethan Werek for little known second round pick Oscar Lindberg, we knew the Rangers were trading some raw offensive talent for a more polished defensive talent who can win face offs. The trade itself was tough to analyze, but it looks like Glen Sather knew what he was doing when he targeted the young Swede.
Known defensive prowess and his ability in the face off circle (~60% success rate), Lindberg was never considered to be a true offensive talent. It was widely speculated that his play without the puck –specifically his face off skill– would be his path to the NHL.
My what a difference a hot start makes.
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