Training Camp/Preseason Lessons

With training camp and preseason coming to a close, we are left with what looks to be the final version of the Rangers roster. In my initial 2009-2010 Rangers outlook, I had initially pegged one of Bobby Sanguinetti, Corey Potter, or Michael Sauer to be the seventh defenseman. My how things have changed.

Sauer was one of the first cuts in the preseason, his stay-at-home style doesn’t fit into the John Tortorella system. Expect him to get traded. Bobby Sanguinetti came into camp out of shape and really struggled to work back from that. He was the most recent cut, and there are rumors that the Rangers don’t have faith in him, and are shopping him around. Corey Potter seems to be the most logical choice at this moment to get a call up int he event of an injury, but he was part of the second round of cuts, before Sanguinetti was cut.

On the other side of the coin, you have Alexei Semenov. Semenov, invited to camp on a tryout, without a contract, came to camp in great shape, and has simply played his way on to the Ranger roster. Credit needs to go to the big defenseman, as he outplayed the aforementioned defensemen, and wrestled the starting job away from Sanguinetti (it was his to lose). You also have Michael Del Zotto, who at just 19, impressed everyone from the coach to the fans. He has given us a glimpse of what a powerplay quarterback can do. He has played so well that he forced the Rangers into giving him another look during the regular season. He now has nine more games to show he belongs, or else be returned to the OHL for the season.

Moving on to the forwards, fans expected Evgeny Grachev to play well in camp, considering his performance last year in the OHL. While he has played extremely well in the preseason, he will benefit from a year in Hartford, so expect him to be the final forward cut before the season starts. If he lights up that league, he will be one of the first call ups during the season.

A pleasant surprise was the newly acquired Enver Lisin, who came over from Hamilton Phoenix for Lauri Korpikosi. Lisin also has played his way into consideration for the roster, and leaves coach John Tortorella with an interesting issue. Lisin belongs on the top three lines, there’s no doubt about that. But, the top three lines seem to be set at the moment. The dilemma: do you put Lisin on the fourth line, getting five minutes a game, or send him to Hartford for regular shifts, at the risk that he bolts for Russia? More on this in another post.

With one last preseason game this weekend in Washington, look for the Rangers to give Grachev, Del Zotto, and Lisin more playing time to let them prove they belong on the NHL level.