The Rangers are pretty lucky to have a lot of youngsters who are contributing,ready to contribute, or are on the verge of contributing. It seems like it’s been forever since the Rangers have had this. You know the names: MDZ, AA, Gilroy, McDonagh, Stepan, Grachev, Krieder, MZA, . These guys are very close to being contributors to a championship team.
But, how do you know when they’re ready? How do you know when it’s time to let them loose at the NHL level? That’s what I’m here to talk about.
Each player is different. A formula for one player won’t necessarily work for another. Grachev has spent a year in the AHL. Stepan, Krieder and McDonagh are all college kids. MDZ came straight from juniors. MZA came from overseas. We can’t know for sure when one player is ready over another.
The best way is to see him play. We can’t see Krieder yet–he’s still in school. But, we’re going to get a great look at most of these guys in camp and in preseason. Here’s what I’m looking for:
Stepan: With any forward, you want to see if they have scoring ability. Can he tear it up against AHLers and junior players in preseason? Or does he just blend in? If he’s going to make the team, you want to see him dominate the lower level of competition in preseason, much like Anisimov did last year. Stepan is more than experienced. He captained the USA juniors team that won the world Championship team. The question is: Does he need seasoning? If he’s dominating, then he won’t.
Grachev: He scored 12 goals in Hartford last season. For him, much like Stepan, I want to see him dominate. If you can’t dominate at the AHL level, you’re not going to dominate at the NHL level. Can Grachev be the best player on the ice? We know he has the talent. Can he put it all together?
MZA: The guy can score. 23 goals in the Swedish Elite League. The one thing I’m looking for is can he transition? The European game is different from the NHL game. There’s a smaller ice surface here. Can his small, 5-7 frame handle the punishment he’s going to get? Remains to be seen. He’s the most NHL ready of the bunch, just because he’s done it on a very high level. The big question is transition.
McDonagh: The savior. Or at least the guy who could replace Wade Redden. He’s the one I’m most interested in. Can he be physical? Can he be responsible in his own end? Can he make the outlet pass? Can he join the rush?
With youngsters, you have to tread carefully. But, above all, you have to see them on the ice. See them in action. If they can do it in preseason, they can probably do it in the regular season.