Potential Rangers training camp surprises

Ryan Bourque is riding a wave of momentum after his strong second-half performance last season

Immediately after July 1, it looked like the Rangers would have several forward spots open to competition at training camp. However, the eventual signings of Matt Lombardi, Lee Stempniak and Kevin Hayes have made it much more difficult for anyone else to earn a spot in the lineup. The likes of J.T. Miller, Jesper Fast and Oscar Lindberg still figure to duke it out with some of those depth signings for the final spot or two, but it’s going to be exceedingly difficult for anyone else to enter the fray. With that said, here’s a look at the handful of forwards and defensemen that could conceivably be in the mix with a standout performance at camp.

Ryan Malone – This one is a real long-shot not only because of the legal questions surrounding Malone, but because the Rangers would have to ship out a player to fit Malone under the 50-contract limit. Malone was once an effective power forward and is presumably being invited to training camp on the off chance the Blueshirts catch lightning in a bottle in their search to replace Benoit Pouliot, but unless Malone dominates, it’s highly unlikely he makes the team.

Marek Hrivik – Injuries have slowed Hrivik’s development and several guys have leapfrogged him over the last year, but Hrivik was one of the final cuts last fall and didn’t look out of place against NHL-level competition. Now that several other prospects have grown and the team added veteran depth in free agency, Hrivik will have a much more difficult time standing out. However, he uses his size very well and, like Malone, could be a logical Pouliot replacement.

Anthony Duclair – Ranger fans are drooling over Duclair, and rightfully so. However, Duclair isn’t eligible for the American League, so it’s the NHL or another year in the QMJHL for him. Duclair has nothing left to learn in junior hockey, but a leap straight to the pros might be too much to ask. (Dave edit: The nine-game rule doesn’t apply to Duclair, since his contract already slid. He can be with the big club as long as his play warrants he stays.)

Ryan Bourque – Just a few months ago, it seemed like Bourque’s time with the organization was nearing an end. However, a second-half offensive explosion has altered Bourque’s career trajectory. Bourque already has the wheels and defensive acumen to play in the NHL, but his newfound scoring touch might be the difference between Bourque playing out his career in the AHL and securing a checking line role in the NHL. Bourque has more experience than many of these guys and is also more well-rounded. And though New York does have a ton of bodies competing for bottom-six roles, the team lacks the prototypical defensive-minded forwards that comprised the fourth line a year ago. For those reasons, Bourque might be the best bet on this list.

Danny Kristo – The problem for Kristo is that he’s purely an offensive guy, and the top-six jobs are already locked up. If he really dominates, Kristo could push for attention on the third scoring line. However, defense has been a problem for Kristo, so it’s a little hard to imagine him beating out a guy like Bourque.

Ryan Haggerty – Haggerty was one of the big undrafted college free agent signings the team made in the late spring and is known for having a wicked shot. As with Kristo, he’s a little too one-dimensional right now and almost certainly needs a bit of AHL seasoning.

Chris Mueller – The big thing Mueller has going for him is experience. Unfortunately, that card would have been a much better play before the signings of Lombardi and Stempniak. Mueller figures to be a leader in Hartford and one of the first few call-ups, but you have to think that if he was going to win a full-time NHL job, it would have happened by now.

Mat Bodie – Both Dylan McIlrath and Conor Allen appear to be well ahead of Bodie on the depth chart and the likely candidates for eventual promotion should things go south with John Moore. It’s not ridiculous to think the former Union captain could beat out either of them, but the free agent additions of Matt Hunwick, Steve Kampfer and Mike Kostka have really buried Bodie for this season at least.

Matt Hunwick/Steve Kampfer/Mike Kostka – These guys figure to battle for the Justin Falk role, but again, the Moore situation makes things at least a little interesting. Of the group, Kostka is the most enticing and could force a tough decision.

So which of these guys do you think has the best chance to stick out of training camp?

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  • If a d-man makes the team, it will be Mc Ilrath, or Allen. Of the forwards, JT Miller is going to get the best shot at one of the spots, and I believe he will run with that chance. After him, look for Hayes skating on the same line as Miller, and Hags. Now that would be a nice young, fast line with scoring capabilities, what more could we ask for???????

    • You’re right. I can’t argue with you. That would be a nice line combo for a 3rd line. I hope we can get even half the production from our 3rd line we did last season. To me the 3rd line is why we got as far as we did last season. Not only did they add depth and matchup nightmares for the opposition but they took games over when the top 6 was shut down.
      However, don’t you think there is a chance AV may want a righty in the lineup on the right side and for the left side on the PP? We don’t know if either of Haggerty (who has the size to play in the NHL now)
      or Kristo have worked hard on their defensive game now that AV coached a full season and 25 playoff games for both of them to learn their defensive responsibilities in man coverage. I don’t think AV will look away from a player because they aren’t great defensively. They can learn that from the core players on this team that played years on Torts teams. There’s also 4 other skaters on the ice to help miscues. I think we are in for a surprise when the final roster is announced. If Mueller isn’t in the lineup somewhere then I think one of those two are.

      This is a loaded team now. There’s going to be a lot of competition for a couple of spots. I think Hayes may have been promised to start the season in the NHL as long as he comes into camp in shape and does his job.

      JT Miller isn’t anything special on defense either. He screws up in the defensive zone all the time.

      • That’s why Hags skates with Miller, to cover his butt on the defensive side of the ledger!!!!!

  • Opening night roster…

    Kreider Stepan St. Louis
    Nash Brassard Zuccerello
    Hagelin Miller Stempniak
    Glass Moore Lombardi/Fast

    I see Hayes needing a short stint in the AHL but it won’t take him long to cement a spot in this lineup. Miller will win the 3rd line center job and either fast or lombardi will win the 4th line RW spot.

      • Have you seen enough of Lindberg to trust him as your shutdown centerman? He’s good in the faceoff circle which is something we need badly but then again so is Dom Moore. For some reason Moore took the fewest faceoffs of the NYR centres last season but he had the highest winning percentage.

  • I view Bourque as the one with the best shot of those listed at making the roster. He’s the only one who would be gunning for a 4th line role (i.e. competing with Glass / Lombardi) rather than a spot on a scoring line

    Potentially Duclair stays up for 9 games if he really impresses but I don’t see him beating out Nash, MSL, Kreider, Zuc, Hagelin quite yet

    Quality depth is nice to have and I wouldn’t be surprised if a number of these players get a bit of time in NY this coming season

  • Can’t see 5-8″ Bourque, with a history of concussion problems, making this team.

    Bodie, at either 165 or 175 lbs, just too small.

    Hrivik, just not a NHL talent. Hrvik & Kyle Jean were talked about by many as undrafted talents. Really, it was just a smokescreen to 1) defelct talk about Ranger’s poor draft history and 2) lack of organizational talent.

    Kristo was a wasted trade; on the day the Rangers acquired him, I knew the trade was doomed. Drafting Christian Thomas, 5-9, 170 lbs, in the 2nd rd, and the following year choosing JT Miller over Booner Jenner, Christian Thomas’s wingmate just made things worst. Boone Jenner is everything Miller is not, a great body check, defensively responsible, tougher, and a finisher.

    Allen has no future, unless Moore or Staal are moved.

    • I’m sorry but much of what you said is wrong. It’s your opinion but it’s wrong. Allen was ready to be the 7th defenseman last season but Management and the coaching staff didn’t want him just sitting as a healthy scratch each game.

      Kristo has the tools for the professional game that Thomas didn’t and since the trade Thomas has spent more time on IR than in the lineup. Kristo has the shot and above avg skating ability to play in the NHL right now. He just has to learn AV’s defensive and neutral zone coverage.

      I hate it when things get worst!

      Boone Jenner was drafted in the 2nd round. If you love Jenner so much go root for CBJ. Miller is going to be 2X the player Jenner is. Miller will develop into a physical top 6 centerman with speed and size to play in the dangerous areas of the ice in the offensive zone. Boone Jenner is a 3rd line player at best. The Rangers don’t really have room on the top 6 for Miller and don’t want to waste his talent on the 4th line.

    • If hindsight were an art form, you would be the Sistine Chapel. If hindsight is 20/20, you are the Hubble telescope

    • How many players were picked between JT Miller (1st Rd/#15) and Boone Jenner (2d Rd/#37)/
      * 21

      Of these 21 players, how many have never played a single game in the NHL?
      * 12

      Of the 9 players that have played in the NHL, how many have played more NHL games than JT Miller’s 56.
      * 0

      Of the 9 players that have played in the NHL, how many have scored more goals than JT Miller’s 5
      * 1 (Tomas Jurco has 8 goals).

      Of these 9, how many have more points than JT Miller’s 10
      * 1 (Tomas Jurco with 15)

      If cherry-picking stats were a woman, you’d be Kate Upton.

  • I don’t see Bodie as buried. To me, the signings of Kostka, Hunwick, Kampfer says that Allen and McIlraith aren’t ready. That is good news for the unknowns – Bodie and Zamorsky. Not saying that either will make the team or is even close, but the depth chart isn’t cluttered if they show up well in camp.

    I don’t see Hrivik or Bourque or Kristo. I think all the new bodies indicate the Rangers aren’t expecting anyone from Hartford to move up except the obvious trio of Miller, Fast, Lindberg.

    • I hope that ray is right that mcilrath is just “not ready”. Injury or not, four years of not ready would almost mean goodbye to another 1st round pick. I know that d men take longer but there are many big d men in the league that cracked lineups within four years. As for all the other bottom six forwards, none get me excited except possibly DuClair who will not make the team. I hope that I am wrong.

      • His knee injury set him back a full year. I wouldn’t be too worried unless he misses out on the 2015-2016 team.

  • Unless I am reading this incorrectly, we will have competition for wing, center and on defense. Whether it is one or more spots, it doesn’t matter. What does is that the kids should see an opportunity, play hard and let the veterans know that unless you play hard, there are kids ready to take your spot.

  • Ryan Bourque? Just what we need, another diminutive player.. Stop drinking Ranger Kool-aid when it comes to prospects…if you want to pin your hopes on anyone, pin them on McIlrath (who if he does not make it during this season, hit flush on another wasted first rounder. There simply is no one on this team to stand up for the others, and while it is not the ’70’s, than goodness, the plain fact is that teams will run you in the regular season, much more so than the layoffs. The Rangers will cower. They need some kind of physical presence on the ice…I suspect the April team will be three players different than the one that breaks camp.

    • What about last season? What big giant presence did the Rangers have that they don’t now? In fact with Tanner Glass there is no player in the NHL that’s gonna take liberties on any of the other 11 forwards and not have him in their face at some point. The Rangers take the penalty and the power play. That’s the direction the game is going. Just like AV said last season, look at the Wings & Hawks. They don’t beat anyone up or have a goon to do the dirty work. They hold the puck all game long and if they don’t have it they fight like hell to get it back. It’s called Puck Possession hockey and that’s what the Rangers are moving towards. They made it to the Finals with no big goons last season and this year will be no different. What big tough guys did the LA Kings have that beat up the Rangers in the Stanley Cup Finals? Not a single one, in fact Mike Richards was on the 4th line mostly. Who is he beating up?

      Just because you have no patience with McIlrath doesn’t mean the organization is going to give up on him like you say. In fact the Rangers expect him to play this entire season in Hartford and maybe be ready for next season in 15/16. He lost 12/13 to a knee injury and last season he had to fight everyone so now this year he may have a chance to develop his all around game. This year is crucial for him but no one is giving up on him yet. He might even get a 2 game stint in the NHL again like he did last season.
      Than Goodness?
      You’re saying the play is more physical in the regular season than in the “Layoffs”? That’s what your sentence implies.

  • I’m just happy there is depth and competition. Bottom six…but depth and competition nonetheless. I wasn’t sure that was going to be the case a few months ago. The team will be better all season for it.

  • Some great comments but I think there are 3 spots up for grabs. 3rd line C and RW, (Miller, Hayes, Stempniak) and 4th line RW (Malone, Lombardi, and Stepniak. The lines that make the most sense to me are:
    Nash Step MSL
    Kreider Brass Zucc
    Hag Miller Stemp/Hayes
    Glass Moore Lomb/Malone

    The D spots are a lock despite John Moore not being signed yet.

  • The loss of Pouliot may prove to be the biggest mistake GS made…kids a beast and will continue to get better…All these tradable parts need to be packaged for one ‘good’ player for the third line or a big tough defenseman…otherwise it might bode well for the Wolfpack

    • Even in the most favorable light, Pouliot is neither a “beast” nor worth anywhere close to $4m per year for 5 years.

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