Wing depth a strength for the Rangers


Yesterday I posted on how center depth could be a concern for the Rangers heading into this season. It’s not to say that the Rangers are flawed, that’s just one hole that could pose a problem. On the flip side, wing depth appears to be a strength for the Rangers. Most of their wingers from last year are returning, with some shrewd signings and some kids on the cusp fill in the rest of the holes.

The top six wingers will likely be some combination of Mats Zuccarello, Chris Kreider, Rick Nash, and Marty St. Louis. This –finally– bumps Carl Hagelin down to the third line, as he was miscast as a top-six winger in previous seasons. It’s expected that Lee Stempniak will quietly slide into Benoit Pouliot’s spot as the 3RW, meaning there isn’t much turnover from last year’s wingers.

The interesting part of the wing depth is when we get to the fourth line. Tanner Glass was signed to a three-year deal, and it’s likely he will get a spot as the 4LW (or at the very least, the 13F) whether we like it or not. Even with Glass guaranteed a roster spot (more or less), he’s still a part of the competition for those last winger spots.

Ryan Malone is on a low-risk deal and will be in the mix for a fourth line role. Same with Matt Lombardi, who can play both center and wing. Considering the way AV deploys his fourth line, primarily with defensive zone starts, Lombardi may have the inside track if he misses out on a third line role.

But what kind of discussion would this be without mentioning the numerous kids that are on the cusp?

J.T. Miller, if he doesn’t make it as a center, could be up for a third line winger role. Jesper Fast has already proven he can hold his own in the NHL, and has the rare skill set of defensive awareness with a touch of offensive potential to be a dangerous and versatile fourth line winger.

As for kids that haven’t played an NHL game yet, Ryan Bourque and Oscar Lindberg seem to be the most NHL ready, although Lindberg is better suited as a center. Kevin Hayes is a popular name to slide right into the lineup, but the reviews of his play in Traverse City have noted he needs a bit of work in the AHL first.

Injury call ups would include any of these guys that don’t make the club, plus some additional vets (Chris Mueller) and kids (Ryan Haggerty, Chris McCarthy).

One interesting caveat here is waivers. Bourque is the only kid that needs waivers (all of the vets do). While I doubt he would be claimed, it’s a risk that the Rangers may not want to take.

Last season, especially during the playoffs, the Rangers had issues dealing with injuries due to lack of depth. It was a hole that Glen Sather needed to address, both via free agency and via development. As long as the entire team doesn’t come down with broken-leg syndrome at the same time, the Rangers will have the depth to deal with a few injuries throughout the season.

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  • Not sure I agree that Hags is a 3rd line winger. While Zucc and MSL are more threatening as scorers, the speed that he brings may open up the ice for a Zucc or MSL if paired with one of them.
    The 3rd line, is Hags is there could be dangerous if he is paired with a sniper.

  • Aside from Hank, this is the strength of the team

    The top 6 wing grouping is among the tops in league as is Hagelin on 3LW. The youth / veteran combination fighting it out for the other spots represents the true purpose of depth. Established NHLers who can hold down spots until younger players with more potential wrestle them away.

    My money is on Miller 3C Stempniak 3RW, Fast 4RW, Glass/Lombardi/Malone for the 4LW/13F spots to begin the season with Hayes and Lindberg both getting 5+ games at some point this year and potentially sticking if they impress

    The NHL quality and with Duclair and Buchnevich projecting to be top 6 wingers in the medium term, this position is certainly one of strength

  • Great point, Dave, about Hagelin being miscast as a top-6 winger. If he busts out big the coaches can find a spot for him on a higher line or give him some PP time. No reason to just hand him a top-6 role when he hasn’t scored enough yet to earn it.

    • Thanks.

      It’s the same issue they had with Boyle until last year: He was miscast and playing a level up from what he should have been playing.

      Hags as a 3LW provides ridiculous depth at LW.

      • That was the same exact issue I had with the Centers yesterday. They all have to play one line higher than the ideal. And it showed in the Finals when the Kings centers took their lunch money the whole series. And BTW the Rangers got weaker at Center in the off-season. But they have a world calss goalie, solid D and depth at wing to off-set the weakness down the middle.

        • LA is such a solidly built club, but very few have the benefit of Anze Kopitar as their 1C. Most teams, like the Bruins, have a Stepan-type guy as their 1C (Krejci).

      • And a lack thereof on the right wing. I agree the Rangers have depth on the left side but the wing overall can’t be a strength with 2 right handed shooters in 12 or even 13 forwards.
        It’s just my opinion (everyone has one) but they need another righty in the lineup. 3 is better than 2. Stepan is a righty so a forehand pass is to the LW. The other 3 Centerman are lefties. A forehand pass is going to the RW. Having 3 lefties on the right side hurts at even strength. It limits the off wingers at LW on the 2 PP units.

  • I agree with what you say here. I think the Rangers have fallen into the win now mode hence the signings of the veterans and Malone. I personally don’t like it because it will take away spots for the young players. We have a few who are ready and probably will not get their shot.
    That’s the price we will pay for making it to the cup finals and thinking we can win now this season again!!!

    • AV has shown that when kids earn spots, he will put them in the lineup. Nothing wrong with healthy competition to ensure the kids earn it.

    • Johnny

      Your assuming that some of the kids have earned a shot, but won’t play because of the vets signing. If they earn a shot, they will get it. What NHL coach would not play a younger, better kid for an older vet??? NONE!!!!

  • With strength at wing and weakness at center, would it make sense for the Rangers to trade? I recognize that it would likely be tough, but landing a 2C/3C would be a huge benefit for the team.

    • It would make sense but problem is trying to determine who is going out in order to acquire this 2/3C

      You have to give to get and the Rangers don’t have a lot of realistic options that would land this type of player

      Nash, MSL aren’t going anywhere
      Kreider should be off limits
      Zuc and Hagelin are UFAs after this year
      Stempniak was available all summer and won’t get much attention
      The veteran/youth depth players won’t be enough to land a quality player so you’re then faced with moving a center or a dman (which don’t have depth players to fill the spots) or a draft pick / top prospect (which are precious commodities and in short supply)

      All this plus the tight cap space would make it quite difficult to get this upgrade that makes sense on paper

  • With the depth on wing to include a few rookie righties and Marc Staal an unknown to his future the Rangers have the assets to trade for a solid center and the luxury to give a few people within the organization a chance to win a center slot. In my opinion MSL, Zuccarello and Hagelin we have 3 players very similiar in what they offer hence I call this redundancy. All 3 are great players, small and play well. Problem is they are also all lefties.
    Of the 3 Zuccarello is the one to keep. MSL is older and on the cusp of retiring and I would choose Zuke over Hagelin.
    Haggerty by all accounts has done well at Traverse City tournament so he is getting there to fill a spot on the Rangers.
    We all agree that we need a righty and a center and I think we can find a righty from within the organization. Clearly a center is more of a challenge but can be rectified via a trade. It will be interesting to watch things unfold throughout the year.

    • Whoo waah, Leatherneck.

      You’re on point, save for parting with Marc Staal. Walk away, Marine.

      Staal’s a lynchpin, especially if he rediscovers his nasty-chippy gene. Moreover, how many clubs have that kind of second pairing D-man?

      Back to yours and Dave’s discussion of wingers: Let’s hope that one of the young-guns, Haggerty, McCarthy, et al can lend us what Brendan Gallagher does for The Habs: a feisty grinder who goes hard to the net, gets dirty in the corners and finishes his shifts.

      If JT Miller continues to be projected as a centerman, can we bring in Mark Messier to mentor?

      • I agree with you on Staal, I prefer they sign him but Staal has to be the one that signs. It is very unclear what his intentions are though. This is why you sign him early or trade him early. It all is on Staal’s shoulders. We lost way too many assets last year for virtually no return. To lose Staal for nothing is a disaster in the making for the Rangers. He needs to be signed early on and not allow for drama and speculation to evolve and potentially develop into a nightmare.

        • We made the Stanley Cup Finals with “too many assets” we lost “for virtually no return”. Would you have traded Boyle, Stralman or Pouliot before the playoffs for whatever we may have received at the deadline? And while he cost more than Cally, I don’t think we get past Pittsburgh without MSL.

          • Actually I would have, because no one predicted us going to the finals. Going to the finals was nice, we did not win it though. Health of a club starts with the draft. It is a major part but not all encompassing, what is is how you manage your assets. The team needs a direction and it starts with the coach. The GM then has to piece in the puzzle. Every healthy club currently playing in the NHL has it’s foundation via the draft.

    • My good man, are you saying that Haggerty is good enough to trade some solid player??? I think not!! Three games against prospects does not make him a great find??????? Way to soon to crown him a savior!!!!!!!

    • The NHL is full of lefties. Top 6 right handed winger is harder to find. I agree with you on all fronts except that. Look at team by team and find a top 6 winger with a right handed stick and a doable contract. A Centerman can be a lefty or righty. No handedness is specified.

      Also Talbot may end up becoming a trade chip by the deadline if he even plays near the way he did last season. If he were to get 20 starts by the deadline, that’d be close to 40 NHL starts and more than 40 NHL appearences. Minnisota is a team to watch. They’ve got a nice group of young players up front but lack a starting goaltender. Right now 2 backups and Harding who has MS. He’s a great goalie but I don’t think think the Wild can count on him for a full season and a playoff run.

  • Stanley Cup contenders have players like Hagelin on the 3d line. While he showed flashes of more offense during the playoffs, having his kind of talent on the 3d line is a *very* good sign.

  • Dave

    As to your article, this is a very good problem to have, all these wings. We are solid in goal, defense, wings, and in due time, the 3rd line center will be filled by Miller, who will have a break out year.

    Let’s not forget, Sather said that had Miller not separated his shoulder last season, he would have been in the cup run for us. He is big, strong, and will develop into a solid center. Doesn’t everyone realize this is only a 21 year old kid???? For goodness sake, give him time to grow!!

  • Sometimes I think we mis-judge quantity for quality. Yes we have 10 wingers fighting for 4 slots (maybe), but are any of the 10 even close to a to 6 player? We have a lot of hopefuls who will make it a competitive camp, but i want 1 guy to blow away everyone and maybe make AV think about swapping a 2nd liner. We need a star, not another (give me some good minutes) player.

    • There is ample 3/4W depth but Hagelin is likely the only one who could fill in top 6 minutes. Potentially Miller as well but that would weaken the center spot

      There is a log jam of kids and veterans competing for 2 wing spots

      The top 6 depth is a few years behind as it is Buchnevich, Duclair and Hayes (maybe Kristo) who could fill those spots – but not this season and probably not even next season

  • The point was missed by many of you, we have a severe problem at center and right shooting players. The team is not balanced, sure we have a great roster to start with, it is however still not balanced. Everyone cried about not having enough right handed defensemen and the lack of depth. Same holds true for the forwards. We all have agreed we are lacking depth at center. So this to me is a problem. Not a team killing problem but a huge problem non the less.
    As for Haggerty, Walt; what I am saying is we have some relief there, not the savior. He shows he can play then this will make Hagelin expendable. That is what I am saying.

    • Agree to what you say, but back to Haggerty, it’s way too soon to think that Hags could be expendable any time soon!!!!!!! Maybe a few years down the road, but I for one wouldn’t think of trading Hags for his versatility, speed, PK, and even his scoring touch!!!!!

  • I also agree with Dave that Fast will probably start on the 4th line starting the year. Fast very possibly can be Hagelin a la righty shooter.

  • OK I’ve been reading and watching and now I’ll throw in my 2 cents.
    Nash Stepan St Louis
    Kreider Brassard Zuccarello
    This is where we have the most options
    Hagelin Miller/Hayes/Lombardi/Lindberg Stempniak
    Glass D.Moore Malone
    with Fast, Bourque, Haggerty,Mueller. McCarthy waiting with what ever 3rd line centers don’t make the cut waiting to fill in where needed.

  • I think it is most logical to put Nash with Brassard and Zuke to see if they click and MSL with Kreider and Stepan in the beginning. My 3rd line hunch is Hagelin and Stempniak with Miller and 4th line will be Fast and Malone with Moore and Lombardi and Glass as the extra forwards. Kostka the 7th D.
    Players who may see action sooner rather than later will be Hayes, Haggerty, Allen and McIlrath as the depth players. Just my hunch

  • Another thing we have all ignored is the inevitable expansion draft. It is comig fellas. Now how do you throw that into the equation? You have to believe that weights in on the Management group decision making. Would be nice to know what year that will be. My Guess 2016-17

  • had seen it written that molane/glass will share time on line as carcillo/dorsett had in the past

  • Hagelin was 2nd on Rangers in even strength goals last season & COMPLETELY took Subban out of the playoffs.

    Hageline’s totals are not padded by power play time.




    Would not be shocked if Boyle St Louis, & Staal are all out of here by season’s end.

    Staal is not worth $5 mil

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