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.
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.