The Rangers have been whittling down their roster in the past few weeks as they approach Thursday’s season opener. Many of the players that have already been cut won’t have a future with the franchise, but some players futures have yet to be decided. With the roster due to be finalised within the next 24 hours, we take a look at a few of the prospects already down on the farm.
After a strong end to last season and with significant turnover among the Rangers presumptive bottom six over the summer, Bourque was considered a dark horse for a roster spot. He was never a realistic option. Following his demotion to Hartford on October 1st, the small but hard working Bourque appears to have been passed by several prospects and at this stage of his career. Only a stunning season with the Wolf Pack will get him back in the reckoning and even that may not be enough. An injury call up and/or an uncertain future as trade bait appears to be Bourque’s immediate situation.
McIlrath has a huge season ahead of him. Not realistically in the mix for the Rangers (and given the only job ‘open’ in camp, nor should he have been), McIlrath will again be under the spotlight in Hartford as he fights for ice time and an opportunity to be the first call up to the Rangers, when required.
At this stage, even his position in Hartford is unclear. With the potential logjam of defenseman in Hartford (Kostka, Allen, Bodie, Hughes, Donnay and maybe Kampfer) how McIlrath’s role and ice time will be determined is unclear. What isn’t unclear is that McIlrath – who had a solid yet unspectacular camp – needs big minutes to develop. The Rangers need a player of McIlrath’s type, the need hasn’t changed. Nor it appears, has his readiness for a full time gig. He’ll be carefully watched by everyone involved with the franchise this year.
Anthony Duclair. Ryan Haggerty, Kevin Hayes, J.T. Miller. Even Marek Hrivik. Despite a promising first pro-season (that tailed off considerably) Kristo is another that has seemingly been passed by several prospects. The Rangers are in love with Duclair and committed to Hayes and Miller so it will be difficult for Kristo to make the Rangers at all, but unlike Ryan Bourque (bottom six) there is significant uncertainty at Kristo’s position beyond this year.
If Mats Zuccarello and Martin St Louis (free agency, potential retirement) were to leave after the upcoming season, a need for a skilled winger would potentially be huge. Kristo needs a huge season to keep his dwindling chances alive but he still has a small chance. He should have plenty of motivation entering his second year with the ‘Pack. A 30 goal season would likely keep his name in roster discussions.
The Rangers top six defensive positions are well set, although Dan Boyle is not getting any younger and Marc Staal’s situation obviously bears watching. Throw into the mix that John Moore is entering a ‘prove it’ season and there is opportunity to be found on the blue line, long term. Allen and Bodie were both free agent acquisitions so the club aren’t married to either player long term, but if either player were to have a strong year in the AHL they could still be an option for the Rangers, long term. With Calle Andersson and Brady Skjei on the horizon anyone on the current ‘Pack squad wanting to make it to New York will need to have a strong, consistent season this year.
The Wolf Pack could be a dangerous team this year if only for the fact that several players enter the season with a ton of motivation trying to maintain their relevance to the organisation. Several players are approaching a crossroad in their potential Rangers’ careers so there’s plenty to watch as the prospects develop on the farm this year.