It may have been just one preseason game, and I may just be overly excited about hockey, but last night’s game against the Devils really helped me believe that the depth signings the Rangers made this summer were solid. While most of these players aren’t going to be full time NHLers, most of these guys can be fine players in the bottom-six as a call-up if needed. We saw it last year with the injuries sustained early in the season and eventually in the playoffs, guys that can fill roles help teams win.
Brian Gibbons (pictured above)- The speedy yet undersized forward was a pain in the butt two years ago for the Penguins on the fourth line. Last year when he signed with the Blue Jackets I was really expecting him to become a full time NHLer, but he only ended up playing 25 games for them. His forechecking ability, defensive prowess, great speed, and underrated shot can really fit in well with this team if/when he is called upon. Gibbons is flexible, and can play center or wing. He was impressive against the Devils, and could move up the forward depth chart quickly.
Jayson Megna- Megna is a right handed center/wing who is a little taller than Gibbons who also has NHL experience with the Penguins. It is no secret why the Rangers feel that he was a good addition, his speed is prevalent and he has nice hands in tight, as seen by last night’s performance. He has no problem in the corners and playing the cycle, so he should also be in contention to be a quality call up when needed.
Marek Hrivik- Hrivik has been in the Rangers’ organization for three years now and the big Slovakian has been impressing me ever since. He was a late cut in the last few years, and it looks like he will be an NHLer for some team sooner rather than later, whether with the Rangers or not. His speed is nice for his size and he can keep up with other players. He is exceptional along the boards. Hrivik is a guy that wouldn’t miss a beat on a team’s fourth line and maybe he will be making his New York Rangers debut soon.
Brett Bellemore- Bellemore is a nice PTO that the Rangers have pursued. He is a physical defenseman that if signed would add another right handed defenseman that can fill in on the bottom pair. I understand people may be skeptical of why he was invited with Dylan McIlrath possibly on the way, but there is some logic involved. If McIlrath makes the team, then a nice right handed vet in Hartford can help the team replace Dylan’s physical game. If Bellemore makes the team as an 8D then it’ll be as injury insurance. This allows someone like Brady Skjei to get 20 minutes a night for Hartford instead of being in the press box if called up. Using my project PSAM (player salary analysis module), you can see that if the Rangers decide to sign him for anything under 1% of the salary cap (in this year that is $714,000) then he is a pretty cap efficient player in pretty much any statistic.
Kirill Kabanov- I just want to point it out that I love this try-out. Whether he earns himself a contract is completely up to him, but just the philosophy about it makes me happy. Here is a kid who has all of the offensive talent to succeed. Injuries and immaturity issues completely derailed him though, and he practically fell of the face of the hockey world last year while he was playing for AIK in Sweden. The Rangers are taking a no risk chance in bringing in a young guy with offensive talent to show his stuff and maybe get themselves a steal. There are a lot of late bloomers in the NHL, maybe Kabanov can be one of them.
Many people talk about his off ice issues, but I think it should be appropriate to point out that there are big differences between attitude problems and immaturity problems. Neck tattoo aside, it does seem like Kabanov has been growing up. He got married over the summer and after a good season in Sweden, he looks to be ready for a shot at the NHL again.
Let me put it this way, the KHL is already almost a month into the regular season, so the chances of him playing there this year are slim. He produced in the SHL as well, so there is no reason a team wouldn’t want him there again. But yet he chooses to go to camp with the New York Rangers, a team that obviously has depth and probably not much NHL room for him. He is going on this journey again and getting a fresh start, is most likely fine with working up through the AHL, and hopefully bringing his talent to the NHL eventually. In any case a tryout is worth the risk for the Rangers.