Four questions this week as the training camp battles heat up. As always, you can use the widget on the right to send all your questions to me, and I will answer them in a weekly mailbag post.
anon asks: Why do you think Kevin Hayes should stick to center? He can’t win a faceoff to save his life.
I’ve addressed this on Twitter a bunch of times, but I may as well address it here too. While faceoffs on special teams are important, even strength faceoffs don’t do much in terms of controlling the play. It’s what is done after the faceoff that matters. The Derek Stepan winner against Washington showed us that much, as Stepan didn’t win that draw. It was Jesper Fast that came in and poked the puck to Keith Yandle that set the whole play up. But I digress.
The point with Hayes is that of his 45 points last year, I believe 40 of them were either goals or primary assists. That’s 90% primary points for him. That’s what you want your centers to do. You want them to create offense, you don’t want them to be passengers. Hayes is very smart as well, as he consistently drives to the net, and he gets himself open to shoot. He’s a beast with the puck, and he’s pretty solid defensively too. Faceoffs are skill that can be improved upon. You can’t teach hockey IQ, and Hayes has that in droves.
Lumping these two together, since they are not mutually exclusive. Klein’s future is directly tied to McIlrath’s. McIlrath is an intriguing case this year, and I can probably dedicate 5,000 words to this alone. He’s been much better this year than last, and appears to have finally figured out that he can’t leave his position to deliver a hit. The hits will come, but it’s more important to defend and move the puck. He’s been solid in that regard thus far, but it’s still early and he hasn’t seen much NHL competition yet. He’s not the best skater in the world, so faster teams will torch him regularly. That said, he’s been better than Kevin Klein thus far. But again, it’s early.
His waiver status –he is no longer exempt– makes things interesting. I highly doubt he passes through unclaimed, so the Rangers likely need to keep him. I think the best move for the Rangers for this year and beyond is to have a 6D rotation of McIlrath and Diaz depending on matchup. That frees up cap space, gives Alain Vigneault freedom to matchup, and perhaps opens up a more permanent role for Brady Skjei after his more than likely two month stint in Hartford.
NYRFan asks: Do you think Jarret Stoll makes the team?
This is a loaded question. Oscar Lindberg is a lock, as are Emerson Etem and Viktor Stalberg. That basically means Stoll is competing with Tanner Glass for a spot as either the 12F or 13F. I think Stoll has the inside track as he brings more to the lineup. But I have to admit, my thought process on this is incredibly biased because I picture the ideal lineup for the Rangers, and it has Stoll as the 13F and Glass either in Hartford or traded. I don’t think that’s what will happen immediately, but it wouldn’t shock me if that’s what happens by December, after AV is done tinkering with his lineup."Mailbag: What to do with Hayes, Klein, McIlrath, and Stoll?",