The Rangers will get a pair of rookies in the lineup tonight. Fresh off their “elimination” from the playoffs and subsequent injuries, the Blueshirts recalled both Morgan Barron and Tarmo Reunanen. Both have been solid in Hartford, and both were deserving of a recall. However neither is a savior, and neither is going to be a game breaker right out of the gate. Keeping expectations in check for both Barron and Reunanen will go a long way for the last week of the season.
Barron has been tearing it up in Hartford at a point per game pace. The good thing is that he was playing both center and wing effectively. There were concerns about his ability to play center at the professional level, but so far, so good for Barron.
Barron will be on the fourth line to kick off his NHL career, and he will also be on the wing. This is good for him, specifically on the wing, as he will be eased into the speed of the NHL game. Make no mistake, young effective centers are rare because of the defensive responsibilities required. For Barron, he will likely get 10 minutes of even strength time, and maybe some PK time with Brett Howden out.
Another positive for Barron is he will have Julien Gauthier, at least temporarily, on the other wing. Gauthier may not be balanced yet, but he’s still got that rare skill set of size and speed that could open up space for Barron. But still, Barron won’t be putting up his AHL numbers. Over the next five games, assuming he is in the lineup and getting 10 minutes a game, expecting a couple of points, maybe a goal, with some good two-way play is reasonable for Barron. Anything more is just gravy.
Reunanen already had his first cuppa earlier this season, playing just 8 minutes. He had a 50% CF, but a sub-40 xGF% which was not good. He will be paired with Brendan Smith on the third pair, and that might be a good pairing for him. Smith is going to be more defense oriented, which may open up space for Reunanen’s offensive ability.
The rub on Reunanen is his two-way ability, which is a legitimate concern at the NHL level. Reunanen didn’t necessarily struggle defensively in Hartford, but he wasn’t Ryan Lindgren either. The speed of the game may be a bit much for him. But he’s also had another month in the AHL to get adjusted.
For Reunanen, this is going to be a bit of a tryout and a bit of a showcase. As much as it may pain a few people here, I don’t see Reunanen as a long-term Ranger. There’s just too much defensive depth already, and he may have good value in a trade. That said, there are still five games left this season, and he should be staying in the lineup for the rest of the season.
Expectations for Reunanen are harder to gauge than for Barron. I’d assume he also gets about 10 minutes of even strength time only. He may get powerplay time in a pinch, but that’s not likely to happen. For Reunanen, I’d say reasonable expectations are a net-even impact on the ice, both offensively and defensively. Improving on that sub-40 xGF% is a must as well.