It’s amazing what kind of effect a labour stoppage can have. With Marian Gaborik, Rick Nash and Ryan Callahan firmly entrenched on the Rangers’ wings, with Carl Hagelin and Chris Kreider both not going anywhere any time soon – and on the cusp of being essential Rangers – the pressure grows on all the potential Rangers wingers found at the levels below.
Jesper Fast is having a great start to the season in the SEL with HV71 and is proving that his fast start last season – unfortunately ruined by injury – was no fluke. When Fast is healthy he’s dangerous. What Fast is doing, more than anything else, is putting pressure on other prospects such as Christian Thomas, to be the next guy.
With so many ‘current’ Rangers off the ice from a competitive perspective, it’s left to Thomas, Fast and co. to ‘fight it out’ to be the next in line. Fast has served notice with 6 points in 11 games. The JT Millers and Christian Thomas’ of the Rangers world need to return serve and begin the season well with the CT Whale. So far, Thomas hasn’t managed to impact the box scores while Miller has managed to grab a couple of assists. Whichever way you cut it though, and performance (in this case, Fast’s) breeds pressure. With the development of Fast and the offensive emergence of Oscar Lindberg it’s becoming a sort of embarrassment of riches for the Rangers – you can call it the next wave.
From a talent perspective is this the lockout’s main effect? Perhaps it’s a rippling effect felt throughout the hockey world. Fast forward to next year and the Rangers will have some intriguing questions to answer. With aging veterans and depth options such as Jeff Halpern, Mike Rupp, Arron Asham and Taylor Pyatt all under contract perhaps the Rangers weren’t anticipating Fast, Lindberg and the Whale kids to be developing this fast. Competition will be intense in the near future and that’s without considering the ever increasing merits of Michael St Croix and college kids such as Boo Nieves.
The lockout, from a fan perspective – while frustrating – has caused a shift in focus from the NHL to leagues all over the world as Rangers fans monitor the development of the up and coming prospects. However, perhaps the shift in focus within the organisation has also gone the same way. No NHL means more time for Rangers decision makers to take notice of what’s going on with their assets in leagues beyond the AHL and in the SEL, the NCAA and major junior.
Thanks to NHL’ers fleeing America and Canada seeking employment there are now better quality leagues – subsequently blessed with greater talent and depth – and better quality opposition for the prospects. Of course, the lockout is not a positive but that doesn’t mean positive things can’t come of it. The battle for future Ranger spots is fierce.