Taylor Pyatt has been the one exception to an almost universal rule
Countless factors go into individual player evaluations, but one quality continues to dictate how the Rangers construct their roster: speed.
It’s not exactly a new revelation, the altered NHL demands that players possess speed and skill as the league has phased out the plodding physical specimens that were impact players in the 1990s. But few franchises have put as strong an emphasis on skating ability as New York. Just look at three of the team’s most recent first-round picks: Chris Kreider, JT Miller and Brady Skjei. What do all have in common? Tremendous skating ability.
There’s simply no room on Broadway, especially under coach John Tortorella, for players that can’t outskate the opposition.
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Per Steve Zipay, Chris Kreider is skating after the optional morning skate, meaning he will likely be a scratch tonight against the Flyers. Kreider was skating with Arron Asham and Matt Gilroy, meaning these are the three likely scratches.
Also, after last night’s game Kris Newbury was recalled from the Whale, presumably to take Kreider’s spot for tonight’s game.
Taylor Pyatt has displayed impressive hockey sense in his first two games
A two game sample size is hardly enough to evaluate anyone, and clearly none of the Rangers played particularly well in the season’s opening weekend, but here are some initial impressions of the newest Blueshirts:
Rick Nash – As coach John Tortorella said following Sunday’s game, “he’s the real deal.” Nash has been an absolute puck magnet, has already displayed soft hands and creative stickhandling, is using his body extremely well to create separation between the puck and defenders and has even thrown a few solid hits. Nash understandably wants to make a good impression with his new club, but I’ve also been pleased to see that he’s continued competing very hard in both losing efforts.
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Does Kreider deserve to make the opening night roster?
I’m writing a musings article. That can only mean one thing: The lockout is over. Who else thought the Gary Bettman ‘apology’ fell on deaf ears? Show of hands? Thought so. On to the musings.
TSN had an article earlier this week titled: “Leafs stand to benefit from new CBA”. Of course, this is presumptive from TSN. When you’re a franchise that’s been mismanaged for more than a decade, it’s dangerous to assume anything. More on that later.
Should we expect quick movement on the Del Zotto contract front?
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Per Jim Cerny, both Chris Kreider and Matt Gilroy are skating at “camp” today. While Kreider was an expected Whale camp invitee, Gilroy’s status was always a bit up in the air. With his inclusion in camp, two things are assumed: 1) Gilroy will likely get an NHL contract when the league resumes business as usual on Sunday (this could be dependent on how he performs at camp), and 2) Kreider and Gilroy are the only players from the Whale roster who will get a look during mini-camp.
If assumption #2 is correct, then J.T. Miller may not be invited to camp. This is mostly because of the nature and timing of camp this year, and not an indication of how the organization views Miller.
No reason to panic with Skjei
Perhaps lost amid the excellent World Junior campaign played by Team USA are the struggles of Brady Skjei in his freshman year with Minnesota in the WCHA. Skjei has just two points, which both came in one game way back in October, and has been outplayed by fellow freshman Mike Reilly who – unlike Skjei – made the US world junior team that’s earned rave reviews in Russia. Of course, there’s no reason to panic for Skjei, Rangers fans or team brass this early in his development.
Skjei is learning the hard way on a strong hockey program. He’s been on the third pair (recently with Nate Schmidt) and won’t have seen significant ice time. The Rangers don’t need to worry however as Skjei wasn’t expected (or needed) to be rushed and too much can’t be expected from a first year college defenseman in most cases.
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Could the Rangers benefit from a hot Chad Kolarik?
When the Rangers hit the ice in due course (once the CBA is finally resolved), they’ll do so knowing it’s a sprint to finish the regular season. There will be minimal margin for error in player selection and form, and health will be a priority – not player development.
With the likelihood of a conference only playoff-play-in, and the chances of making the playoffs for all teams more even than in a normal season (a quick start in a 48 game season would be huge), no team can afford to carry passengers or tolerate growing pains from individuals. In such an abbreviated season comes opportunity for the likes of Chad Kolarik, and those opportunities need to come at the expense to the likes of struggling prospects such as Chris Kreider.
Kreider of course represents the future of the Rangers, along with bright sparks such as JT Miller and Dylan McIlrath, etc. However, Kreider is struggling and the Rangers – like any team hoping to make the playoffs – need to get off to a quick start. They need to ice the best line up when the season convenes and that means taking advantage of their farm system which has been on the ice for weeks.
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Are the Whale doing right by the prospects?
Andrew Yogan has one point in 10 games. Marek Hrivik has no goals and five points in 10 games. Key prospects JT Miller and Chris Kreider have a combined 3 goals in 12 and 11 games played, respectively. Alternatively, Brandon Segal (29 years old, 102 NHL games) has eight points in 12 games and Michael Haley (26 years old, 43 NHL games played) has five points in 12 games. The statistics you just read were intended to be a little thought provoking.
Clearly, outside of the odd game here and there or the odd exception (like Christian Thomas’s recent upswing in form, or, for the most part, Kyle Jean) it is the veterans and players with little realistic NHL future that are being counted on to produce for the Connecticut Whale so far this season. All of this begs the question; what should be the priority for the Whale: on ice success or prospect development?
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Chris Kreider, Super Prospect.
It’s fair to say that the Connecticut Whale have had an indifferent start to the season, stumbling to a 1-3-1 record to open the year. What the Whale’s start also suggests is that when you dig a little deeper there may be a need for patience in regard to prospect development.
With two points in his first five games Chris Kreider has hardly set the world alight. Christian Thomas has a single goal in five games, while JT Miller had three assists in his opening four games of the regular season before displaying all his potential with a breathtaking individual effort against Albany midweek.
Miller and Kreider in particular raised levels of expectation with their strong play in the preseason, however it’s fair to say only Miller is delivering at present. With regard to the prospects Rangers’ fans have possibly been guilty of getting ahead of themselves when thinking how ready Kreider and co were. Being NHL ready can take time.
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Amid the brief optimism and subsequent let down of the lockout negotiations (aka ‘far apart’) Rangers prospects have been getting it done and, which has been the case all season long, the Swedish contingent are shining bright.
Jesper Fasth continued his strong start to the SEL season and now has 9 points in 14 games for HV71. Fast grabbed two goals on Wednesday as HV71 beat Färjestad 4-3. The most encouraging thing in regard to Fasth is the fact he’s producing on the powerplay (2 of his 6 goals so far) and is seeing considerable ice time at close to 20 minutes/game.
Clearly, Fasth is becoming a go-to option for his club which should stand him in good stead long term. With Oscar Lindberg still scoring at a point/game clip (now 14 in 14) come next season there will likely be another two Swedes making a serious case for inclusion on the Rangers roster.
So how does this affect the roster, aside from player turnover?
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