With the Rangers off to a 1-4 start, any attention not focused on the Blueshirts has been on the Hartford Wolfpack. Specifically, attention has been on Danny Kristo, J.T. Miller, and Chris Kreider. Some other attention has been on Oscar Lindberg and Brandon Mashinter as well.
The attention isn’t unwarranted. Kristo (2-3-5), Kreider (2-1-3), and Miller (4-0-4) are all making waves with fans with their offensive performances. Mashinter (0-3-3) and Lindberg (0-3-3) also have some pretty nice point totals through four games. But points only tell half of the story. Since #fancystats aren’t available for the AHL, we need to focus on stats that are available.
Focusing on Kristo/Kreider/Miller, let’s focus on shooting percentage and +/- (I know…). Both stats add a little more to the discussion about rushing kids based on point production.
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(Source: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images North America)
Yesterday we looked into why the organization decided to keep Jesper Fast over J.T. Miller, focusing on zone starts and puck possession in the first game of the year. Naturally the conversation shifted to why Taylor Pyatt and Brian Boyle were kept, since these are the two whipping boys among the forwards this year. So, let’s address that.
First and foremost, before we even get into #fancystats, hockey is a game played in all three zones. A well-built team has depth players that can play in the defensive zone and shutdown the opposition’s offense. That is why this club needs a guy like Boyle. He will be AV’s Manny Malholtra, getting the majority of his zone starts in the defensive zone. That was evident on Thursday, as Boyle didn’t start a single shift in the offensive zone.
As for Pyatt, many are quick to write him off as a failure because of last year’s struggles. There is some credence to this argument, since Pyatt was slow and unable to really make a difference in an aggressive John Tortorella system. However as Suit pointed out this morning, AV is more of an overload/passing coach, relying less on the blue-collar skating and more on creativity. Pyatt was effective in Vancouver (under AV) and in Phoenix (under Dave Tippett, who has a similar coaching style to AV).
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Photo credit: Mike Stobe
The Ranger world was a tad shocked yesterday when the Rangers announced they were sending J.T. Miller to the AHL’s Hartford Wolfpack. Many, myself included, thought that Jesper Fast would be returned to Hartford. One of the main reasons why Miller was sent to Hartford was to get him some solid ice time. Miller needs powerplay and penalty kill minutes, and he will not be able to get that in New York. He will get top-six minutes and prime special teams. However based on the first game’s stats, there are other reasons to support this move.
Based on the stats from Extra Skater, which is a great resource if you haven’t used them yet, Fast was actually the vastly superior player in the game against Phoenix on Thursday. It is something that should be taken with a grain of salt because we are victims of small sample size, but Fast had much better puck possession stats and zone starts. Fast started the majority of his shifts in the defensive zone, with zero offensive zone starts, and still managed to out-Corsi Miller.
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As expected, the Rangers made a roster move to make room in the lineup for the returning Ryan Callahan. However, it was not Jesper Fast being returned to Hartford. It was 2011 first round pick J.T. Miller who was sent down. People are pointing to the cap as the reason why Miller was sent down, but the difference is marginal (about $100k, not including performance bonuses, which would affect next year’s cap).
My guess is that the Rangers wanted to keep someone who is more defensively responsible, and that would be Fast. That isn’t to say Miller is a slouch in his own end, it’s just that Fast is much more seasoned in defensive zone play. After all, the SHL is a very defensive and two-way league.
How will Zuccarello fare this season?
Today it all begins. The Rangers open their season today as the season, tone setting, nine game road trip gets under way tonight in Phoenix. Let’s jump straight into the first Musings of the new season.
It will be interesting to see how Derek Stepan starts tonight. Will he be a step behind? Will the lack of reps, preseason games, training camp, and a new system implementation hurt him? He’s going to be under the microscope and has a lot of responsibility to shoulder.
A player that could thrive under Alain Vigneault’s (apparently) more open system could be Michael Del Zotto. Like so many Rangers, this is a big year for him. Is he finally going to put it all together and be a consistent offensive threat from the blueline? Or does he become expendable after this season? A good year from MDZ likely means an improved Rangers PP.
Most unpredictable player heading into tonight? Mats Zuccarello.
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Could Hrivik be well placed to become a Ranger despite being in the AHL?
With the Rangers facing the reality of opening the year without Ryan Callahan for at least a game and Carl Hagelin for much longer – without even considering the lack of practice time for Derek Stepan – would the Rangers be best prepared leaning on the veterans to begin the year?
With Jesper Fast and JT Miller tentatively penciled in for the Coyotes game, the Rangers intend to employ two important pieces of their future, now. Neither player figures to be in the top six based on practices and the varied reports from the beat writers.
As we saw with Chris Kreider, if a prospect doesn’t deserve to be with the big club, he won’t be. Sometimes even when a prospect deserves to be (as could be argued with all of Oscar Lindberg, Marek Hrivik, Danny Kristo, or Connor Allen) it’s in no ones interest to see those players marginalised for the sake of numbers.
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The Rangers preseason means nothing. Bring on Thursday.
In another one sided preseason game, the Rangers were out of luck in Las Vegas as they lost 5-1 to the LA Kings including conceding the first goal inside 15 seconds. Jon Quick made 22 saves while the Kings scored two goals on the powerplay.
On a night of few bright spots, JT Miller continued to play catch up after missing preseason time as he scored the Rangers lone goal. Given his pro experience and strong play in the preseason Miller is a strong candidate to be one of the kids to stick around to start the season. At the very least Miller has made plays been noticeable and used his body effectively. The two goals in three games are almost a bonus.
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A bounce-back season from Brad Richards would be a huge boost for the Rangers
Best case: Asham continues to provide comedic relief on Twitter and plays in a handful of games with the Blueshirts.
Worst case: New York is unable to find a taker for Asham on waivers and he spends the final year of his contract in Hartford.
Best case: The former fourth-overall pick puts it all together as a Blueshirt and records a 20-goal season.
Worst case: The Rangers learn why Pouliot has already played for four teams in his young career and the big forward is invisible most nights. Read more »
via Blueshirts United
With the first round of cuts made, the attention now turns to trimming the roster down even further from those who will either serve as AHL call ups or rookies who might get their first cuppas this season. With news that Ryan Callahan and Carl Hagelin might miss the season opener, the Rangers are going to be looking for two extra forwards to break camp. There is a chance that these forwards might be Arron Asham and Darroll Powe, but there is also a chance that the coaching staff will want to take a longer look at some of the kids who impress at camp.
1. Oscar Lindberg
Lindberg is one prospect who we have talked about extensively at this blog since the Rangers acquired him from Phoenix for Ethan Werek. Lindberg was top-ten in the SHL in scoring last season. Upon arrival in the US, he promptly dismantled the competition at the Traverse City Tournament scoring five goals and seven points in the four game tournament. Lindberg has already had a strong camp, which just adds to the intrigue for the young Swede. Throw in his ability to win face offs and his play without the puck (the SHL is a notoriously defensive league), and he is someone who could force his way on to the roster.
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Kreider is likely the only rookie to break camp this season.
As we get deeper into the dog days of August, we see really bad trade rumors and people like me killing time with a theoretical expansion draft. However, with only Derek Stepan left to be signed, many have started penciling in their starting lineup for puck drop in October, something I’m guilty of as well. It ranges from realistic to mildly amusing, as I’ve received some emails that have about five rookies as starting for the Rangers, three of which haven’t even played the North American professional game.
We learned last season what can happen if you hand a spot to a kid, especially if the kid is not ready for the NHL. Chris Kreider’s AHL play from October-January last season did not warrant a call up, but he got one anyway. What we got was inconsistency, lack of ice time, games as a healthy scratch, and eventually a demotion back to the AHL. It was a stain on the season. But the Rangers had their hands tied, as they needed a forward to start the season and they had already handed that spot to Kreider without seeing if his playoff performance –the one where he shot 20%– was a blip on the radar or the real thing. Turned out it was a blip.
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