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The Rangers stand to have a number of prospects vying for NHL spots in the upcoming preseason, but worst case scenario they will have a number of younger players playing prominent roles in the AHL in Hartford. One of the harder players to gauge is Jesper Fast. Exceptionally quick, and fresh off a strong SEL campaign, Fast has been playing hockey against men for a couple of seasons and is likely better prepared than many prospects trying to crack the New York roster.
On the flip side, Jesper Fast has all of one game in North America on his resumé, and despite scoring – and generally impressing – in that one appearance, it is still just that; one appearance. Fast’s speed and shot should translate well to the NHL, but given his skill set and the apparent depth on the big club, it would be reasonable to expect Fast to start in the AHL next year. Or would it?
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The 2013 draft is now in the books and the Rangers have added five more youngsters to their prospect system. Let’s take a look at where all the prospects stand heading into the offseason.
On the cusp
After bursting onto the scene during the 2012 playoffs, Kreider struggled out of the gate with the CT Whale to start the 2013 season. He joined the Rangers following the lockout, but never earned major minutes under coach John Tortorella and was frequently sent back and forth from New York to Connecticut. Still the crown jewel of the Rangers’ system, Kreider should be handed a much bigger offensive role next season under Alain Vigneault.
Miller’s quick climb up the ladder to New York was extremely impressive and though his 2012-2013 season was cut short by a wrist injury, he should also have a job to lose in September under Vigneault. Miller’s game is very much a work in progress – he was guilty of some horrible defensive mistakes and didn’t contribute much offensively, but Miller looked like he belonged in the NHL. He’s proven to be a very quick study all along and will be expected to continue his growth as a Ranger next season. Read more »
Every year as free agency approaches Ranger fans spend most of their time talking about the big fish, the top five or so guys available. We’ve kind of been trained to do that thanks to the free-spending ways of GM Glen Sather, but it’s also only natural to think about the impact that recognizable players might be able to make on New York’s lineup.
Though we’re exercising the same behavior this June, it probably makes more sense –for a couple of reasons– for us to discuss stopgap third and fourth liners that could be inked for just a year or two. First, this just isn’t a great free agent class and there aren’t many players that are worthy of long-term financial commitments. Secondly, the Rangers will need to spend most of their available cash to re-sign their own free agents. Even if New York does buy out Brad Richards, management must still keep an eye on the bevy of significant players up for new deals next summer.
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With this summer’s free agent market perhaps the weakest in recent memory, and with the Rangers having multiple holes to fill, nothing would please the organization more than a prospect (or two) stepping up and forcing their way onto the 2013-14 roster. With the Rangers needing more of everything – scoring, depth, size, physical presence, face off ability, special teams upgrades – there are plenty of prospects close to making the jump.
The problem for the Rangers is timing. They already have a slew of bottom six forwards who could be moved, and should they spend cap dollars on forwards in the offseason they are, to an extent, committed to inserting the new recruits into the line up regardless of how the rookies play pre-season. That said, players such as Jesper Fast, Oscar Lindberg and the usual suspects – Chris Kreider and JT Miller – are surely close to securing roster spots. Let’s consider the merits of the Swedish pair who so many Rangers fans are eagerly awaiting.
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After practicing with the Rangers yesterday, 21-year-old prospect Jesper Fast has been assigned to the CT Whale. The 2010 sixth-round pick is eligible to play in both the AHL and NHL, but Fast is required to return to Sweden for the World Championships on April 15th, so it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for him to join the Rangers for just two weeks.
Instead, Fast will continue to practice with the Whale and will likely see some AHL game action. Fast’s demotion has nothing to do with the 23-man roster limit, as that was lifted last night.
The speedy winger tallied 18 goals and 17 assists in 47 games with HV71 of the Swedish Elite League this season.
Could Zuccarello’s arrival mean the end for Gaborik?
There’s a strong chance that after such an impressive performance against the Flyers (no matter how unimpressive the Flyers have been this year) that John Tortorella will stick with the line-up that pulled out the victory, and certainly the 5-2 win perhaps affords the coaching staff time with re-acquainting themselves with Mats Zuccarello. That said, when Zuccarello does eventually re-enter the line-up – and he will, why else bring him back? – his play will have a significant impact on the future of Marian Gaborik.
The Rangers have a young roster and enough moving parts that cap space isn’t a huge concern at the moment, even if it does need monitoring for next year. However, moving Gaborik or buying out Richards gives the Rangers much more maneuverability going forward. Therefore, a successful return by Zuccarello and/or an immediate impact by the also incoming Jesper Fast make Gaborik a luxury.
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Per Katie Strang, the plan is to have both Jesper Fast and Mats Zuccarello travel to North America tomorrow. Both are coming off seasons in Sweden and Russia, respectively, so both are in game shape. It is unknown what the organization plans to do with them at the moment. They could both be sent to Connecticut of the AHL for a game or two, or could be inserted right into the lineup with the Rangers. The Rangers play Thursday, but that might be pushing it. If they are to play with the Rangers, Saturday against Montreal might be the earliest.
The popular scenario is that Zuccarello will be with the Rangers immediately –he has prior experience with most of the team and the coaching staff– and Fast will be sent to the AHL to adjust to the North American game. Scouts think Fast is ready, but there’s no need to rush him.
Also per Strang, Zuccarello’s contract is $700k, pro-rated for this year only. Fast’s entry-level deal, signed last June, is $900k for three years.
S/t to Blueshirt Banter for the report.
Per Alex Nunn, who is a must follow for those wanted to keep track of Ranger prospects overseas, the SIHA (Sweden Ice Hockey Association) has reached a deal with the NHL to allow prospects to come over to the NHL before the World Championships. For the Rangers, this means that Jesper Fast (Fasth in Sweden, Fast in the US) will be loaned to the Connecticut Whale of the AHL until April 15. At that point, Fast must be returned to Sweden for the World’s.
Fast, who is already signed to a contract, may see some time with the Rangers. Scouts believe he is NHL ready, but he must first prove himself at the AHL level, which is the right move.
AP Photo/Mary Altaffer
Larry Brooks spoke with Glen Sather yesterday prior to the Rangers 4-3 loss to Winnipeg, and the Rangers GM said that he is looking into re-signing Mats Zuccarello once his KHL season ends:
“I’m definitely interested in talking to Zuke,” Sather said before the Rangers’ 4-3 loss to the Jets last night. “I’ve always liked him as a player. We’ll see what happens.”
It’s worth noting that the Rangers own Zuccarello’s NHL rights, as they tendered a qualifying offer to him way back in June. That offer came after Zuccarello send goodbye to the Rangers in favor of the KHL. It’s also worth noting that Zuccarello’s KHL deal has an NHL out-clasue should the miniature Norwegian decide to return to the Rangers.
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Perhaps lost among the anticipation of the NHL’s Saturday return to action are Ranger prospects Oscar Lindberg and Jesper Fasth continuing their excellent seasons in the Swedish Elite League. Some people are concerned about the Rangers depth heading into the new season but beyond this year it appears the Rangers will have two more pro-ready prospects to choose from come next season.
While Jesper Fasth missed a few games earlier in the year because of injury his 13 goals and 24 points in 31 games is further proof that he’s maturing into a solid player. With serious speed to burn and a healthy work ethic Fasth has recovered from the serious injury sustained last year and is proving his World Junior performance from 2011 was no fluke. Nor was his fast start to the SEL last year that was interrupted by the serious injury.
Then there is Oscar Lindberg. 33 points in 39 games – among the league leaders offensively in the SEL – Lindberg is generating plenty of excitement the way Ethan Werek was meant to but never truly did. Perhaps most important is the fact the two Swedes appear ready for North American hockey. Whether they become immediate competition/alternatives to the Rangers roster or initially offer (much needed) help to the CT Whale, their arrival in the Rangers organisation cannot come quickly enough.