The Rangers should be keeping a seat warm for Oscar Lindberg.
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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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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Oscar Lindberg, fast becoming a top prospect for the Rangers
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.
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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Jesper Fast is among the league leaders in goals in the SEL.
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.
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Lindberg has been tearing it up in the SEL so far.
Any Ranger fan regularly casting eyes over the club’s prospects throughout the lockout will no doubt have seen the immense start to the season Oscar Lindberg has enjoyed over in the Swedish Elite League. With 13 points in his first 13 games, Lindberg has enjoyed an unexpected offensive explosion of sorts.
The great start by Lindberg – playing on the top line for Skelleftea – could at the same time cast uncertainty over current Rangers players hampered with no competitive hockey because of the lockout. Brian Boyle in particular should have cause for concern.
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Not known for scoring, Oscar Lindberg is having a breakout season in Sweden.
Image Source: Rick Stewart/Getty Images North America
When the Rangers traded Ethan Werek for little known second round pick Oscar Lindberg, we knew the Rangers were trading some raw offensive talent for a more polished defensive talent who can win face offs. The trade itself was tough to analyze, but it looks like Glen Sather knew what he was doing when he targeted the young Swede.
Known defensive prowess and his ability in the face off circle (~60% success rate), Lindberg was never considered to be a true offensive talent. It was widely speculated that his play without the puck –specifically his face off skill– would be his path to the NHL.
My what a difference a hot start makes.
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Despite the 3-1 loss to Albany in Connecticut’s 2012-2013 preseason opener, there were many positives coming from the game. Per Jim Cerny, top prospect J.T. Miller was one player that stood out the most during the loss. Miller recorded the Whale’s lone goal and was a physical and dominating presence on the ice. Miller, playing on a line with Michael Haley and Chad Kolarik, was creative and showed that he belonged on the ice with the other AHL players.
Meanwhile, across the pond, Oscar Lindberg and Jesper Fast continued their torrid starts. Lindberg added another assist to his totals in a 2-1 shootout loss, while Fast scored yet another goal in HV71’2 4-1 win. Lindberg remains in the top five in scoring, while Fast is tied for second in goals.
One other item worth noting is that Thomas Spelling has only dressed for one game for Rogle’s SEL squad. He has suited up every other game in the Swedish Juniors*, and he is not very happy about it. The link is in Danish, but the Google Chrome translator gave this little nugget:
“It is as if the coach doesn’t believe in me, and I never really get any feedback other than being told that “things are going in the right direction”. But he never really speaks to me, unless I come to him first”
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Jesper Fast (HV71) and Oscar Lindberg (Skellefteå AIK) were unable to build momentum stemming from their multi-point night just two days ago. Fast was held pointless in a 3-1 loss to Modo, while Lindberg was held off the board in a 5-3 win over Brynäs. Despite being held pointless, Lindberg is still one of the top scorers in league with seven points in six games, and Fast one of the top goal scorers with three in six games.
Sticking with the SEL, Thomas Spelling’ Rögle BK pulled out a 3-1 win over Växjö, a game in which Spelling did not play.
Peter Ceresnak, the lone CHL prospect in action last night, was held pointless and finished with a -1 rating in Peterborough’s 5-1 loss to Erie. After the jump, check out each player’s line from last night.
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