Young Players That Can Push for Open Spots
By: Anthony Russo
On October 5, the New York Rangers will play their regular season opener against the Colorado Avalanche on home ice. There are still some uncertainties of which players will make the Rangers, but there are still some open spots.
For one, the loss of Derek Stepan has now created a vacancy in one of the Rangers top 6 center slots. Kevin Hayes will likely be asked for an increased role from the Rangers 3rd line center to the 2nd line center, while Mika Zibanejad will be asked to increase his role to the Rangers 1st line center.
“It’s time to prove that I’m capable of being that guy,” Hayes told Dan Rosen from NHL.com. “You don’t want to be in the same spot your whole career. I have a really good opportunity and I need to grab that and show the coaches and Rangers fans that I belong there.”
The Rangers also signed former Montreal Canadiens center David Desharnais, assuming he makes the team that will leave one more center position slot open on the roster.
The Rangers could give J.T. Miller a shot, as he was drafted as a natural center, but since the Rangers moved him to the wing, his game has thrived. This was especially true last season when Miller recorded 56 points in 82 games, mostly on Hayes’s wing on the 3rd line.
The Rangers could also experiment with 18 year old, Lias Andersson, whom the Rangers drafted at 7th overall in June. Andersson will join the Rangers for training camp and will try to prove the coaches that he’s ready for the NHL.
Another player that can push for the opening center spot is Crisotval Boo Nieves, who spent last season in the AHL. Twenty-three year old, Nieves, may be closer to being NHL ready than Andersson, but he missed much of last season due to injuries.
Nieves also fits the Rangers up tempo system head coach Alain Vigneault prefers his team to play with his strong skating ability.
The Rangers defense appears nearly set and stone with Ryan McDonagh, Kevin Shattenkirk, Brady Skjei, Brendan Smith, and Marc Staal–all locks to make the opening night roster.
Two spots are open, for the 6th defensemen, which may go to Nick Holden barring a trade and Anthony Deangelo.
The Rangers could dangle one of their defensemen in order to acquire a no-doubt top 6 center, as they now have surplus at defense. As it goes for wingers for the Rangers, they have 11 players who will make the team including Jesper Fast, who is expected to miss the first month due to receiving hip surgery in June.
Still remaining unsigned is 45 year old Jaromir Jagr, who has still managed to play at a high level despite his age and 36 year old Danis Zaripov, who received a 2 year ban in the KHL for the use of an illegal substance, although legal in North America.
Zaripov unlike Jagr, has no NHL experience, but has been one of the KHL’s top league producers.
It’s unknown if the Rangers have expressed interest in Jagr, but according to Elliotte Freidman, a journalist for Sportsnet, the Rangers have expressed interest in Zaripov.
If the Rangers are to sign Zaripov or Jagr, then their plans likely consist of experimenting with Miller at the center and moving Hayes up to the 2nd line, rather than trading one of their defensemen for a top 6 center.
Or the Rangers could give 18 year old Lias Andersson the opportunity, but he may not be deemed to be ready just yet.