Friday, July 30, 2010

Rangers Training Camp Should Be Exciting!!

As we all know the Rangers have a lot of young kids who Blueshirt fans are looking forward to seeing on the ice at The Garden. They will all have for the most part have chance at winning a spot on the opening night roster. We also have a mix of veterans and young players who are already on the roster so it will not be easy for these rookies to make it. They will have to work hard, show all their skills and talents, and show Coach Tortorella and his staff that they really want a spot on the Rangers. All signs point to that creating a great training camp and pre-season as we will see all of our youngsters fighting it out to make the team and maybe even some veterans fighting it out to keep their spot. So I compiled a list of some Rangers rookies who will be fighting it out for a spot on the team and some players who will need to show they deserve to stay:


1. Mats Zucarello Aasen(MZA)-RW-9/1/1987: The Rangers went out and signed Aasen fairly quickly to a 2 year $3.5 million contract. This is the same deal they gave Matt Gilroy last summer but it seems like a different situation. Most fans figured that Gilroy was a lock for the team last year but the same thing is not felt about MZA. While he will have a very good chance and will likely make the team if he puts in his best work and showcases all his skills, it is not a definite. Aasen has played the last two seasons in the Swedish Elite League(SEL) which is widely considered one of the best hockey leagues around the world. He played on the same team as Naslund, Forsberg, Sundstrom and Dan Hinote last year. In his two season combined he scored 104 points in 90 games which is good for over one point a game. Doing this in the SEL and at his size is very hard to do. While short compared to most NHL standards at 5'7 and only 161 lbs. most of his teams have raved about his ability to work hard in the corners and do the dirty u would not expect of a player his size. He has the speed that you would usually see in a player his size. He has all the skills and tools and if he puts them to use at camp he will make a run at cracking the opening roster.

My Prediction: I believe the Rangers staff would love to see MZA make the team but I see him starting in the AHL as he will probably only be able to get 4th line minutes and he could continue to get adjusted to the North American game with top minutes in the AHL. I do see him getting called up at some point during the season as injuries, trades and just bad play become a factor during the season.

2. Evgeny Grachev-C/LW-2/21/90-3rd rd pick(2008)- Grachev is still very young at he age of 20 and will not turn 21 until half way through the season. He almost cracked the team out of last year's camp and was even called up early in the season although he never played a game in the NHL. He had what was considered by many to be a very disappointing year in the AHL. Evgeny only scored 12 goals and added only 16 assists for 28 points. Much much more was expected of Grachev last year. He has all the talents and skills as he won the OHL rookie of the year in 2008-2009 which is a very honorable achievement. Previous winners of this award were names such as Taylor Hall, Patrick Kane, John Tavares, Bryan Little, Rick Nash, Joe Thornton, Derek Roy, Owen Nolan, and even "The Great One". Most of the names on this list have gone on to become big stars and Grachev has everything leading us to believe he will have a big career. So will he make the team this year after almost making it last?

My Prediction: No! Like I just said above, he needs more time. Let him play another year in the AHL with all the other young stars of our team and he will continue to grow as a player without the pressures of the NHL.

3. Dale Weise-RW-8/5/1988-4th rd pick(2008)- Weise was called up very late last season by Torts and it seemed as if he really liked Dale and wanted to get him in the lineup but just could not find a spot. He is a bog kid standing at 6'2 and well over 200 lbs. He used that size to his advantage and had a very good year in the AHL for the Pack scoring 20+ goals. Unlike the previously mentioned players MZA and Grachev, I'm not sure there would be much more for him to learn in the minors. He could end up as a great 3rd line player and if he reaches his full potential maybe even a 2nd line player. He likes to grind and get into the corners and do all the hard work necessary to winning hockey games.

My Prediction: I see Weise making the team as a potential 4th line winger and maybe even up on a 3rd line with Avery and Anisimov if they decide to start with Prust away from Anisimov. He was called up late and I believe Torts will give him a shot on opening night unless one of the others kids blows the staff away at camp.

4. Derek Stepan-C-7/18/90-2nd rd pick(2008)- Derek and the Rangers decided he should leave Wisconsin and his final two years and sign a pro contract. A very solid 2-way player, Stepan shows all the qualities of a top line center and leader. He was one of the leaders of his Wisconsin team that lost in the NCAA championship game last year and was also the Captain of the United States World Junior team that won Gold last year. He had 10 assists and 14 points in the 7 games of the tournament. It looks like there may be some players ahead of him on the food chain but make no mistake, if the kid comes out and puts in the effort, he will have a shot at making the team.

My Prediction: I see Stepan starting the year off in with the Pack. He has the tools but a year in the AHL playing with Aasen and Grachev on his wings will do him some good in his maturing process. as a player and person. I also believe that as a center he will need to add some muscle/weight to his frame as he is only around 175 lbs. and at center he will need to be strong.

5. Ryan McDonagh-D-6/13/89-1st rd pick(2007)(acquired in Gomez trade with MTL)- Ryan was also a member and leader of the same Wisconsin team as Derek Stepan. After Stepan signed with the Rangers McD came out and signed with them as well. His offensive skill set still needs some work but he is there as a stopper which is much needed on the Rangers. A lot of speculation was that if Ryan made the team that Wade Redden would be sent down but now with the Frolov signing it is almost inevitable that Redden will be gone which opens up the spot for McDonagh. He is the most likely choice for the spot although Sauer, Williams and some others will get a shot.

My Prediction: I see McDonagh locking down the 6th d-man spot for the Rangers. The only way I could see them not giving it to him is if they bring in a veteran as I do not see them using Eminger as much more then a 7th d-man.

6. Dane Byers-LW-2/21/86-2nd rd pick (2004)- Well simply speaking it could be now or never for Byers as far as being a full time player. Already age 24 and turning 25 during the season Byers has been given a shot before. He was called up for five games last season and scored one goal in those games. He received a one game suspension after instigating a fight late in a game against Vancouver. He was then sent back down to the minors where he put together a great season scoring 25 goals and adding 26 assists in 74 games. He has shown the ability to score at the AHL level. So if the Rangers want a Grinder who can fight but also has a scoring touch then this would be there guy.

My Prediction: It seems a little strange that a guy who has shown his scoring ability and toughness has not been given more of a look by the Rangers but I honestly do not see it happening now. With similar players like Prust and the aforementioned Weise ahead of him I just do not see him getting in.

Honorable Mentions: Players such as Brodie Dupont and Mike Sauer will be given a look but have players in front of them right now who play the same style. If they play great at camp they could be contenders but they are at least a year away. Jeremy Willaims was signed more as a depth forward after losing Parenteau and could fill the same role as P.A but most likely will spend the whole year in Hartford.

Veterans who will have to work to keep there jobs:

1. Brian Boyle-C- Yes he is 6'7 but he does not know how to use that size to his advantage. He was a decent 4th line center but his faceoff percentage was horrid. The only thing I could see that would keep him around is his ability to kill penalties(he was a good PK) and the fact that we gave up a 3rd round pick for him.

My Prediction: He would be a decent depth guy and that is about it. So I would put him as a healthy scratch on most nights.

2. Matt Gilroy-D- He had a decent rookie year and hit a gigantic wall around 40 games and was even sent down to Hartford at one point. At the time a lot of fans(including me) were confused by the move but looking back on it now, it made sense as he was not playing very well. This is not me saying he should not be on the team because he should but it is not a guarantee and he will have to work to keep his starting job.

My Prediction: Gilroy will work his ass off and keep his job but will need to continue to work hard every day to make sure he keeps it with a solid veteran backup in Eminger(who is the same age as Gilroy at 26) and some good young D-Man waiting to play.

3. Sean Avery-LW- I love Avery just as much as most Ranger fans but he is not the same player under Tortorella. The leash is to tight and either he has to play with no regard for what his Coach says or he will end up laying himself out of the lineup. I want to see him stay and I believe Torts will lighten up a bit but Avery will have to return to the old Avery when this happens or he will be rendered useless. He is at his best when he gets under other players skin and when he has something to prove. An example would be the game against Dallas where he had four points. Either Torts loosened up or Avery just went out against his old team and did not care but he played like the old Avery.

My Prediction: Torts will loosen up this year and Avery will return to the old Avery and a lot of ice time while doing what he does best.

In the end we will just have to wait until Training Camp and Pre-Season to find out who makes the team and who does not but it should be very exciting and a lot of great young talent will get to showcase there ability.

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