By and large the preseason is just about young players trying to find roster spots and coaches trying to implement their systems, team philosophies, and goals for the season. The New York Rangers preseason is no different especially with a new coaching staff in town. One thing about this current Rangers group though is that there aren’t many roster spots available this year unlike in years past.
While fans might not have enjoyed some of the results from some of these preseason games there have been a lot of bright spots thus far.
Alexis Lafreniere and Kaapo Kakko have shown that they could be in for huge breakouts under Gerard Gallant’s coaching. Their play so far in the preseason has been extremely fun to watch from the standpoint that you have seen them playing far more confident with and without the puck, which is something we never saw with them with Quinn as head coach. One of the brightest spots for the two budding superstars is that Gallant has even tinkered with both on the Rangers PK which would be an interesting use of both their skillsets. Along with being able to get both guys more time on the ice and possibly even create more shorthanded chances for the Rangers.
Julien Gauthier has also stood out and seems to be making the most of his opportunity right now in camp and the preseason. Gautheir is noticeable just about every time he is on the ice. Whether he is using his speed or size, he’s shown a significant boost in confidence compared to last season. Now it remains to be seen if it translates to finishing his chances and if he gets the nod with Vitaly Kravtsov injured.
One of the most fun things to watch this preseason has also been the Blueshirts young d-men and most notably that would be Braden Schneider, Zac Jones, and Nils Lundkvist. These three young players are battling beleaguered Libor Hajek for the 6th spot on the Rangers defense and so far nobody has pulled away to be Patrik Nemeth’s partner.
Lundkvist’s offensive skill has showed exactly why Rangers brass and their fans have been so high on him since he was drafted. He hasn’t struggled thus far making plays on the smaller North American ice but you have seen that his defensive game will take some time improving.
Schneider and Jones have both been fairly impressive both offensively and defensively. While Schneider is best known for his physical and defensive game he hasn’t looked out of touch with his passes out of his own end to help jump start offense. If the Rangers believe that Lundkvist and Schneider aren’t ready yet then Jones will be more than a passable option to start the year on the 3rd pair and the 2nd powerplay unit QB.
For the first time in years the Rangers will have a functional fourth line. It doesn’t matter if it’s Dryden Hunt, Ryan Reaves, Sam Blais, Kevin Rooney, or Morgan Barron out there on the ice. For the first time in quite a while, the team will finally have a fourth line that can check offensively and defensively and help shift momentum in games. The quality of depth that the Rangers now have will provide Gallant and company a bunch of matchup ideas and flexibility both in the game and leading up to the game.
On the negative side, the Rangers still don’t have a backup goaltender. Alexander Georgiev just isn’t very good and his play this preseason has done nothing but reaffirm that in my mind because he’s still making the same mistakes now that’s plagued him for the last few years. If he’s not able to find his game, and quick, it’ll certainly add unneeded pressure onto Igor Shesterkin to really carry the load. If there’s one spot that should be up for grabs it should absolutely be the spot behind Shesterkin.
Whether that means promoting Tyler Wall or going to Keith Kinkaid who was oddly sent to Hartford early as better options. From his play so far carrying over from last season it absolutely shouldn’t be Georgiev as the backup.
The Rangers will shortly wrap up their preseason and we should soon have some more clarity to what we will see on October 13th.Embed from Getty Images