The Rangers cut down to 22 players in advance of Thursday’s opener that included players such as Brendan Smith, Lias Andersson, Adam Fox, Libor Hajek, Greg McKegg and Micheal Haley making or staying with the team and Filip Chytil, Vitali Kravtsov, Ryan Lindgren, Igor Shesterkin, Boo Nieves and Vinni Lettieri going to Hartford and Joe Morrow being released from his PTO.
For the players that didn’t make the team:
- What Jeff Gorton said, “We had those conversations, with Fil in particular, a player that was here for the whole year. At 20-years old, the way we looked at it was that he wasn’t in our top-nine right now and we weren’t prepared to put him on our fourth line. He is better served playing in Hartford, top-line, big minutes, PP, playing the middle. We went through all of those scenarios and talked to Fil about it, he’s disappointed but took it like a pro. Anyone we brought in today wasn’t leaving with a smile, we understand that. It’s a hard league to make but those are the decisions we made today. “It’s hard for a guy like Fil, who has been here a year, to tell him that he is going down but at 20-years old, what we could do for Fil and what is best for him, we had those conversations several times. My staff, Quinny’s staff and we just felt like it was the right decision right now.”
- What David Quinn said, “We were clear to all of these guys that they were going to have to make the team this year. Fil is a great prospect that we think very highly of. I know people may read into this but this is part of the maturation of a 20-year old and instead of sitting up here and maybe being in and out of the lineup, going down there and playing center, PP, all those minutes, it’s going to help his development.”
- What was missing from Chytil, “things we’ve talked about before, understanding how competitive he’s going to have to be on pucks consistently, faceoffs, responsibilities defensively, when a decision needs to be made, are you on offense or defense, his feel for the game in general and that comes from playing a lot and growing as a player and right now we feel it’s the best spot for him to do that.”
- On Chytil as a center or wing up here, “the position, in my opinion, doesn’t matter for him. These are things that are just hockey related as opposed to position.”
- Adam Rotter: Chytil started camp with a chance at being the second line center, then a shot at being a winger in the top-nine and is now, for the first time in his career, starting an NHL season in Hartford. I think Chytil could have been a third-line winger but the Rangers want him in the middle and whle it certainly seems disappointing that a player that was with the Rangers all of last season is now in Hartford, he is still closer to 19 than he is to 21. The Rangers are taking a long-term view with Chytil and the best spot for him to play center is in Hartford. He will be back with the Rangers at some point this season, possibly at wing, and this should just be a bump in the road for him and his development.
- What Jeff Gorton said, “highly skilled guy that is a young player and trying to figure out North American hockey. Flashes of really good things, especially on the PP – we can all see his skill and thinking and hands. I don’t think he is too far away, but I think 20-minutes is a better service to him than 7-8-9 minutes and not knowing if he’s going to be in the lineup. Those are the conversations we had and decisions we made.”
- What David Quinn said, “he came a long way since Traverse, and this is a mans league and he and I have talked about the difference between here and the KHL and how much faster and physical it is and I liked how each game he became more engaged and physical and his pace got better and better, but for a guy who wouldn’t be in the top-nine, it’s better for his development that he is down there playing in a very good league, being coached by our staff down there, we feel very confident with what is going on in Hartford, that he is going to really benefit from his time down there.”
- Adam Rotter: This made sense as Kravtsov showed high-end flashes and skill at times and very raw at other times. He’s going to get a lot of minutes in Hartford, the chance to make mistakes and hopefully find chemistry with Filip Chytil that will make them a duo with the Rangers for the next 10-years or so. If/when the Rangers move some of their wingers, Kreider and Namestnikov, Kravtsov could get the call but until then he should just focus on Hartford and his development.
- What Jeff Gorton said, “With him, we looked at the first couple of weeks coming here and we aren’t going to have a lot of games and he wasn’t going to be in our top-six right and we felt like getting him to Hartford and playing. He had a real good game, played well against the Islanders, trending in the right direction and I think he’s going to push and I’d expect that we see Ryan sooner than later.”
- What David Quinn said, “”I wouldn’t say down to the wire (between Hajek and Lindgren) but Ryan Lindgren is a great prospect for us and I thought he had a really good camp. Again, instead of being in and out here, which he easily could have done, we think it’s beneficial for him to go down and play valuable minutes in all situations.”
- Adam Rotter: Probably the player that didn’t make the team that was most deserving, but it came down to numbers and the opportuinty for him to go to Hartford play in all situations and come up to the Rangers if/when an injury occurs on the left side. He brings that snarl and physicality on defense and hopefully be the next Dan Girardi and someone the Rangers can count on for many years in the future.
- Adam Rotter: He had a good camp but the plan always seemed to be for him to be in the AHL where he could get used to the North American style and adjust to things. A strong season in Hartford could force the Rangers into a tricky situation next summer with him and Alex Georgiev but that is an issue for down the line.
- Adam Rotter: He’s probably in a group with Danny O’Regan and Phil Di Giuseppe for first players to be called up in case of injury, especially if the Rangers want the prospects to keep playing in Hartford. So he’s probably going to get some time with the Rangers but he’s down on the depth chart and possibly just a fill-in player/healthy scratch guy.
- Adam Rotter: I wouldn’t be shocked if we are coming towards the end of Vinni Lettieri’s time in the Rangers organization. He’s still only 24 and an RFA after the season, but the Rangers keep adding players and prospects that push him down the depth chart. He’s shown to be a very good AHL scorer so maybe the Rangers keep him in Hartford to work with Chytil and Kravtsov but I wouldn’t be surprised if, as AHL players do sometimes, he politely asks to be moved to an organization that might have a clearer NHL path for him. The Rangers won’t give him away, but likely get a player in return that might be in a similar spot and looking for a change as well.
- Adam Rotter: Tony DeAngelo came back and came back strong and the Rangers decided to go with Brendan Smith as a the swingman and because of that, there was no room for Morrow. Maybe he signs on in Hartford but I’m guessing it’s more likely that Morrow is playing in Europe this season.
For the players that made the team:
- What Jeff Gorton said, “I think Lias really helped himself in the last few games, to put himself over the top.”
- What David Quinn said, “Lias got better and better as the camp went on and earned his opportunity here.”
- Adam Rotter: It seemed evident early on that Andersson would finally be able to break through and start the season with the Rangers after being touted as being NHL ready as a rookie and tailing off during camp and the preseaon last year. He may still have his ups and downs this season, possibly even a return to Hartford, but he’s definitely on the right path and is starting to look more like the hard working, competitive two-way player he was hyped as when he was drafted.
- What Jeff Gorton said, “early on he opened eyes, when you make a trade like we did we had high hopes and hope that he makes it sooner than later but from the moment he went to Traverse City and how he played, he never fell off, in fact he has looked really comfortable in camp and in games, the way he carries himself on the ice, you get the feel of a real mature player and someone who is ready to help us now. You have questions about a smaller defenseman but you watch him in the games and he’s competitive and finds ways to be good defensively. We are excited he is going to be on our team and what he can add to our group.”
- What David Quinn said, “I thought Fox, from the get-go, was really good out in Traverse City and then you wonder if he can do it at this level and he certainly has.”
- Adam Rotter: This seemed like a slam dunk the moment Kevin Shattenkirk was bought out but Fox absolutely earned his spot with how he played in Traverse City and the preseason, let alone practice every day. He is so calm and patient with the puck and he uses his excellent hockey IQ to make smart plays in his own zone.
- What David Quinn said, “Libor had that five-game stretch last year where he was very good and then I felt he was good in camp.”
- Adam Rotter: His spot was never really in doubt and he gets a chance to continue building on that five-game stretch from last year.
- What Jeff Gorton said, “with Smitty, he gives us some flexibility because he can play both positions and I think he had a good camp, he has come back and played pretty well on the back end, played pretty good at forward. We know a lot about Brendan and what he can do and, as a team working on some cap issues here and there, provides some flexibility at both positions.”
- Adam Rotter: The Rangers like him and can use him in depth roles rather than get minor cap savings with him in Hartford. I think he’ll spend more time at forward, and in the press box, than on defense, but the Rangers can use him all over and still have the option to put in Hartford if need be.
- Haley’s one-year contract with the Rangers is a two-way contract that pays him $700,000 in the NHL, $275,000 in the AHL and a guarantee of $300,000 for the season. (Seravalli)
- What Jeff Gorton said, “With Micheal we are moving towards signing him to a two-way deal here. I think having him in the organization, looking at Saturday night and the different type of things he brings in hockey. He brings a different blend of something we need more of, his competitive edge and ability to go on the ice and change the complexion in a different way with a check or being physical. Just having that guy in the organization will help us, our team, our kids, our group. We will see how it spins out, where he’s going to be whether it’s here or Hartford.”
- What David Quinn said, “he’s in our organization and we are glad to have him in our organization. If you look at our division and what went on the other night, there is a need for that type of player and the thing that I’ve been impressed with him is how smart he is. Guy has a great feel for the game, very coachable and he’s earned this opportunity to be in our organization. It’s not just the Islanders, there are a bunch of heavy teams that play with a physical edge and we don’t want to be vulnerable.”
- Adam Rotter: Haley, so far, is with the Rangers but as both Quinn and Gorton noted, he’s part of the organization more than anything. At times he will be in the lineup, other nights he will be a healthy scratch and at other times he will be in Hartford. It’s easy to see him and Brendan Lemieux, and probably Brendan Smith, all being in the lineup at the same time against tougher/more physical teams in the hope of not being pushed around and fighting back when necessary. Does it make sense to have both him and Brendan Smith on the team at the same time? Maybe not, but he has a skill set that the Rangers are lacking throughout the organization and for that he provides depth.
Greg McKegg :
- Adam Rotter: It was between McKegg and Boo Nieves for the 12/13th versatile forward spot. McKegg has more experience and played with Carolina in the playoffs last year, but I think he just beat out Nieves. He was noticeable in the preseason and the staff liked him and his versatility. He will be in and out of the lineup most of the year and is a depth player. He will likely kill penalties and skate on the fourth line and provide depth. You need guys like that on the roster, you just don’t need too many.
- What Jeff Gorton said, “From the moment we saw him in Traverse City, even though he was sick, the kind of performance that he had. To see him in practice everyday, you could see that he is ready to help us right now.”
- What David Quinn said, “my expectations were really high and he has met them, so I’m not surprised he is the player that he is. I love what he does away from the rink, how he carries himself, how coachable he is. A lot to love about him.”
- Adam Rotter: This was never in doubt. The Rangers think he can/will be a star, he’s NHL ready and he could start producing as soon as he hits the ice on Thursday.