Analyzing the newest Wolf Pack signings and impact to Rangers prospects
Free agency for Hartford is off to a great start with the signings by Chris Drury and John Davidson to help solidify the Rangers farm system. The majority of prospects on the Wolf Pack will return with new faces from the coaching staff to the experienced veteran additions. If I had to rate the signings thus far for the American Hockey League aspect of the organization, I would give this a A-.
These signings make sense and there is a different aspect to these veterans as the Rangers are not simply signing anybody, but players who had resumes featuring Calder Cup winners. In fact, one of the players Hartford signed was on my target list in my previous article (Vincent LoVerde from the Toronto Marlies). In the past four seasons without a playoff appearance, Hartford had prospects without the ideal veterans. We had seen players who were struggling or were unable to do more than expected when joining the Wolf Pack.
There has to be a strong development and winning culture for the Wolf Pack. You want to develop the future Blueshirts in environments of success. The more playoff experiences, the better for the young batch of upcoming prospects.
The addition of these veterans signifies the emphasis of the importance of building the right culture in the AHL level. The Wolf Pack, once a superior team in the league now is the complete opposite. These free agency signings is a step in the right direction. The Rangers have started the process and I am excited to see how next season unfolds. Let’s take a look at who signed.
Greg McKegg (F) 1 year, 750K
The 27 year old forward has split the season between the AHL and NHL. For the organization, McKegg has experience in both leagues. Depending how training camp shakes out, he will either be a depth center for New York or Hartford. If he does join Hartford, he can provide exceptional mentoring to the forwards. He has been there in the NHL and can help prospects on the transition. He is also dependable with providing good offense if needed.
Danny O’Regan (F) 1 year, 654K
The 25 year old forward began his pro career in the 2016-17 season, providing solid offensive numbers in the AHL with the San Jose Barracuda and Rochester Americans. The seasoned forward had brief exposure to the NHL with Buffalo which is a plus for Hartford prospects. The offensive minded player will become another dependable player on the roster. He can create quality plays and able to find ways to score all around the crease. He is a proven scorer in the AHL which Hartford lacked last season. He could be a plug for New York when injuries happen as well.
Wolf Pack Signings
Chris Drury signed a trio of veterans to AHL deals. These deals do not affect the cap space for New York. In addition, these players will remain in Hartford for the entire season and cannot be called up unless they sign a 2 way contract with the Rangers.
Vincent LoVerde (D)
The 30 year old veteran is a perfect fit for Hartford on the blue line. He was the captain for the Manchester Monarchs / Ontario Reign for three straight season before singing with the Toronto Marlies. In his stint with Toronto, the veteran has worn the A on his sweater. Check out what he’s capable from in my prior article regarding Wolf Pack targets for free agency:
“The 30 year old defenseman has superior experience in the league with an impressive resume. The veteran has missed the playoffs once in his professional career and has won the Calder Cup with the Manchester Monarchs in the 2014-15 season.
Wolf Pack fans have heard of him as he is tough to play against. Vincent is extremely physical and versatile defenseman that plays well in his own end of the ice. He is responsible and has a strong ability to help create plays and read the situation well.
Despite the lack of offensive numbers, the veteran is excellent for the defensive aspect of the game which the Wolf Pack constantly struggle with. He has leadership assets which could mentor the Wolf Pack’s blue line as a qualified veteran. He has been through the battles and knows what it takes to win. He can help guide prospects in situations which is a plus.”
Harry Zolnierczyk (F)
A familiar name to Hartford fans, Harry Zolnierczyk joins the Wolf Pack after spending time with Bridgeport and Springfield in his career. The dominant 31 year old left winger provides a strong punch for the club with offensive talent and a feisty spark. He is not afraid to mix it up against opponents or back down from challenges. He is noticeable in both ends of the ice and can help Hartford win games that they were unable to in the past four seasons. He plays with a strong effort in each game and finds opportunity to score or setup a play. The prospects will enjoy the presence of Zolnierczyk as he has been around the league and had good traits to mentor players on situations.
Tom McCollum (G)
Despite being a 1st round pick by the Detriot Red Wings in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, Tom McCollum has opportunity to be a solid goaltender for Hartford. This addresses a veteran presence in the crease while allowing New York to rotate Alexandar Georgiev and Igor Shesterkin between both teams.
Despite being 29, McCollum has found himself comfortable within the AHL as he spent 11 seasons in the league. The veteran spent 8 seasons with the Grand Rapids Griffins and has played for Stockton, Charlotte, and Milwaukee.
Tom McCollum should hold down the crease for Hartford when he is given opportunity to play. His numbers can improve depending the team in front of him. He should be comfortable with Hartford given the other players added for the club, especially on defense.
As a result, Adam Huska will start in the ECHL with the Maine Mariners. He needs more seasoning before jumping back to the AHL.
Will Hartford Add More?
Given the influx of prospects in the system and limited spots between New York and Hartford, I do not expect much for additional signings.
I can see 1-2 more signings tops for the organization. They would be veterans that has superior experience in the AHL and proven. Perhaps one more defenseman and forward? We shall see as we are still in early July.
What About Coaching?
As John Davidson and Chris Drury continues the search for a coaching staff for the Wolf Pack, the news front is still status quo- no updates. There are three coaching spots open in the AHL, they are Hartford, Charlotte, and San Diego.
I am hoping they find a coaching staff in place the latest end of July. Going into August cuts it close with the 2019 Traverse City Tournament. The organization wants to get acclimated with the new coaching staff with season expectations and development.
The faces behind the benches are also a critical factor in coming in the 2019-2020 season.
The next steps for building up Hartford is to sign a head coach plus assistance. Then, add one or two players tops to AHL deals. We are off to a great start than in prior seasons. I am hoping this transitions onto the ice next season. We have the right veterans in place.
The American Hockey League schedule is expected to be released within the next one to two weeks. Stay tuned!