Libor Hajek will lead the Pack for the Rangers expanded roster on defense

In approximately 10 more days the NHL will open up Phase 3. This will signal the start of training camps for all 24 teams in the Return to Play format. The Rangers can invite 30 skaters and unlimited goalies, but will need to cut that to 28 skaters and three goalies before Phase 4 begins on August 1st.

Projecting the Rangers expanded roster on defense

When the action starts, you can expect the same lineup on defense as it was when they played the Colorado Avalanche before the pause.

After trading Brady Skjei at the deadline, the Rangers moved Brendan Smith back to defense and did not carry a 7th defenseman. Instead they opted to carry three goalies and two extra forwards.

Now the Rangers will take those 20 skaters and add eight more for the playoffs. Let’s focus on defense where I expect the Rangers to carry at least three if not four additional rearguards.

Libor Hajek will be the 7th defenseman

Libor Hajek, now 22 years-old made quite an impression during the 2018-19 season where he played 5 games and scored a great goal before having his season end early due to a separated shoulder.

Coming into this campaign, Libor made the team out of camp and was partnered on left defense with Adam Fox. The two rookies had some puck management issues and were separated with Hajek finding himself playing mostly with Jacob Trouba.

Libor Hajek will make the roster (Getty Images)

In 28 games this season he tallied 5 assists but struggled at times. He was eventually sent down to Hartford to continue his development. He picked up 3 points playing for the Wolf Pack in 23 games.

That early season stint and familiarity with David Quinn’s system makes him a shoe-in for the 7th defense spot. It’s one I believe Hajek will be ready for.

Darren Raddysh’s gutsy play will earn him a spot

Darren Raddysh, the Wolf Pack’s reliable defenseman put up 28 points in 62 games this season. Night in and night out, he was strong and consistent for the Pack blue-line. He is also a right-handed shot and the Rangers will need that just in case injuries mount on the right-side.

The 24 year-old competes and that is all you can ask for when it comes to emergency defenseman. He stands a good chance of putting up a solid showing and making this roster out of camp.

Brandon Crawley has offensive promise to make the roster

The 23 year-old Crawley is a lefty shooting blue-liner who isn’t afraid to join the play. Although limited to just preseason action he has the poise to step in and step up.

Brandon Crawley (Getty Images)

This season he started with Maine in the ECHL but worked his way back. “I dealt with some injuries and setbacks,” Crawley told us in an exclusive interview back in June. “When I was put in that situation, I was forced to think of how to handle this…how to get better“. And that’s what Crawley did and is in a good position to earn a spot on this roster for the playoffs.

Author’s note: Article originally included Mason Geertsen as a long shot but he is on an AHL only deal.

Anthony Scultore has been covering the New York Rangers and the NHL since 2014. His work also appears at... More about Anthony Scultore

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