Burning roster questions for 2023-24 New York Rangers training camp
New York Rangers hockey is back and people are asking some key questions about the lineup. Will Brennan Othmann make the team? Is Alexis Lafreniere going to make the switch to right wing? And so more!
This season, the team has a new head coach with Peter Laviolette looking to take the squad to the promised land.
“We have a really good team and really good players,” he said at his introductory press conference in June. “My staff and I will work tirelessly to bring a Stanley Cup to New York.”
Laviolette, 58, was the best available choice for the Rangers with a career coaching record of 752-503-25-150 and a 78-76 mark in the playoffs. He’s also been to three Stanley Cup Finals (2006, 2010, 2017) winning with the Carolina Hurricanes on his first try.
As players are going through medicals and doing media in preparation for the new year today, we’ll examine a few burning questions facing Laviolette and his staff for the 2023-24 campaign.
New York Rangers forwards
Now that the doors have officially opened, management has invited 58 players to camp. That’s down from from the 66 players that attended last season and the likely reason for that is the roster’s basically set with just a few real spots up for grabs.
We begin with the Blueshirts’ forward lines, which for the most part should look like this come opening night on October 12:
|LEFT WING||CENTER||RIGHT WING|
|Chris Kreider||Mika Zibanejad||Kaapo Kakko|
|Artemi Panarin||Vincent Trocheck||Blake Wheeler|
|Alexis Lafreniere||Filip Chytil||Barclay Goodrow|
|Jimmy Vesey||Nick Bonino||Tyler Pitlick|
One of the most interesting possibilities is if Lafreniere can successfully make the switch to right wing on either the first or second-line. That would bump Wheeler and Goodrow down a line and open up the possibility for either Brennan Othmann or Will Cuylle to earn a spot as the third-line left wing.
However, Othmann will also get a shot at right wing in camp as well.
“I’m anticipating [Lafreniere and Othmann] will get every chance to play on the right and show what they can do,” GM Chris Drury said via The Athletic last week. “I’m sure that can make for some exciting games and practices to watch in camp.”
The 20 year-old Othmann had an outstanding 2022-23 season. In 56 games, he scored 29 goals and 38 assists for 67 points split between the Flint Firebirds and the Peterborough Petes. He took his game to another level in the playoffs leading Peterborough to an OHL title with 8 goals and 17 assists for 25 points in 23 playoff games. Unfortunately, the Petes fell short of winning the Memorial Cup but Othmann finished his junior career in style, including back-to-back World Junior Championship Gold Medals with Canada.
“I know it says I’m a left winger, but I think I can play the right wing as well,” Othmann said at rookie camp. “Those guys [Panarin and Kreider] will be pretty hard to beat out. Even with Lafreniere there’s three really good strong forwards. If I can play the right side, it’s very versatile. It’s just hockey.”
The only other question up front is who will be the extra forward. Obviously, if Othmann or Cuylle make the team, Tyler Pitlick will be that guy. Should either forward fail to do so, Alex Belzile, Riley Nash, and Anton Blidh should all be in the hunt.
New York Rangers defense
The defense for next season is going to look very much like it did last year. Perennial Norris Trophy candidate Adam Fox along with his partner Ryan Lindgren will anchor the first pair. Meanwhile captain Jacob Trouba and rising star defender K’Andre Miller will be the second pairing. Youngster Braden Schneider is a lock on the right side of the third pair, leaving the 6th and 7th spots open.
That battle will be primarily fought between the fresh-faced Zac Jones and veteran Erik Gustafsson. Ben Harpur, who was the 7th defenseman last season is likely headed back to the Hartford Wolf Pack to start the season.
However, I will add that Ty Emberson and Matthew Robertson have an opportunity to surprise in camp. Unfortunately for Emberson, he’s a righty and is unlikely to supplant Schneider. As for Robertson, he was a star left defenseman in juniors and needs to show the Rangers he’s worth keeping around.
|Left Defense||Right Defense|
|Ryan Lindgren||Adam Fox|
|K’Andre Miller||Jacob Trouba|
|Zac Jones||Braden Schneider|
And in goal….Igor Shesterkin
The New York Rangers have invited way too many goalies to camp, but they’ll need them for all the early scrimmages considering they have three groups this year.
Igor Shesterkin is the unquestionable starter for the Blueshirts with veteran Jonathan Quick as his backup.
Here are the rest of the goalies in camp:
- Talyn Boyko
- Louis Domingue
- Dylan Garand
- Ofof Lindbom
At the end of the day, the players performances will answer these questions. Although it’s good for everyone to know what’s up in the air heading into training camp.