Rangers Training Camp Roundup – Media Day
The Rangers kicked off their 2017 Training Camp with Media Day, where the players and coaches meet with the media masses to discuss the upcoming season.
The players seemed to have a lot of fun, getting together again for the first time as a team (officially) since the Rangers were eliminated by the Ottawa Senators in May. And while the players were off doing their photoshoot, head coach Alain Vigneault was making some minor headlines of his own. Here are some of the things the bench boss discussed. You can listen to the full press conference here.
Miller in the Middle
One of the first things Alain Vigneault told the media was that JT Miller was going to be playing center to start the season. This isn’t much of a surprise, considering that the team was unable to find a trade for a third line center, as was mentioned previously. Miller does have experience playing center. He is a career 45% on faceoffs and is going to be counted on to step up and round out his game. This decision by the Rangers’ brass means a few things.
This decision by the Rangers’ brass means a few things. First, it means that 2017 draft pick Lias Andersson won’t be rushed into the NHL. The only chance the 18-year-old Swede had of sticking with this team was being the fourth line center; and with Jeff Gorton having brought in David Desharnais, Andrew Desjardins (PTO) and the rest of the more experienced prospects in Hartford, there simply wasn’t going to be room for Andersson on the roster.
“This is a good chance for us to get him some work in the middle. At some point, whether it be early on in the season, he’s probably going to play a little bit of center. It happened last year, it happened the year before, so giving him that experience right off the bat is a good thing… He’s not a young player anymore. He’s a veteran player. I want to see that experience and I want to see what he can do at that position.” – Alain Vigneault
Second, this opens up a spot on the wing. Rick Nash, Mats Zuccarello, Michael Grabner, Jimmy Vesey, Pavel Buchnevich, Jesper Fast and Chris Kreider are all locks to be regulars for the Blueshirts. Fast won’t be ready to go until the end of October as he continues to recover from his offseason hip surgery. So that leaves two spots open for players to come in and compete. One would have to assume that Matt Puempel gets a long look in camp, given his time with the Blueshirts last season. That still leaves a single vacancy, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Ryan Gropp, Ryan Kovacs or Ty Ronning to get long looks as well.
Deciding the Defense
Another revelation from the Rangers head coach was that Marc Staal and Nick Holden would be competing for ice time this year. Take this statement however you want, but the fact of the matter is that Marc Staal will be on the ice when the season starts in a few weeks. The veteran defenseman will be making $5.7 million next year and barring some disastrous playing from Staal, he won’t be seeing much of the press box.
Holden, on the other hand, should be competing for a spot. Head coach Alain Vigneault was quick to point out that Holden was one of the team’s better defensemen for 55 games (maybe that’s why he’s wearing the number now). But if Holden is to stick in the lineup, he’s going to have to be good for 82 games, not just 55. And Holden will have some serious competition coming into camp. The Rangers have a ton of young defensemen, all eager to break into the NHL. Anthony DeAngelo, Steven Kampfer Sean Day, Sergei Zborovsky and Alexei Bereglazov will all be getting looked at to make the opening night roster. Factor in NCAA free agent signings Vince Pedrie and Neal Pionk, and the Rangers depth on the blue line is something that will be exciting to watch over the next few years.
The King and His Crease
Heading into his age 36 season, Henrik Lundqvist is coming off one of his worst seasons as a professional. He recorded 31 wins, the eleventh time he’s recorded 30 or more victories in his career, but his season did not go smoothly. When asked about whether or not Henrik will have a games limit, Vigneault said: “after discussing with Benoit [Allaire] and Hank, I’m not giving him a number of games this year.” AV went on to explain that it will be based on how Henrik is feeling physically and mentally and that he will go from there. One little wrinkle here is that Henrik’s backup, Ondrej Pavelec, is a former starting goaltender himself. And with the help of Benoit Allaire, he can regain his previous form.
Media Day Fun
The Rangers players weren’t just being spoken about; they got to have some fun of their own on media day.
— New York Rangers (@NYRangers) September 14, 2017