Rangers Roundup: Will Cuylle solid in debut, Sammy Blais scores for Wolf Pack, and more

Will Cuylle New York Rangers
Jan 25, 2023; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; New York Rangers forward Will Cuylle (50) warms up before playing the Toronto Maple Leafs at Scotiabank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Will Cuylle played his first National Hockey League game suiting up for the New York Rangers in his hometown of Toronto.

It may not have been the outcome he wanted as the Leafs picked up a 3-2 OT victory, but the Blueshirts second-round pick in 2020 had a solid debut witnessed by plenty of family and friends.

“It’s pretty cool skating out there,” Cuylle said prior to the game. “Obviously growing up here, it feels like being back home… I left a few tickets for close friends and family. A lot of people are here, so I’m pretty grateful.”

Will Cuylle solid in debut

The 20 year-old made the transition from the AHL to the NHL beautifully in a limited capacity on the Rangers fourth line with Jake Leschyshyn and Julien Gauthier. Unfortunately, he was on the ice for the Maple Leafs first goal of the game just a little over two minutes in.

On the play, Cuylle was in the offensive zone looking to pressure the puck but a mix up between Ben Harpur and Gauthier at the blue-line allowed Pontus Holmberg to get behind them to fire a backhand for the early Leafs lead.

Cuylle was unfazed and even drew a delay of game penalty for the Rangers in the third period with his relentless pursuit of the puck.

When the buzzer sounded, Cuylle finished with four hits and a -1 rating in 5:49 of ice time.

Head coach Gerard Gallant opted to roll three lines in the late stages of the final period which limited Cuylle’s action. However, his game translates nicely into the necessary grinding style required by a fourth line.

Look for Cuylle to suit up in the Rangers final game before the All-Star break against the Vegas Golden Knights on Friday at the Garden.

The prospect also will make his first AHL All-Star appearance with Hartford. He’s recorded 13 goals and 20 points in 39 games to date with the Wolf Pack.

Sammy Blais scores for Wolf Pack

sammy blais
Sammy Blais scores in his Hartford Wolf Pack debut. (Photo: John Mrakovcich/Hartford Wolf Pack)

Sammy Blais wasted no time making his presence known for the Hartford Wolf Pack in his first game with the Rangers’ AHL affiliate.

Although the Pack lost to Bridgeport by a 6-2 margin, Blais scored a beautiful power play goal on a virtuoso effort. The big winger seized control of the puck and drove to the slot and whipped a shot for the tally.

Blais, 26, had been struggling to stick in the Rangers lineup after returning from a major knee injury in 2021-22. This season, he’s registered only 5 assists in 38 games and has been unable to record a single goal since being part of the return from the St. Louis Blues in the Pavel Buchnevich trade.

The Rangers recognized that Blais needed more ice time to get his game on track, so they sent him to Hartford on a Conditioning Assignment. Per the CBA (13.8), a conditioning stint can’t exceed 14 days and requires the player’s consent.

“He hasn’t played bad for us,” Gallant said Tuesday. “He’s played 8 or 9 minutes most games. He hasn’t gotten into a groove and he hasn’t had any luck. He’ll go down there and play a lot of minutes… Hopefully some good thing happen to him. Just restart him…I think he’s going to play 5 or 6 games hopefully and come back.”

Blais signed a one-year deal with the Rangers this past summer for an AAV of $1.525M and will be a UFA in July.

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Anthony Scultore is the founder of Forever Blueshirts and has been covering the New York Rangers and the NHL... More about Anthony Scultore

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