Rangers WJC Update: Nico Gross

This week, Rangers prospect Nico Gross was in action for his second game of the WJC tournament against the high powered Canada team. Let’s take a look at his performance in this match-up.

To start the game, Gross was on the ice again like he was in Switzerland’s opening game. It is really nice to see the confidence the Swiss coach has in the 19 year old to play big time minutes and start games. Unlike against the Czech’s on Wednesday, Gross was not given the job of going against Canada’s top line centered by 2017 Vegas first round pick Cody Glass.

That line also consists of 2017 Panther first round pick Owen Tippett, and Ducks pick/Canada’s captain, Maxime Comtois. Gross found himself on the ice for most of the night against Canada’s third line. This is not a typical third line for this tournament being that it consists of 2017 Flyers first round pick Morgan Frost (who had a hat trick in 35 minutes against Denmark in Canada’s opening game), 2018 Coyotes first round pick Barrett Hayton, and 2019 draft eligible Brett Leason.

As for Gross’s game, he had another solid one. Gross continues to display his own zone ability, and good gap control. I really like the way that Gross plays in his own end, and understands how to play in a zone system (a system that Rangers coach David Quinn runs). His head is constantly on a swivel, understanding his assignment every shift. There were a few negatives that stood out in Gross’s game.

In the first minute of the game, he was on the ice for the first goal. It was only 36 seconds into the game, and a turnover along the wall by the Swiss left Gross in no-mans land. Nick Suzuki with a phenomenal pass through Gross’s legs that ended up on Cody Glass’s stick, and in the back of the net. There was honestly nothing Gross can do, so I will not knock him for this. The couple of things that I will knock Gross on are the following:

  1. In the early stages of the first period, Gross made a bad decision on a rush by Owen Tippett and let him fire a shot from the dot. This led to a high percentage scoring chance.
  2. Later in the shift, Gross had the puck behind his own net, and turned it over on a terrible pass. The turnover ended up on, yet again, Tippett’s stick as he ripped a shot on net as he was very deep but no damage was done.
  3. There were two more instances that I did not like Gross’s gap control.

Aside from these three things, I would say Gross played a similar game as he did against the Czechs. The only difference was he played this “solid game” against a far better team from Canada in a 3-2 effort in which they lost. Canada is BY FAR the best team in this tournament. They beat the Danish by two touchdowns the other night and were nearly slain by Gross and the Swiss.

Overall grade – I would give Gross a “B+”. As mentioned before he again played a solid game, but against a far better opponent. Gross looks like the kind of guy who won’t blow you away with his speed and skill, and will not make insane breakout passes. He understands own zone assignments, has good gap control, and what I like most, and is an extremely tough player. He is not afraid to play with a little sandpaper and grit. I am satisfied with Gross’s play thus far against two VERY good opponents in the Czechs and Canadians.

P.S. – Barrett Hayton, Arizona Coyotes 2018 first round pick is someone who jumped off the page for me. He is going to be a very nice NHL player in the near future. Not to mention the plethora of first round picks including Cody Glass, Owen Tippett, Nick Suzuki, Morgan Frost, Barrett Hayton, Joe Veleno, Evan Bouchard, Noah Dobson, and Ty Smith…..oh and what will be the first overall pick in 2020 Alexis Lafreniere.