The New York Rangers are moving away from trying to figure out what they have, to want they want. That was the clear and distant message from the new leadership group led by Chris Drury and Gerard Gallant.
During their joint press conference each of them talked about defining roles and being harder to play against. As currently constituted, the Rangers have work to do in that area. In particular the bottom six and third pair defense.
Rangers need defined roles
“It’s hard not to watch these playoffs and notice the physicality, the energy, the effort and the intensity it takes to win and to succeed and we’re certainly going to need to play that way to have success in the regular season and in the playoffs,” Drury said. “We’re always looking at ways to improve the lineup, to add different pieces, just like every team in the league, and every team in the league is watching these playoffs – you know we all want harder players to play against and we’re no different.”
The new head coach gave you a glimpse into how he will run his hockey team ad well. “I try to make every player important to our hockey team, everybody has a role to play and that’s what we expect,” he explained. “Do your role, play your role well and we’ll win hockey games.”
A look at the Rangers lineup from last season and all you see are similar players for the most part. On right wing, Pavel Buchnevich, Kaapo Kakko, Vitali Kravtsov, or Julien Gauthier are suited for third or fourth line duties. Colin Blackwell on the other hand could fill one of those roles with his relentless style and provide some offense.
Same on the left side with Artemi Panarin, Alexis Lafrenière, and Chris Kreider. All three are better suited for top two line roles. Maybe Kreider can transform his game to be on a third line. As for centers, well Filip Chytil as your third line pivot isn’t working. You can start to see where the Blueshirts simply have too much of the same thing.
Three young players that may thrive under new direction
The Rangers are likely to look at the trade and free agent market to fill some of these “role holes.” However, I see three young players that could have an immediate to near-future impact on Broadway.
Morgan Barron: The Blueshirts media guide lists him as a center, although he was recently converted from wing. At 6-4 and 220 lbs, Barron can play a physical and heavy game. He scored 21 points in 21 games in his first pro season with the Hartford Wolf Pack. In 5 games with the Rangers at the end of the year, he scored a goal in 13:41 of average ice time. The sixth round pick from 2017 is the player most likely to have an immediate role and impact on the team’s bottom six next season.
Braden Schneider: At 6-2 and 210 lbs, Schneider plays a physical brand of hockey. He was highly regarded by Jeff Gorton who admitted he tried to trade up several times to draft him and was ultimately successful. After making a deal with the Calgary Flames, the Blueshirts chose him 19th overall. Schneider had an amazing 2021 as he won Gold for Team Canada at the World Championships with Gerard Gallant as his coach. That familiarity might have Schneider jump up the depth chart even at just 19 years of age to contend for a spot.
Will Cuylle: The Rangers traded Lias Andersson to the Kings to make this selection in the second round of the 2020 Draft. At 6-23 and 212 lbs, the 19 year-old is a power forward by trade with scoring punch. He also has a willingness to get involved in scraps and could be a quintessential third liner in the near future. This season in the AHL he scored 5 points in 18 games and added 35 penalty minutes. His ELC kicks in next season.
The Rangers want to be harder to play against and about those Matthew Tkachuk rumors. Read more here.