Will Cuylle’s ‘memorable moments’ as rookie set up bright Rangers future

NHL: Montreal Canadiens at New York Rangers
Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Will Cuylle’s rookie season in the NHL with the New York Rangers was nothing short of impressive. After earning his way onto the opening-night roster out of training camp, the 22-year-old showcased a blend of physicality, defensive awareness, and skilled offensive contributions, that made him a valuable regular in the lineup.

Cuylle’s stats underline his impactful presence on the ice. He scored 13 goals and totaled 21 points 21 points in 81 games. More notably, he led all rookies and ranked seventh in the NHL with 247 hits, emphasizing his physical style of play.

“Obviously a ton of memorable moments, a lot of learning experiences,” Cuylle said Tuesday at breakup day. “As a whole, just a really great experience.”

Cuylle’s game was marked by several strengths. Along with his physicality, his relentless forechecking forced turnovers and maintained offensive zone pressure. His work deep in the offensive zone often led to scoring opportunities for the Blueshirts, evidenced by his assist on Barclay Goodrow’s first of two goals against the Florida Panthers in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final.

In front of the net, he was a constant threat, effectively screening goalies with his imposing size (6-foot-3, 210 pounds) and capitalizing on rebounds, which was crucial in several of his 13 goals. His skill off the rush was noticeable too; and his first NHL playoff goal against the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 4 of the second round showcased his speed and scoring touch.

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Strong rookie season could lead Will Cuylle to expanded role with Rangers in 2024-25

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-New York Rangers at Florida Panthers
Sam Navarro-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

Defensively, Cuylle frequently positioned himself well to break up plays and support his defensemen, demonstrating maturity beyond his age. Coach Peter Laviolette praised the rookie many times during the season for his defensive awareness and play. And Cuylle was trusted late in the season with important checking assignments when skating on a line with Goodrow.

Despite his strong rookie campaign, Cuylle recognizes areas where he can elevate his game further. While he had standout games, he needs to work on maintaining a high level of performance consistently throughout the season. Increasing his scoring output would make him an even more significant threat, as his 21 points were a solid start, but there’s room for growth.

“I think just keeping building everything up physically, getting bigger, faster, stronger,” Cuylle said. “I know what to expect now going into training camp and into the season.”

That room for growth could see Cuylle move up from the third line and land in the top six at some point. He has the pedigree for it after scoring 25 goals in 69 games with Hartford of the American Hockey League in 2022-23 and 43 goals with Windsor of the OHL in 2021-22.

Cuylle’s first playoff run provided invaluable experience. He noted the differences between regular season and playoff hockey, saying, “I don’t think I was surprised. Obviously it was different, faster and more physical. I think always watching hockey growing up, you kind of know what the playoffs is all about.”

This experience, despite its challenges, will undoubtedly shape his approach going forward.

“It stings right now, but it’s a good experience to make a deep run in the playoffs, especially in my first year and knowing what it takes.”

Overall, Cuylle’s rookie season was a blend of memorable moments and significant learning experiences. His physicality, forechecking, defensive awareness, and net-front presence made him a key player for the Presidents’ Trophy winning Rangers.

The future appears bright for Cuylle, who’s poised to be an even more formidable force in years to come.

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