Will Cuylle pushing to make New York Rangers roster

NHL: Preseason-New York Rangers at Boston Bruins
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The New York Rangers have to be very pleased with several of their prospects opening eyes in training camp. Even though the lineup appears pretty much set for the upcoming season, there are some interesting postional battles such as Alexis Lafreniére on right wing in the top six that could present an opening for a player like Will Cuylle.

After an impressive performance in his first preseason game, a 3-0 loss to the Bruins, Cuylle could crack a spot on the opening night roster if he continues to garner head coach Peter Laviolette’s attention.

“It feels good to be back and it’s great to wear the Rangers jersey,” Cuylle said. “I just try to build each day and there’s lots of room for improvment. I’ll take what I did well [in Boston] and improve on that, and work on what I didn’t do well also.”

Will Cuylle impressive in first preseason game

will cuylle
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Sunday’s game was only exhibition for the Rangers, but there were still some bright spots in the loss. The 21 year-old started on a first line centered by Filip Chytil and Alexis Lafreniére, who is working on playing right wing. Cuylle also saw some looks on the first power play unit and finished the game with two shots in 18:42 TOI of playing time.

The Rangers organization are well aware of what their second round pick in the 2020 draft can do. In 2022-23, Cuylle played four regular season games as a reward for his play with the Hartford Wolf Pack. Before being sent back down, he was strong as a fourth-line player registering no points but earning his first big league fighting win.

Cuylle also displayed a scoring touch with 25 goals and 45 points as rookie in his first pro season. Of course, he now has to take all of that experience and translate it to the big club. The youngster is proving to be a quick study.

“A good chance to practice new systems that we have been working on,” Cuylle noted on Sunday. “Nice to get out there and try new stuff that we’ve been practicing for at least four or five days.”

While the odds may be against him for starting the season with the Rangers, he continues to make a name for himself with his new head coach. 

Cuylle is pushing for a spot

At 6-4′ and 210 pounds, Cuylle is drawing comparisons to Capitals power forward Tom Wilson. Having coached Wilson for three seasons in Washington, Laviolette was asked if he has seen similarities between the two players.

“Certainly the size, he can skate and hit,” Laviolette acknowledged. “He had a hit in the scrimmage that I thought the player was going to land in my lap. But I don’t know if you want to make the exact comparison as he’s a young kid trying to make the NHL. I do think (he has similar traits to Wilson).”

There’s no doubt that Cuylle has a lot of the attributes Wilson has, but Laviolette made it a point not to put that pressure on the youngster. Laviolette wisely pointed out that Cuylle is not yet a proven NHL goalscorer like Wilson, although he has a scoring touch as seen in Hartford last season.

Back in 2020, Cuylle said that he grew up watching a lot of Joe Thornton play and models his game after Dallas Star forward Jamie Benn.

“The way I play, fast and physical is important on any line to get in on the forecheck,” Cuylle explained. “Separate guys from the puck and make simple plays…so whether that’s me being on the third of the fourth line as an energy guy throwing the body around or on the first or the second line scoring goals using my body strategically.”

At the moment, the current landscape of the team does not have a spot open for Cuylle. However, if Lafreniére starts the season in the top six at right wing, Cuylle could start the season on the third-line at left wing.

With four more preseason games on tap, it should give Cuylle an opportunity to try to show the coaching staff that he belongs in New York. 

“He plays physical with his size and skating,” Laviolette said on Monday. “He’s certainly a player on an upward trajectory. He got a game [Sunday] night (in Boston), and he’ll get more to show what he can do.” 

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