Will Cuylle should make New York Rangers to start season

Will Cuylle has earned a spot on the New York Rangers opening night roster in my opinion. I’m not sure how he doesn’t have his named penned onto the lineup card come October 12 after another strong preseason performance Wednesday against the New Jersey Devils.

“I’ve just been trying to show my game every chance I get,” Cuylle explained. “I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel out there. I’m just playing fast and physical trying to crash the net.”

In the 5-3 loss to the Devils, the power forward opened the scoring for the Blueshirts by using his size and hands near the crease. For Cuylle, it was his second goal in as many games, bringing his preseason totals to two goals and one assist in four matches.

The 21 year-old forward has consistently shown that he’s NHL ready and it’s something head coach Peter Laviolette has noticed.

“He plays physical with his size and skating,” Laviolette praised. “He’s certainly a player on an upward trajectory.”

Will Cuyle should make the Rangers

NHL: Preseason-New York Rangers at Boston Bruins
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Ever since the Rangers selected Cuylle in the second-round of the 2020 Draft, he’s continued to impress everyone in the organization.

Cuylle is coming off a great first pro season, registering 25 goals and 20 assists for 45 points in 69 games with the Hartford Wolf Pack last season. His play in the AHL earned him two call-ups with the Blueshirts in the 2022-23 campaign. Even though he didn’t register a point in 4 NHL games averaging just 6:58 per night on the fourth-line, he was very noticeable. In those contests, he racked up 8 hits and 10 penalty minutes with 2 fighting majors.

In May, AHL writer Patrick Williams told Forever Blueshirts he believed Cuylle had a very good chance to make the Rangers for the 2023-24 season.

“He plays a very simple up and down game,” Williams explained. “I think that translates easier to the NHL when you don’t add too much complication to your game. He’s a great candidate to play for the Rangers with a great shot at camp to make the team.”

While his play in the preseason should have cemented his position in the lineup, there are several factors working both for and against the youngster.

General manager Chris Drury loaded the team with low-cost veteran free agents signings in July, thus limiting roster spots for a prospect like Cuylle.

Blake Wheeler and Nick Bonino were locks to earn spots based on their positions (right wing and center respectively). There are also two returning bottom-six vets in Barclay Goodrow and Jimmy Vesey blocking his path.

However, it’s where Alexis Lafreniere starts that may have the biggest implication on whether Cuylle makes it. If Laviolette wants to end the experiment of Lafreniere on the right wing, it would seal Cuylle’s fate.

That being said, another free agent depth signing, forward Tyler Pitlick, was injured in Wednesday’s game. Although he’s listed as day to day with an upper-body injury, and coupled with the uncertainty of Filip Chytil’s health, Cuylle may make the team by default.

Coming into this season, the Rangers had limited cap space, giving Cuylle a real chance to make an impact. With two years remaining on his entry-level contract at a team friendly $902,500 AAV per Cap Friendly, he’s a perfect fit.

At the end of the day, Cuylle should be on this Rangers’ team. Whether that happens now or at some point during the season remains to be seen. One thing is clear to me after watching him play, he belongs.

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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