Category Archives: Player Features

Rangers Prospects at the Memorial Cup

The Memorial Cup is an annual tournament to decide the winner of the Canadian Hockey League (CHL). The tournament includes the winners of the Quebec Major Junior League (QMJHL), Ontario Hockey League (OHL), and the Western Hockey League (WHL). The host city is determined almost a year in advance and that team is guaranteed a spot in the tournament.

The 2017 Memorial Cup featured the:

  • Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL Champions)
  • Erie Otters (OHL Champions)
  • Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL Champions)
  • Windsor Spitfires (OHL Host Team)

So how do the New York Rangers fit into the Memorial Cup? It’s simple; two of the Blueshirts best prospects played in the tournament for the CHL’s biggest prize.

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Fourth Line and “Black Aces” Season Recap and Grades

USA Today

The Rangers fourth line was unique this season for the Blueshirts. The line had constants in Jesper Fast and Oscar Lindberg, but the third spot saw a constant rotation. The spot was occupied by Russian rookie Pavel Buchnevich, journeymen Brandon Pirri, Tanner Glass and Matt Puempel, and Hartford Wolfpack call-up Nicklas Jensen. No matter who was on the line, the unit played with grit and an unwavering work ethic that was always much appreciated by the coaches and the Blueshirt faithful.
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Third Line Season Recap and Grades

USA Today

The Rangers third line of JT Miller, Kevin Hayes, and Michael Grabner was together for nine percent of the 2016-17 season and was very productive for the majority of the campaign. The trio played with a combination of speed and skill that caused problems for the opposition. With the potential of Grabner being selected by Vegas in the expansion draft, his year on Broadway was one that saw a lot of successes.
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Second Line Season Recap and Grades

USA Today

The line of Rick Nash, Mika Zibanejad and Jimmy Vesey was only together for a measly 2.09 percent of the Rangers season. But with Nash and Zibanejad both missing time due to injuries, this line did not have much time to gel during the heart of the regular season. The line performed well together, with Vesey able to “go under the wing” of Nash. All three players should be back on Broadway next season and, hopefully, will continue to get better in the coming years.

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First Line Season Recap and Grades

AP

The line of Chris Kreider, Derek Stepan and Mats Zuccarello was together for just 12% of the Rangers 2016-17 campaign, but when they were, they were very effective. The distribution of Stepan, who racked up 38 assists during the regular season, the speed of Kreider and the playmaking and vision of Zuccarello, who himself had 44 helpers, made this line very dynamic. Each player went through their personal hot and cold streaks, but when the Rangers were in need of a goal, this line was almost always on the ice.
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Alexei Bereglazov and the Rangers

nhl.com

Earlier this week, we published a story on Neal Pionk and his potential impact for the Rangers next season. Today we’re going to look at a different kind of defenseman. One who is bigger, more of a shutdown type player and has played professionally in Russia for the last three seasons. His name is Alexei Bereglazov and he already has a professional championship under his belt, winning the Gagarin Cup with Metallurg Magnitogorsk in 2016. Just who is he and what are his chances at a roster spot next season? Let’s get into it.

Bereglazov, 23, who stands 6’4” and weighs roughly 200 pounds, is no slouch. If we compare that to the Rangers current defensive corps, he’s the third largest in terms of size and weight behind Marc Staal and Nick Holden. Having a big body never hurt, especially on defense, even if the trend in the NHL is now to have a bit smaller of a defense that can skate and rush the puck.

What teams look for in a potential signee is if they see some form of progression in their play. Bereglazov increased his points totals year after year, and solidified his defensive play on the ice, evidenced by his plus/minus trending towards the plus side more and more each year. Bereglazov was signed this past season after showing immense growth from his first few seasons in the KHL. In his first three seasons playing for Metallurg Magnitogorsk, he registered only 14 combined points, but his breakout started during the 2016 Gagarin Cup playoffs. That year, when he won the Gagarin Cup, he scored two goals and six assists for eight points in 22 playoff games. He played 58 regular season games that season and only had eight points.

His breakout continued this past season when he scored 19 points with one goal and 18 assists in the regular season. If we look at his playoff stats as well, things begin to look even better, as Bereglazov earned six assists in 13 games during Magnitogorsk’s run to the Gagarin Cup Finals this past spring.

Contract wise, Bereglazov has a $925,000 cap hit with a European assignment clause in his contract; the same as Pavel Buchnevich. For those unfamiliar with that, it basically means that if Bereglazov is assigned to Hartford during the season, he has the option to return to the KHL at the end of the season. This is a good thing for the Rangers because if Bereglazov happens to not work out how they hope and he happens to spend a lot of time in Hartford he can leave.

So does Bereglazov have a legit shot to make the team? Just like Pionk, it depends on just how radically the Rangers defense changes this summer. It’s almost guaranteed that one of Dan Girardi, Marc Staal, Nick Holden, and Kevin Klein will be gone this summer with possibly another of them leaving or (unlikely but possible) three or four of them. If one spot is all that is open it is going to be a dogfight between Pionk, Bereglazov, Ryan Graves, possibly even Sean Day and others to see who can fill that spot. One of the things possibly helping Bereglazov though is that he is a left-handed shot who plays the right side of the ice. The Rangers need help on the right side of the ice and if he can make an impression during training camp and the preseason… who knows?
One last point I’d like to make about Bereglazov is that unlike Pionk, Graves, Day and other Rangers defense prospects is that he has played primarily on European ice surfaces. European ice surfaces are larger than their North American cousins and players usually have to go through a period of transition if they’re coming from overseas. Forwards and defensemen both have to learn how to adjust their play style and address issues such as gap control.

The New York Rangers are hoping that Bereglazov will translate his game to the NHL rather quickly and if he plays well it only helps GM Jeff Gorton as he makes the decision on how to revamp his team’s defensive corps.

The Rangers Expansion Draft Primer

Benjamin Hager/Review Journal

On June 20, 2017, the expansion Las Vegas Golden Knights will draft 30 players left unprotected by the rest of the teams in the NHL. The next day, the results will be announced during the NHL awards show (unless they are leaked earlier, of course). There promises to be a lot of player movement in two high-stakes games, chess and “chicken”. Golden Knights GM George McPhee could bluff his way into a treasure trove of draft picks and prospects, by claiming to be picking a player he may or may not have any intention of taking. He could tell Rangers General Manager Jeff Gorton that he is deciding between Michael Grabner and Anti Raanta. If Gorton feels strongly about keeping one or the other, he may have to pay a price to dissuade McPhee from taking the player he would like to keep.
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Blueshirts at The Worlds

Getty Images

The 2017 IIHF World Championships have come to a close with Sweden ultimately taking the gold in an absolute nail-biter over Canada. It’s not a stretch to say that the World Championships play second fiddle to the Stanley Cup playoffs each spring but with the Rangers getting eliminated earlier than expected this year it gave fans some incentive to watch since four them joined their national teams. Kevin Hayes, Brady Skjei, Oscar Lindberg and last but certainly not least Henrik Lundqvist all participated with two not earning a medal and two taking home the gold.
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Neal Pionk, the Rangers and The Expansion Draft

sny.tv

It’s no secret to any Rangers fan that this summer the Rangers seriously need to upgrade their defense. When you take a look around the league it’s not about having a big hulking defense anymore. It’s about having a mobile defense that can skate, join the rush, and make that crucial pass. Having a great shot doesn’t hurt either. The Rangers need to retool their defense this summer and one key move may have already been a step in the right direction: the signing of UMD defensemen Neal Pionk.
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