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.