Friday, July 16, 2010

2010 Will Not Be Prospect Friendly

Every year it seems like we go though this debate as the New York Rangers keep talking about how they are building the roster using homegrown players. But the question for the 2010-2011 season is will we see any of the prospects having any kind of impact?

It is really hard to say that are when you look at the roster and see that the Rangers already have 11 forwards signed to contracts heading into training camp.  A very good guess would be that none of the prospects are going to step into any kind of key role among the forwards.

If the Rangers carry 13 forwards then that will leave 2 spots open but even if there were more spots open the truth is that none of the franchise impact prospects are even close to being NHL ready. No Ranger fan is going to want to hear this but if you were looking forward to making the playoffs next season then you might be very disappointed.

Right off the bat we also need to be realistic and realize that prospects like Derek Stepan and Evgeny Grachev are longshots to make the Ranger roster at the beginning of the season. Both would see their development enhanced if they spent most of the season in Hartford where they would see top line ice time there.

2010-2011 is not going to be a season where prospects are going to make a big impact on the Rangers but it could wind up setting the table for prospects in 2011-12. That in our eyes should be when we see the more talented prospects getting their opportunity.

If you want to look ahead to the 2010-2011 season then here is how we things shaping up.

First Line: Marian Gaborik/Erik Christensen/Vinnie Prospal

Down the stretch this was the line that worked the best for the Rangers but given the way John Tortorella changes lines then it is hard to imagine any line sticking together for more than a few games at a time. By mid-season Artem Anisimov hopefully would have replaced Christensen and Prospal moved for a draft pick.

Gaborik is Gaborik and for next season is once again going to be expected to carry the Ranger offense on his back. The hope is that he will be able to do for Anisimov that he has done for Christensen which is turn him into a productive player.

Prospal signed up for another season with a very nice cap friendly number which is going to help the Rangers more if they have to move him come the trade deadline provided he can remain healthy. If he does not remain healthy then Grachev or Stepan might have to grow up in a hurry.

Second Line: Brandon Dubinsky/Artem Anisimov/Ryan Callahan

Call this the "High Expectations" line as the Rangers are going to badly need these 3 to produce but more importantly all 3 will be RFAs after next season and we believe the Rangers will move at least 1 of them during the season.  Which of the 3 is going to be interesting to see but while most would expect it to be Brandon Dubinsky; it would not shock us if it winds up being Ryan Callahan who gets moved

Ryan Callahan has to take the next step and become a 30 goal scorer as 19 last season after 22 in 2008-09 shows he can score but as one of the Ranger leaders they need more from him. Callahan has any kind of good season and his trade value might never be higher.

Brandon Dubinsky scored 20 goals in just 69 games and we agree that moving him to the wing should help his game. Every year we have heard how Dubinsky is being discussed in trade rumors but with Stepan, Kreider, Werek and Horak on their way someone is going to leave.

The question mark here is going to be Artem Anisimov who was showing signs at the end of last season that he has the earmarks of being able to score at the NHL level. 12 goals while playing on the 4th line helped sell folks on Anisimov's potential. At 6'4 200 lbs; Anisimov has to step up and eventually push Christensen out of the first line center position.

Anisimov is the Rangers only hope of developing their own first line center at this time as he has size and skill but now it is time for Anisimov to step up. 

Third Line: Sean Avery/Chris Drury/Dale Weise

If a young player is going to have any shot at making the Rangers this season then here is going to be where they will have a chance. Brandon Prust will be the favorite going into training camp to be right winger on this line but in terms of overall skill and potential then Dale Weise in our eyes is the best choice for a spot here.

Weise is a rugged self made player who has grown as a player each of the last 3 years; we put him here over Prust because Weise offers more scoring that Prust does. Weise has gone from a player with no future to one of the hardest working prospects the Rangers have.

This might be the last chance for Sean Avery as Avery needs to realize that he is running out of time to show he belongs in the NHL. When he wants to then Avery can give the Rangers a bit of everything from scoring to dependable checking and can be used as a Top 6 forward.

The problem is that Avery will pick the wrong times to lose his common sense and will take the bad penalty which gets him into Tortorella's doghouse. Tortorella does not like Avery to begin with and we would not be shocked that if Avery doesn't produce or plays with no brains that Tortorella will look to dump him.

As for Chris Drury, it is way past time to expect him to live up to his contract as the Ranger captain just has not produced and at 33 it is time for him to play a new role and that is as mentor to the younger players coming up in the system. For Drury it might help him find new life as a player in the NHL as with one more year on his contract it is going to be hard for him to find a new home once his contract expires.

We have watched others like Brett Hull find new life playing as a mentor for younger players and it helped both team and player. Chris Drury needs to reinvent himself as a player as it is hard to justify the leader of the Rangers as a 3rd line player more so at 7.5 million..

Fourth Line: Derek Boogard/Brian Boyle/Brandon Prust

In the grand scheme of things then signing Boogard was a mistake as we would held this spot open for one of the prospects to start working their way up the development ladder. Boyle and Prust at least will give the Rangers more than just fighting and we will see both of them interchanged with the 3rd line wingers.

Tortorella does not like to use a 4th line on a regular basis as it is so anyone used here has to produce when used or will see even less ice time as the season wears on. Just like Donald Brashear last season, we expect that Boogard will work his way off the roster as time wears on.

The Wild Cards: Mats Zuccarello Aasen, Dane Byers, Jeremy Williams, Brodie Dupont, Derek Stepan and Evgeny Grachev

The easy one to figure out is Williams as any expectations from him should be set low as his main role appears to be as a replacement for Corey Locke and P. A. Parenteau as the experienced scorer for the Wolfpack. Brodie Dupont at 23 is entering his 4th season as a professional and the clock is ticking on his window of opportunity as a prospect.

Dupont has not gotten his chance but at the same time Dupont has not done anything to warrant being given a chance. It is hard to see Dupont as a serious contender for a roster spot this season.

Dane Byers in our eyes would help the Rangers more than Boogard can as Byers brings energy as the better overall player, we like Byers because we can see him as a shut down defensive forward when paired with Boyle and Prust. But Byers is not going to become anything more than a 3rd or 4th liner so his NHL shelf life will be limited

Derek Stepan is going to wind up as a winger at the NHL level as his faceoff skills have not shown that he can be effective at the NHL level. Stepan needs as much playing time as possible and 4th line minutes will not help him. Half a season in Hartford depending how well Stepan adapts to the speed of the game.

If Stepan does not crash and burn in Hartford by mid-season then he might be ready to gain NHL experience at the end of the season. Expecting more sooner might be asking perhaps too much too soon.

Mats Zuccarello Aasen is the biggest question mark as nobody knows how fast he will adapt to the more physical North American style of play. The Rangers could use both his speed and his offensive talent in the lineup but it is very hard to gauge where his potential is until training camp.

It is hard to picture Zuccarello Aasen as anything but a 2nd liner IF he is NHL ready as it is going to be hard to ask him to play the role of a checking forward with his size. The Rangers do need Zuccarello Aasen to make the team come training camp but it too is a long shot as it is asking a lot for a player to adapt to the North American game on the run.

Evgeny Grachev is only 20 years old but people saw what he did in Brampton 2 seasons ago and the pressure for him to produce is intense. Grachev is coming off a very disappointing first year in Hartford and all one can hope for is that he learned from his struggles.

If Grachev has learned then one can expect to see him with the Rangers by the end of next season. But if he continues to struggle then he will be passed up by the incoming prospects like Kreider and Werek.

The picture is not as bad on defense as at least there the help will be showing up sooner as we will see in the next part of this.

(Dupont courtesy of the Hartford Wolfpack)

1 comment:

paul said...

I like the article. MZA is the wild card in this equation.

I am hoping that Stepan and Grachev fit together in a Synergistic Relationship. I dont see them making the team out of Training camp, but I do think they rip up the AHL and will get an opportunity during the year.