Rangers’ under-25s squad will dominate the conversation at most training camps this week, and the entire 2022-23 season.
Could Alexis Lavrinier, the Blueshirts’ first overall pick in two short years, play a bigger role? Will Kabu Kaku, who was the second pick in 2019, be able to stay healthy and have an overall impact? And with restricted free agency looming during his season, can Philippe Shettel continue his effective postseason game? The continued upward trajectory of defenders Candre Miller and Braden Sneijder will also be important. So are Adam Fox and Ryan Lindgren, who are easy to forget, still only 24 years old.
“It was exciting to see what they did last year,” President and General Manager Chris Drury said during rookie camp last week. “Basically, for most of them the after-all-star game, I think they all came back with a slightly different mindset. Played some good hockey along the field and then we all saw what they did in the playoffs. I think they are excited about this opportunity.
“I think they all have the opportunity to take on more impactful roles on a daily basis in the squad. Be it [power play]The top nine, the top six. I think they are eager to try and grab it and it will be fun to watch.”
Before Monday’s six-game pre-season roster begins against the Islanders, the department will have an evaluation period during training camp. Here are the top storylines, in no particular order, to follow as the week-long camp begins:
Fill in the right spot in the first line and move Lafreniere to the other side to grab the job
from all wings Compete for places in the top sixLafreniere scored the most time (25 games) in Unit One alongside Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad. The 20-year-old should get the first look there, but it will take more than a commitment to switch off the side to stay there.
The reason why Frank Vatrano, who is now with the Ducks after helping Rangers in the conference final as a trade deadline acquisition last season, works so well with Kreider and Zibanegad is because of his shoot-first mentality. As a developing player, Lafreniere may have to add more of that to his game to fit the role.
Vitaly Kravtsov has returned to the Rangers locker room for the first time since saving last season
The full range of dynamic between Rangers and Kraftsov It may never be completely clearBut how the Russian winger deals with his reintegration into the club will speak volumes. When he didn’t make the Rangers opening night roster last season, Kravtsov turned down the AHL job and went home to play in the Continental Hockey League, where he had already spent parts of six seasons.
Had Kraftsov reported to Hartford, there is no doubt he would have seen the NHL ice sooner rather than later amid injuries and cases of COVID-19. With that, he chose to play elsewhere. Being accountable is part of being a professional and there will be questions about his decisions. Kravtsov, who arrived early in New York this summer to start training, queuing up for a major role on the Rangers didn’t always act like he wanted to be a part of it.
Competition for the position of the sixth man of defense
There aren’t quite as many places available to grab the Rangers, but Defense Corps rounding These are the most prominent wide open jobs. For Rangers, he is also the most competitive. Zach Jones, Lebor Hajek and Matt Robertson are the frontrunners, but the recent signing of veteran defender Matt Bartkowski on a professional test contract gives coach Gerard Gallant another option.
First Look at Artemi Panarin and Vincent Trocheck
The loss of Ryan Strom will no doubt be felt in the locker room, but the hope is that the addition of Vincent Trochek will make her unnoticed on the ice. Artemi Panarin has proven time and time again that he can develop chemistry with anyone around him. Second place plays an important role in every team and Rangers are no different, but with such a large squad it will be even more important to the success of the team. Pursuing a duo whose nickname was Bread-and-Butter will be tough for Trocheck, but the veteran center has the potential to change the appearance of the top six.
Employee decisions dictate the identity of the fourth line
We’ve seen several different combinations in the bottom unit all last season. Each shape can bring a different style of play and help give Rangers a different look at times. From the physical group of Greg McKegg (now with Oilers) – Kevin Rooney (now with Flames) – Ryan Reaves to faster Tyler Motte (now with Senators) – Johnny Brodzinski – Dryden Hunt, they all demonstrated a different approach. Rangers still have options for the fourth line, but it will be important to be strategic. Reaves, Brodzinski and Hunt are still in the mix, as are Sammy Blais, Ryan Carpenter, Julien Gauthier, Gustav Rydahl and maybe even Will Cuylle.