The Hungry and the Hopeful — A Look at Forwards in Training Camp

New York Rangers 2017 Training Camp began today with player physical tests and head coach Alain Vigneault’s media availability. This season’s edition of training camp brings some interesting storylines in the form of roster openings due to the moves made during the offseason. Most notably, the Rangers traded center Derek Stepan to the Arizona Coyotes forcing the Rangers to bump Mika Zibanejad and Kevin Hayes up the center depth chart. Oscar Lindberg was claimed by the Las Vegas Golden Knights in the NHL Expansion Draft. Jesper Fast underwent hip surgery in June that is expected to keep him out until late October. And, just as training camp began, J.T. Miller was confirmed to start the season as a center, filling the third line center role.

On the back end, Adam Clendening was let go in free agency. Also, Dan Girardi’s contract was bought out, but the Rangers big summer splash—the signing of Kevin Shattenkirk—definitely fills Girardi’s briefly vacant roster spot.

That makes for one currently unoccupied center spot, one wing, and one on defense. Further, the poor play of Nick Holden towards the end of the 2016-2017 season and in the playoffs has led many to speculate that his spot as the Rangers’ sixth defenseman is in jeopardy.

The Rangers tweeted out the list of all invitees to training camp:

Ahead we will focus on the forward roster openings and investigate some players that are hungry and hopeful to make the big team come October.

Fourth Line Center

Challenging for the fourth line center spot are David Desharnais, Cristoval “Boo” Nieves, Lias Andersson, Andrew Desjardins, and Steven Fogarty.

The favorite contender is David Desharnais. The Rangers signed him to a 1-year, $1 million contract on July 4th. The 31-year-old center spent the 2016-17 season splitting duties between the Edmonton Oilers and Montréal Canadiens. He had just six goals and eight assists for 14 points between the clubs in 49 total contests during a season marred by a knee injury that cut into the middle of his year. It’s hard to believe the Rangers would sign a player that  they didn’t expect to fill a particular role, but he definitely has some competition.

His most direct competition would be from Boo Nieves. Nieves was the Rangers 59th overall pick in 2012 and he played his first full professional season last year with the Hartford Wolf Pack. He tallied six goals and twelve assists in 40 games. He also appeared in one game for the Blueshirts but played a very limited role in it. If Nieves is expecting to make the jump to the NHL, now would be the time to do it with a contested role on the fourth line up for grabs.

Lias Andersson poses an interesting story-line to the fourth line center saga. Andersson was drafted seventh overall just this past summer with the pick the Rangers acquired from the Coyotes for Stepan. Andersson signed his three-year entry level contract with the Rangers back in June and he made his intentions very clear from the get-go:

http://nypost.com/2017/06/30/rangers-top-pick-looking-to-make-immediate-impact/

“I want to compete for a spot,” Andersson said after Thursday’s scrimmage at prospect camp in Tarrytown. “They’re looking for centermen. I think I’m pretty smart out there, I’ve played with men for two years now, and I think my game will fit in pretty good with older players. We’ll see. I’m going to battle for a spot and it’s up to the coaches.”

Earlier this week, the Rangers invited Andrew Desjardins to training camp on a professional tryout (PTO) contract. He had a poor 2016-2017 campaign in which he played 46 games for the Blackhawks, tallying only 1 assist while averaging 9:24 in ice time per game. He could have a surprise resurgence and challenge for the fourth line center spot, but realistically, he’s a veteran presence who the Rangers signed to fulfill the veteran player requirements for pre-season games.

Finally, Steven Fogarty will be in a very similar position to Nieves. Fogarty also played his first full professional season in Hartford last year scoring 7 goals and notching 13 assists in 66 games. Both players, in their second professional year, will definitely be in the fray to compete for the final roster spot. They will need to show the Rangers coaching staff a culmination of their development in order to gain the spot.

Fourth Line Wing

Jesper Fast is expected to return to the lineup in late October. That means a few players will be competing to fill in for roughly 10-12 crucial games to start the season.

The two front-runners would be Malte Strömwall and Scott Kosmachuk. Kosmachuk played 58 games with the Manitoba Moose registering 11 goals and 17 assists. To his advantage, Kosmachuk also played 8 games with the Winnipeg Jets tallying three assists.

The skilled, speedy Strömwall scored two goals and four assists in 44 games last year in Hartford, his first season playing professional hockey in North America. However, his defensive warts could make him a tough sell as Vigneault will likely be looking for a hand just as steady as Fast’s to fill in.

Alternatively, we could see Matt Puempel temporarily move to the right allowing someone like Cole Schneider, the big winger who played last season with the Rochester Americans scoring 24 goals and 39 assists in 71 games, to slide into the left wing role. He also has six games of NHL experience with the Buffalo Sabres. Also, Ryan Gropp could surprise in his first professional season, after spending his last four with the Seattle Thunderbirds of the WHL. If Gropp has a good training camp and pre-season, he could force Vigneault’s hand and play his way into the lineup way ahead of schedule.

Clearly, there’s still a lot of uncertainty surrounding the Rangers’ two open forward roster spots. My prediction would be that Desharnais does indeed win the spot he was signed for and that Kosmachuk, with his NHL experience, fills in for Fast to start the season. Vigneault values NHL experience and defensive awareness over everything else and he will ultimately go with players that possess those traits, especially in bottom-six roles.

In any case, training camp should be more interesting now than in years past. Stay tuned over the next few weeks as it becomes clearer who will be wearing a Rangers sweater on opening night.

 

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Discussion
  1. The Dude
    No... But I'd like to see where he's at in development. I'd like to see how he stacks up at the moment, compared to Andersson and the 27 year olds. I'm not suggesting they should be looked at as possible roster additions. Just more in game action against men, and to stay a bit with the team, to see what others are doing.

    That's what Traverse City is for
    Long live the King
    They shouldn't be compared to first rounders for the same reason they weren't drafted in the first round. And those 27 year olds are gonna be the guys that get emergency call up 4th line minutes. You don't want Gettinger getting called up to play 6 minutes in a game.

    No... But I'd like to see where he's at in development. I'd like to see how he stacks up at the moment, compared to Andersson and the 27 year olds. I'm not suggesting they should be looked at as possible roster additions. Just more in game action against men, and to stay a bit with the team, to see what others are doing.
    The Dude
    Why shouldn't they be compared to first rounders? People are hopeful for a few of those guys, but now they're just 5th rounders?
    I can see the argument for the first rounders. But these over age AHL lifers? Some of these guys are 27...
    I guess I'm just in a mood to bitch. Sorry.

    They shouldn't be compared to first rounders for the same reason they weren't drafted in the first round. And those 27 year olds are gonna be the guys that get emergency call up 4th line minutes. You don't want Gettinger getting called up to play 6 minutes in a game.
    Long live the King
    They got a look at their development in Traverse City. Gettinger was a 5th rounder and Ronning a 7th. They shouldn't be getting compared to 2 first rounders. They are still 19 and their junior season starts this weekend. They're getting longer looks because the team has never worked with them before this summer and we actually need a center. There is no room on the wing.
    They haven't even signed Ronning yet, and Gettinger's contract will slide. The "AHL lifers" and fringe players are older and burning years of their contracts. They are more in need of evaluation to determine if they have a place in the team's future or will be let go. Some are new to the organization and need to get up to speed in case they're needed for an injury call up.

    Why shouldn't they be compared to first rounders? People are hopeful for a few of those guys, but now they're just 5th rounders?
    I can see the argument for the first rounders. But these over age AHL lifers? Some of these guys are 27...
    I guess I'm just in a mood to bitch. Sorry.
    Option 1:
    Kreider - Zibs - Buchnevich
    Nash - Hayes - Zucc
    Vesey - Miller - Grabner
    - DD - Fast (out temporarily)
    Puempel (You're not gonna have a stud 13th forward)
    If Gropp makes the team:
    Kreider - Zibs - Buchnevich
    Nash - Hayes - Zucc
    Vesey - Miller - Gropp
    Grabner - DD - Fast (out temporarily)
    Puempel (You're not gonna have a stud 13th forward)
    Even in your lineup there isn't 3 open wing spots...
    Fast is hurt.
    Puempel isnt much. He was only given a contract out of necessity of the expansion draft.
    Nash - Zibs - Buchnevich
    Kreider - Hayes -
    Vesey - Miller - Zucc
    Grabner - DD - Fast (out)
    Puempel (terrible)
    josh
    Theres a third line wing spot, a 4th line wing spot and an extra forward spot.

    Grabner is on the 3rd line unless Gropp takes that spot, then Grabner and Fast are on the 4th line and Puemple is extra.
    josh
    Ronning is still undersized, Gettinger is too raw, Chapie isnt a look, Kovacs is too inconsistent and plays small. Its assumed all their roles/positions within the organization arent changing this season. These moves were just to get these guys ready for their season, and shorten up the number of guys they are looking at.

    Pretty much exactly what I said.
    Long live the King
    They got a look at their development in Traverse City. Gettinger was a 5th rounder and Ronning a 7th. They shouldn't be getting compared to 2 first rounders. They are still 19 and their junior season starts this weekend. They're getting longer looks because the team has never worked with them before this summer and we actually need a center. There is no room on the wing.
    They haven't even signed Ronning yet, and Gettinger's contract will slide. The "AHL lifers" and fringe players are older and burning years of their contracts. They are more in need of evaluation to determine if they have a place in the team's future or will be let go. Some are new to the organization and need to get up to speed in case they're needed for an injury call up.

    Theres a third line wing spot, a 4th line wing spot and an extra forward spot.
    Ronning is still undersized, Gettinger is too raw, Chapie isnt a look, Kovacs is too inconsistent and plays small. Its assumed all their roles/positions within the organization arent changing this season. These moves were just to get these guys ready for their season, and shorten up the number of guys they are looking at.
    The Dude
    I meant, skating wise and their skill set, as well as where they are in their development. These guys were drafted two years ago, and they are not playing in pre season, yet Andersson and Chytll or what ever his name is, were drafted this year and they seem to be getting longer looks. It's a little strange.
    You could say it's a center thing yet they have some reaches in camp, and some AHL lifers that are getting better looks. .

    They got a look at their development in Traverse City. Gettinger was a 5th rounder and Ronning a 7th. They shouldn't be getting compared to 2 first rounders. They are still 19 and their junior season starts this weekend. They're getting longer looks because the team has never worked with them before this summer and we actually need a center. There is no room on the wing.
    They haven't even signed Ronning yet, and Gettinger's contract will slide. The "AHL lifers" and fringe players are older and burning years of their contracts. They are more in need of evaluation to determine if they have a place in the team's future or will be let go. Some are new to the organization and need to get up to speed in case they're needed for an injury call up.
    Long live the King
    none of them are centers, don't really have anything to do with Andersson.

    What does being a center have to do with anything?
    Long live the King
    none of them are centers, don't really have anything to do with Andersson.

    I meant, skating wise and their skill set, as well as where they are in their development. These guys were drafted two years ago, and they are not playing in pre season, yet Andersson and Chytll or what ever his name is, were drafted this year and they seem to be getting longer looks. It's a little strange.
    You could say it's a center thing yet they have some reaches in camp, and some AHL lifers that are getting better looks. .
    The Dude
    That was quick. They didn't even get into a pre-season game. I wanted to see what these guys had, compared to Andersson.

    none of them are centers, don't really have anything to do with Andersson.
    Long live the King
    :tweet: @SteveZipay:NYR have trimmed roster by five: Kovacs, Chapie to Hartford; Gettinger, Ronning back to juniors. Kotyk released from PTO
    Hoping to see big numbers from Gettinger and Ronning in junior. Hopefully Gettinger can crack the World Junior roster.

    That was quick. They didn't even get into a pre-season game. I wanted to see what these guys had, compared to Andersson.
    :tweet: @SteveZipay:NYR have trimmed roster by five: Kovacs, Chapie to Hartford; Gettinger, Ronning back to juniors. Kotyk released from PTO
    Hoping to see big numbers from Gettinger and Ronning in junior. Hopefully Gettinger can crack the World Junior roster.
    booze and wingz
    For starters, you used it as a full sentence, whereas the phrase itself is an adverb. Adverbs give you information about the rest of the sentence and can't really be used as full sentences. I'm there are some examples, but for the sake of my now-sober thoughts, let's assume there aren't.*
    To use ad nauseam in a sentence, you'd say something like, "I've been saying Hayes shouldn't be in a bigger role ad nauseam." This defines to the reader/listener that you've conveyed that thought many times before.
    I knew what you meant, but only after reading, "sorry I keep saying that," and it's written word on a forum, so I'm sure you can use the phrase correctly, but it seemed very out of place as a fragment, and I was mixing wine and Jameson. So all I need to do is make some wingz and I'll live up to my name.

    Hahaha. Ok, I thought you were saying I didn't know what it meant. I was like "this mother f#*ker.." I get what you're saying. Grammatically, it is wrong. My bust.
    For starters, you used it as a full sentence, whereas the phrase itself is an adverb. Adverbs give you information about the rest of the sentence and can't really be used as full sentences. I'm there are some examples, but for the sake of my now-sober thoughts, let's assume there aren't.*
    To use ad nauseam in a sentence, you'd say something like, "I've been saying Hayes shouldn't be in a bigger role ad nauseam." This defines to the reader/listener that you've conveyed that thought many times before.
    I knew what you meant, but only after reading, "sorry I keep saying that," and it's written word on a forum, so I'm sure you can use the phrase correctly, but it seemed very out of place as a fragment, and I was mixing wine and Jameson. So all I need to do is make some wingz and I'll live up to my name.