3 sizzling names to watch for in Rangers preseason opener against rival Islanders

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Madison Square Garden, home to Obi Toppin and the New York Knicks.
Madison Square Garden, home to the New York Knicks.
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The New York Rangers play a hockey game for the first time since their game six loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning. 

The Blueshirts open their 2022 preseason slate with a matchup against the New York Islanders on Monday evening. While not everyone that we’ll see on opening day is expected to play, there are still a number of players to keep an eye on throughout Monday’s game. 

Zac Jones

The Rangers have a large decision to make on who will start opposite Braden Schneider in the final defensive pairing. 

While Libor Hajek has worked with Schneider through the first few days of camp, it appears that Jones will be expecting to start with Schneider in tonight’s contest. New York has been very consistent in their approach that the best players will play on any given night, but it has looked as though Jones has been the better player three practices in. 

It’s also important to note that the Rangers will be going up against some of the top players the Islanders currently hold in Matt Barzal and Anders Lee. A strong showing from Jones could go a long way to giving him the job once the season begins. 

Vitali Kravtsov

Kravtsov has had a tumultuous year with the New York Rangers. 

The former first-round pick has talked about the last year in which he did not report to the AHL after not making the major league club and has emphasized that “everything depends on what I do in my work. I don’t really worry about tomorrow, I just focus on today.”

Monday evening would be an excellent start for him to show that he’s more than just a player with excellent potential. While the 22-year-old won’t be playing with his practice linemates in Artemi Panarin and Vincent Trocheck, tonight’s contest could be a great stepping stone to showing he can work with any different line combination used. 

Kaapo Kakko

Injuries and questionable roster decisions have hurt the former second overall pick from showing the type of skill he had coming out of Finland. In a huge year three with the club, Kakko will need to show the playmaking and scoring aptitude that made him a top prospect. 

The idea that Kakko was a healthy scratch for game six against the Lightning will still be on the minds of a lot of the Rangers faithful. 

Kakko is still only 21 years old but is expected to work on the top line with Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad. Even if he doesn’t, a good contest on Monday will quell a lot of concerns about Kakko and solidify the notion that the young players on the roster are ready to take hold of the scoring in New York. 

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