We’re six days away from the New York Rangers season opener against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Madison Square Garden.
While the 2022-23 NHL season is right around the corner, there are still a minimum of five roster spots that the Rangers will need to determine over the following week.
With roster spots still up for grabs, players on the hot seat are expected to be in the spotlight once again.
Here are three names to keep an eye on for tonight’s contest against the Boston Bruins.
Vesey was brought in as a training camp invite over a month ago and has earned a role on the Rangers major league club once the season begins.
The 29-year-old leads the team in preseason points and assists through four games. His ability on the power play and aggressiveness on offense has made him an interesting name as different lines are drawn up before the season begins.
Rangers head coach Gerard Gallant has consistently said that he wants players who make the roster decisions “hard” for the coaching staff and front office. Vesey has done that in droves over the last few weeks. While his spot is almost secured, another strong showing tonight against the Bruins could lock up his roster spot without much of a thought.
The return of Vesey has seen him work a lot with Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider on the first line. While surprising, it’s clear the Rangers are expecting to make him a key cog for the offense as the season kicks off.
Jimmy Vesey has done a lot to prove he is worthy of a roster spot through the work he has put in through each of the preseason games he has participated in.
The same can’t be said for Ryan Carpenter. While Carpenter signed a one-year, $750,000 deal in the offseason with the Rangers, he hasn’t exactly stood out a ton in games or practice.
To hammer home the point, even more, Gustav Rydahl, another free agent acquisition acquired in the latest offseason, has outplayed Carpenter a lot through four games.
Does that mean that Rydahl’s spot is secure? Not as secure as Vesey’s but for Carpenter, he needs to show he can produce on the fourth line and contribute something or else he won’t be making the big league club.
Recent practices have shown that Zac Jones and Braden Schneider are working together more and more. That’s a direct sign that the final defensive pairing has been decided by the coaching staff.
For Libor Hajek, Wednesday night could be a last attempt to show what he can do in a starting role.
Gallant has yet to make an announcement on who will be the final starter on defense, but actions do speak louder than words. Hajek hasn’t been as good as Jones has been in preseason games, has turned the puck over trying to clear numerous times, and hasn’t been the same offensive threat that Jones has shown.
Could things change? Absolutely. The starter on opening night might not be the starter when the trade deadline or playoffs role around. However, it’s important for Hajek to produce much better than he has on Wednesday even if the coaching staff is expected to have him sit to start the season.
The preseason game against Boston will be a huge night for Libor Hajek.