There isn’t a more confident member of the New York Rangers going into the new season than the head coach, Gerard Gallant.
The former head coach from Vegas and Florida turned heads in his first year with the team when he led the Rangers to the Eastern Conference Finals. Now entering his second year in New York, “Turk” is ready to turn the page with training camp less than 24 hours away.
“We played great hockey (last year)…it was a great experience for our young players to get that playoff run but that means nothing now. There are a lot of teams that are going to be a lot better this year in our division so game one on, your goal is to try and make the playoffs.” Gallant said.
The familiarity that comes with the same coaching staff running the show for a second straight year means that there should be some familiarity between the coaches and players.
“They know the coaching staff and drills a little better so it should be smoother. It won’t be easier because we’re going to do our job and prepare our team the best we can for game one.” Gallant said to reporters this afternoon.
There aren’t a lot of open spots that are expected to be available for players to compete over. That is the benefit of being a team that returned most of their key pieces and just went on a deep playoff run. The top scorers are set in their lines like Mika Zibanejad and Artemi Panarin, but they weren’t the only reason why the Rangers had a ton of success in 2021. Young players like Kaapo Kakko and Alexis Lafreniere paired with Filip Chytil to make up the “kid line” and were a key part in helping New York get to the Eastern Conference Finals.
“They got a ton of experience. They all got better and the playoffs helped too. You hope that they’ll get better in a new year” Gallant late mentioned young players like Braden Schneider and K’Andre Miller as other young talents who helped in a bevy of ways last season.
While Gallant did not make specific remarks on who will be playing together on opening night against Tampa Bay, the head coach did mention that the kid line will start on the same line tomorrow.
Other young players like Sammy Blais are “100% healthy” according to the coach. Gallant later surprised some with the news that Blais would be working with the top line of Zibanejad and Chris Kreider early tomorrow.
Gallant then later added that he “put some lines together, but this is what we’ll be doing together..throwing lines together for the first three days, lines that you’re familiar with and once the exhibition games start. I can’t say what the lines are going to be against Tampa.”
While nothing is set in stone, certain roster spots are all been assured. One of the newer pairings for the Rangers to experiment with in training camp is Artemi Panarin with the newest free-agent acquisition Vincent Trocheck.
Trocheck signed a seven-year, $39.375 million deal with the Rangers on the first day of free agency and is expected to take over the second-line center duties. Trocheck also played under Gallant while both were in Florida in the early 2010s.
“He’s a good hockey player. He’s a competitive guy, I like him. When I had him he was a young kid in Florida, and his game has developed well. He’s a really good hockey player we added to our group.” Gallant said.
Trocheck is expected to mix well with a Rangers team filled with young talent and veteran savvy. With training camp beginning in under 24 hours for New York, a season full of heightened expectations is about to kick off.
For Gerard Gallant, the 59-year-old coach isn’t worried about much going into a big year for the club.
“I’m not concerned one bit. I like our team a lot.”
Other Notes from Gallant’s Presser
- While the team is fully healthy according to the coach, Barclay Goodrow is not expected to take part in the scrimmage that kicks off training camp tomorrow. Goodrow missed 11 games in the playoffs due to a lower-body injury but is expected to be fine heading into the new season. Sitting out the 29-year-old is out of “caution” according to Gallant
- Sammy Blais and the Kid Line were not the only young players mentioned by Turk. Vitali Kravtsov is expected to work on the second line with Trocheck and Panarin. General manager Chris Drury mentioned a week ago that Kravtsov had done everything they asked of him and was excited to see how he’d look in camp. Again, there shouldn’t be much to read into that because the lines will be shifting daily according to the coach.
- Newly-appointed captain Jacob Trouba was mentioned by Gallant as someone who “just does the right things for our team. The way he plays the game, in the dressing room when he needed to stand up, he did.” The Rangers are very confident in their leadership group.
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