Rangers hope Zac Jones or Matthew Robertson make the most of a unique defensive opportunity as rookie camp kicks off

Zac Jones, New York Rangers
Nick Faria – AMNY

The New York Rangers rookie group has reported to training camp. While the expected starters and faces of the current team won’t be practicing until next week, Wednesday afternoon was still a prime opportunity for the top prospects to make a name for themselves. 

There aren’t many positions that are available to the young cast of characters, but one roster spot could potentially be filled by one of the Ranger’s deep pool of prospects. 

New York will need to find a final defensive player to match with Braden Schneider as a third-line defenseman. The Rangers have two budding prospects that are looking to make the most of the open spot: Zac Jones and Matthew Robertson. 

Both Jones and Robertson may be competing for the same final roster spot on the top club, but both have different mindsets going into training camp this season. 

“I’m just trying to go out here and put my best foot forward each day. Try to get better each day and try to showcase myself.” Robertson said after Wednesday’s practice. 

Robertson is still just 21 and is touted as one of the top defensive prospects the Rangers possess. The former second-round pick played in 65 games in Hartford for the Rangers’ AHL affiliate last season and totaled 11 points.

While he hasn’t seen major league action, his counterpart, Zac Jones has. 

Jones is no longer a designated rookie in the eyes of the NHL. He’s played in a combined 22 games over the last two years for the Blueshirts and was a surprise showing in rookie camp on Wednesday. 

“I wanted to be here. I take it as an advantage for me, having these couple of days of practice. I wanted to be here and be a part of this.” Jones said after practice. “I think it’s just more getting myself loose. I really need to go out and prove myself and try to be a leader.”

While Robertson appears ready to start in the AHL as a top defender for the Wolfpack this season, Jones senses the opportunity is there to make the major league club. 

“I think there’s definitely an opportunity. I think that spot is open and it’s going to be a healthy competition between a bunch of guys and I’m excited for it.” Jones added. 

The former third-round pick in the same class that brought Robertson over, Jones was disappointed he didn’t make the big league club last season when he was in the same spot. Jones understood though that there were some positive side effects to being down in the minors last season. 

“It was awesome. I was really disappointed I got sent down early in the year. I really was happy being down in Hartford. I got to play a lot. I got to develop and learn the pro game.”Jones later added, “I feel like being down in Hartford for those 50 games was huge for my development.”

Jones recorded 35 points in 52 games last season with the Hartford Wolfpack but is ready for his shot at the major leagues. 

Both Jones and Robertson have gotten needed experience with the Hartford Wolfpack but understand that there is a role open with the Rangers. 

There are a number of young defensive prospects that will be looking to pair up wth Schneider as part of the third-line defense for the New York Rangers. It appears that both Matthew Robertson and Zac Jones will be ready, regardless of where either ends up. 

Rangers Practice Notes

  • Brennan Othmann and Adam Sykora worked together almost exclusively in offensive drills. Both players have contrasting styles of play, but it was fun to see both come together and look pretty solid in moving the puck. 
  • Will Cuylle impressed early and often with a heavy dose of offensive barrage and physicality. There aren’t many offensive spots currently open, but Cuylle appears hell-bent on making the decision as tough as possible for Chris Drury and Gerard Gallant. 
  • Hunter Skinner made a few nice plays on the defensive end as well. The former fourth-round selection played in 49 games last season with Hartford but dished out some impressive punishment in uneven situations. 

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