With the amount of young, talented players the Rangers currently hold on their roster, it’s no surprise that training camp would be a battle every day.
Minimal roster spots mean the top prospects and young talent are jockeying for specific and small roles on a team that is prime for a Stanley Cup Playoff run.
On day two of training camp, the Rangers had several standout players that surprised, and players that showed a microcosm of what could be an exciting year in New York.
Here are some of the latest observations from day two of the Rangers training camp.
Kid Line was active again
There’s a reason why the Kakko-Lafreniere-Chytil “kid line” was so popular during the playoff run last season. The young trio used their speed, aggressiveness, and athleticism to overwhelm opponents and helped the Rangers make the Eastern Conference Finals.
With the loss of Andrew Copp and Ryan Strome in free agency, the expectation was that the kid line would be broken up in the hope that all three players would improve enough to match with top players like Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad.
While it was surprising when Gerard Gallant announced that the kid line would stay together through the first few practices, the trio has proven exactly why the coach made a smart decision.
Whether it was keeping the puck away from Zibanejad and Kreider during the daily scrimmage, or helping to get the puck on net to win in “overtime” a few minutes later, the Lafreniere-Chytil-Kakko line was very impressive on Friday.
As long as they continue to create chances and wreak havoc as they have done, this would be a line that I don’t think the Rangers will want to break up.
Hajek-Schneider Partner-Up again
Gerard Gallant mentioned that the defensive pairing of Libor Hajek and Braden Schneider would start training camp, but did not indicate a final decision has been made on the final defensive pairing.
Through two practices, the Hajek-Schneider pairing has been in action now through a scrimmage and has looked relatively solid together. The Rangers head coach did mention that the scrimmages would not be an indicator of who would start, but I think it is important to note that the group struggled at times when going up against Zibanejad and Kreider, but played well against other lines.
Zac Jones and Matthew Robertson are going to get their chances to pair up with Schneider probably once the preseason games begin, but it looks like Hajek is the front-runner.
Sammy Blais Earning his Spot on Rangers top line
Coming off a torn ACL is never easy. In other sports, a torn ACL could alter the career of athletes to a point where they never get to the talent they were before. For Sammy Blais, his recovery from ACL surgery last year has not only passed but the 26-year-old is looking excellent on the first line with Zibanejad and Kreider.
On several occasions during Friday’s scrimmage, Blais would start a break to the offensive end, and fight along the boards to keep possession. His numbers may not reflect a top scorer this season, but his promotion to the top line could be a blessing in disguise for the Rangers as they find the right combinations to start the season.
Blais has looked very good to start camp.
Ryan Reaves shows up during practice
Head coach Gerard Gallant made the joke after practice that he didn’t expect Ryan Reaves to score a lot of goals this season, but that didn’t stop the 35-year-old from netting a couple during the practice period.
Reaves is expected to compete on the fourth line and provide enough physicality and aggression to mix well with the new addition of Ryan Carpenter. The Rangers are all on board with what they’ve seen from them though.