The New York Rangers have posted a 1-0-1 record in their two preseason games to this point. While almost everyone would shrug regarding the nature of the meaningless contests, New York’s brightest stars have looked solid in the early going.
With most of the lineup filled with expected stars and solid role players, the Rangers don’t need to make decisions on major roster spots right away.
There are, however, a few open spots in the starting lineup that is being fought over by a combination of savvy veterans and young, unproven talent.
As opening day draws closer and closer, there are a few Ranger players who have stood out through the first few weeks.
Let’s get to the biggest risers and fallers at the start of preseason.
Stock Up: Jimmy Vesey
Gerard Gallant needed to be blown away by people who were in the bubble to make the final roster decisions hard. Jimmy Vesey has done that in droves.
The former Devil and Ranger has made the most of his second chance with the club and has produced extremely well in preseason games. Vesey scored a goal in the first game, an assist in the second, and has been all over the ice both on offense and defense.
Vesey is on the cusp of being a no-brainer decision for a final roster spot. Any fan of a sports team would want their franchise to make roster decisions based solely on production and how players are doing in practice.
If Vesey makes the team, then it’s a great sign that the Rangers front office is only focused on playing the best players out there.
Stock Down: Libor Hajek
Libor Hajek, Zac Jones, and several other young defensive players are all jockeying for the final spot on the big league roster to pair with Braden Schneider. In practice, and in games, it’s clear that Libor Hajek hasn’t really done much to earn the spot.
Hajek had a bad turnover on a clear in the team’s first preseason game but was otherwise quiet for the remainder of the Rangers’ 4-1 victory over the Islanders. Compared to Zac Jones, a player who has prior experience with Schneider, Hajek hasn’t really stood out in a way that shows he’s ready to start on the third defensive line.
It’s Jones’ position to lose at this point if the Rangers are judging based on what both players have shown to this point.
Stock Up: Vincent Trocheck
When Trocheck was signed to the Rangers, there were some fans that questioned the reason of signing a player of his caliber to a seven-year deal.
In Tuesday’s overtime loss to Boston, Trocheck showed exactly why the Rangers made the move in the first place. Trocheck won over 60% of his face-offs Tuesday night, and also recorded an assist to Adam Fox in which he maneuvered through traffic to find the defenseman for the score.
Pairing Trocheck with Artemi Panarin will make him an even better player as well. Trocheck is a clear upgrade over any second-line center the Rangers had last season, and he showed why yesterday.
Stock Down: Vitali Kravtsov
Let me be the first to say that the Rangers have put up some excellent numbers offensively through the first two preseason games. They’ve moved the puck well, have taken excellent shots, and produced offensively.
It’s not that Kravtsov has looked bad, it’s more that he hasn’t shown the flashes like other players such as Lafreniere and Kakko have shown. Part of the reason is that Kravtsov hasn’t been with the team for a while so it’s clear he needs to get his legs back and get used to the speed of the NHL.
But it kind of goes back to the whole issue last year in the first place. If he stayed at the AHL, he probably would’ve been more prepared for the action this season. Otherwise, the Rangers will rightfully be patient with their young first-round pick as he continues to get used to the pro game.
Stock Up: Kid Line
The Kid Line worked together throughout the first few practices and dominated. Then, when the preseason games began, the line that caused so many problems for other teams was broken up.
If the Rangers are looking to repeat their success from last season, they’ll need Kakko, Lafreniere, and Chytil to outgrow each other and dominate in their own separate lines.
Through two preseason games, you are seeing exactly that. Kakko and Chytil both recorded assists on Monday, while Lafreniere was all over the ice and scored on Tuesday.
New York needs their former kid line to produce like the top draft talents they were. Through the first few weeks of camp and the preseason, they have been exactly that.