With opening night just eight days away and five of the six preseason games gone, roster chatter is getting very loud. One forward, Maxim Lapierre, was released from his PTO this afternoon. That leaves 16 forwards and 10 defensemen fighting for 21 spots.
Looking at how this will play out–nine forward spots (Rick Nash, Derek Stepan, Chris Kreider, Mats Zuccarello, JT Miller, Mika Zibanejad, Kevin Hayes, Jesper Fast, and Oscar Lindberg) are taken to start the season. And the top four blueliners are secure (Marc Staal, Dan Girardi, Ryan McDonagh and Kevin Klein). That leaves five forward and three defense roster spots open.
One has to believe that Jimmy Vesey will get a forward spot, and that Dylan McIlrath will remain with the NHL team. That is because, if McIlrath is sent down, he will have to go through waivers, where he will likely be claimed. McIlrath may not play a lot early in the season (and it is far from certain whether he has earned his spot), but it is hard to believe that the Rangers would let him go for absolutely nothing (which is what would happen if he gets claimed during waivers).
So let’s assume that McIlrath makes the team. That means that Brady Skjei, Adam Clendening, Nick Holden, Chris Summers, Ryan Graves, and John Gilmour are competing for the other two spots. Personally, I don’t think that Summers has played well enough to make the team, so, I don’t consider him to be in contention for the roster.
And, although some may believe that Skjei is a lock or close to a lock for a roster spot, it is worth thinking about the fact that Skjei could be reassigned to Hartford without subjecting him to waivers. So, New York could keep Clendening and Holden with the team, and send down Skjei, Graves and Gilmour without losing anyone. Skjei could be an injury call up and Graves and Gilmour get a year of experience in Hartford (Graves is almost NHL ready and Gilmour is entering his first professional season).
If Skjei stays and the Rangers are choosing between Clendening and Holden, the obvious choice is Clendening–he has performed better on the ice.
Up front, making roster choices is a little more difficult. Think 14 spots available with nine spoken for, plus Vesey. That’s ten with four spots left. It seems to me that Nathan Gerbe and Brandon Pirri have played themselves onto the team. Pavel Buchnevich, who could start in Hartford (and might be better off doing so), may not be willing to be reassigned there. If that is the case, he will almost certainly be given a shot to start the season in New York.
That leaves only one more roster spot for Josh Jooris and Tanner Glass–the top contenders for it. It should be an interesting decision, but the betting man’s (or woman’s) money should be on Glass, a longtime favorite of the head coach and tonight’s alternate captain.
Time will tell.