Going into tonight’s game, Head Coach Alain Vigneault told the media the by tomorrow the Rangers roster will be down to 25 to 26 players including Jesper Fast. Last night’s contest tightened things up with Paul Carey showing something special on wing. Lias Andersson is dinged up from taking a shot to his foot in the MSG game against the Flyers. It’s a shame because he while he is sitting, Filip Chytil gets another chance to show that he is ready to get a shot at center here in New York. The team would also like to have Boos Nieves get a chance up the middle, but frankly, up until tonight’s game, he just has not shown enough to stay. Vinni Lettieri is an interesting option, but he is smaller than his competition up the middle and might do better cutting his teeth on the AHL level and see if he can be a mid-season call-up from Hartford.
On defense, there is one spot that’s open and, right now, there are three decent candidates for the roster spot. That does not include Ryan Graves, an excellent prospect, who had a difficult season in Hartford last season and could use the tutelage of Brian Leetch. He has great potential to be a big body in front of his own net, and his also has an excellent shot but, in my opinion, he is not in the same calss right now as Steven Kampfer, Neal Pionk, or Tony DeAngelo. The 29-year old Kampfer is signed to a two-year deal, and will have to go through waivers if he is shipped down to the AHL. A borderline NHL player, he played well in Hartford last season and has been rewarded with a contract that will pay him more than $300,000 this season if he plays there. Assuming he does not get claimed, Kampfer will almost certainly start with the Wolf Pack this year.
That leaves DeAngelo and Pionk, who will battle it out tonight. At this point, DeAngelo probably has the edge. Pionk was really weak in Traverse City, and DeAngelo has some NHL experience. But this is one of the reasons tonight’s game is so exciting. This is a real battle between two potentially very good future NHLers.