The Rangers faced the Minnesota Wild at MSG last night amid mass speculation as to who would be traded next (Nash? Zuc?) and who would be playing their last game in a Rangers’ uniform. The game ended with the Wild winning 4-1. The game was almost eventful in that it appeared that MinnieApple’s Michael Granlund scored a hat trick, but even that proved not to be true, as the Wild’s second goal was later attributed to Eric Staal.
The game was difficult to watch for the hometown faithful, who appeared in force despite a cold, rainy night. With Michael Grabner gone, Rick Nash not in the lineup (presumably to keep him healthy for an upcoming trade), and Ryan McDonagh, Kevin Shattenkirk, Steven Kampfer, and Ondrej Pavelec all injured, there were quite a few unfamiliar players on the ice.
There were some bright spots on this second night of multi-city back-to-back games. In Chris Kreider’s first game back from a potential career-ending health condition, he treated fans to some excellent play in the first period. Not only did he create an excellent scoring chance for himself in the first period, he also was very effective hitting along the boards.
And Alexandar Georgiev, who was playing between the pipes in his second game in two nights, made some outstanding saves throughout the contest. On all but one of the goals that got past him, Georgiev had no chance to make the save. The problem was the play in front of him, which time after time left Georgiev out to dry.
The Rangers rolled all forward lines with almost equal time on the ice—none of the forwards were on the ice for more than 17 minutes last night and only one (Jesper Fast) was even close. Fast and JT Miller combined on an excellent Fast goal in the first period for New York’s only score of the night. All in all, the game was over quickly (2 hours and 20 minutes) and the Rangers will turn their attention to the retiring of Jean Ratelle’s number tomorrow night.
We could stop here and just say the game was difficult to watch, but there are some young players who participated to evaluate. A few of them may not be looking so good on the ice in their Rangers’ uniform just yet, but do have potential to become good contributors to New York’s cause in the coming years. So, let’s take a look.
Alexander Georgiev (G) was a UFA signed to a 3-year ELC on 7/17/17. Signed out of TPS of the Finnish Liiga (where he had the best GAA in the league in 2016-17), the 22-year old was impressive in training camp. Georgiev had won eight out of the last nine games he played as the number one goaltender in Hartford before he was called up on February 10th. Although Igor Shestyorkin is the heir apparent to Henrik Lundqvist, don’t count Georgiev out of that position. With Pavelec only signed for this season and Shestyorkin not due to come to North America until after the 2018-19 season, Georgiev may very well be the backup next season. If he proves himself to be a capable number one, there will be a very interesting battle in New York for the number one netminding spot. NHL Potential: Very high.
Vinni Lettieri (RC, RW) was signed on March 27, 2017 as a 22-year-old UFA out of the University of Minnesota. He had an excellent training camp (some thought that he earned a spot on New York’s NHL roster then) and a good start to the season in Hartford. Called up by the Rangers four times so far this season, the now 23-year-old rookie has been playing a bottom six role with the NHL team. Lettieri has exhibited good play on both sides of the puck and is still developing. He has one more year on his contract and it remains to be seen whether Lettieri will become an NHL regular. NHL Potential: Medium.
Tony DeAngelo (RD) was traded to the Rangers as part of the 6/23/17 deal that sent Derek Stepan and Antti Raanta to Arizona. He was the major piece coming back in that deal and was expected to be able to assume an NHL role immediately. That has not worked out thus far, because although DeAngelo has quite a skill set, he has yet to put it all together defensively at the professional level. Drafted by Tampa Bay in the first round of the 2014 entry draft, DeAngelo has struggled defensively at both the AHL and NHL level. Last night, as a second pairing blueliner with Marc Staal was no exception. His giveaways and gap control issues were quite obvious. However, DeAngelo is only 22 and has another year on his ELC. He is not where the Rangers were hoping he would be when they traded for him last summer, but it is still possible for DeAngelo to address his defensive issues. Right now though, he is no more than a seventh defenseman on a contending team. NHL Potential: Low/Medium.
John Gilmour (LD) signed his ELC on 8/18/16 after four years at Providence College. An exciting player, who has excellent wheels and a very heavy shot, Gilmour thinks offense first. Right now, that is part of what the Rangers need. However, on a contending team, his defensive shortcomings likely would keep him from being anything other than a power play specialist. Last season in Hartford, Gilmour had the worst plus/minus rating on the Wolf Pack (-39). Whether the soon to be 25-year-old can fix those deficits remains to be seen, but he certainly has an impressive shot. NHL Potential: Low/Medium.
Rob O’Gara (LD) came over in this past week’s trade with Boston (that saw Nick Holden going the other way). The 24-year-old second year professional has been patrolling the blueline in the AHL for most of the last two seasons and is a mostly stay-at-home, quiet D-man. O’Gara has good size, is smart, and is responsible defensively, but he is not going to be flashy in any way. NHL Potential: Low/Medium.
Neal Pionk (RD) signed his ELC last May after only two years patrolling the blueline at Minnesota-Duluth. Now 22 years old, Pionk is a two-way right shooting defenseman. He still has some developing to do, but he impressed with his positional play in training camp and, at times, since being called up to the NHL team. Pionk has been playing on the first pairing with Brady Skjei, but on a contender, he has the potential to be a second to third pairing blueliner. NHL Potential: Medium.
For a full review of the top 20 of the Rangers prospects, see out article at: https://www.nysportsday.com/2018/02/02/rangers-2018-winter-prospects/