Mailbag Monday: Bottom Six depth, Rangers prospects and more

Bobby Bevilacqua

Rangers Celebrate 10-9

Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

Welcome to the first edition of Mailbag Monday, something that is popular around the web but new to The Ranger Zone. It’s something that I’ve wanted to start up for a while and increase interaction with the readers, so I’m very glad to be starting it this week.

I want to make this into a weekly or bi-weekly thing, so if you ever have questions you’d like me to answer, leave them in the comments section on Facebook or on this article, message me on twitter @The_RangerZone, or send an email using the Contact Me tab at the top of the site.

Without further ado, let’s get started.

What’s going to happen with Patrick Kane? – Ian M.

There hasn’t been too much news on Kane since the investigation was announced. In the last Quick Hits article (LINK), I mentioned how his grand jury hearing was pushed back for two weeks. Usually, this means that a settlement is being discussed, but that isn’t confirmed either.

Honestly, I’m not too sure how everything will shake out. I find it hard to believe that he will make the start of training camp, which starts on September 18th. I’d say that there is a good chance that he misses a preseason game or two.

But with the Grand Jury hearing pushed back, that would mean it starts after the season opener against the Rangers on October 7th. If everything isn’t settled by then, then he may even miss the start of the season.

My guess is that he will be back for the home opener, and that some kind of settlement will have been reached. But this situation is far from over, and it could take a left turn or two along the way. And who knows, maybe Chicago is tired of his antics and would consider trading him. Stay tuned!

Will Emerson Etem have any impact at all? If so, why? The kid’s numbers don’t look very good. What were your thoughts on the trade? – Jason F.


Photo courtesy of Jerome Miron/USA Today Sports.

Of course it wasn’t fun to see Carl Hagelin go, but it was something that needed to be done. Yes, Hagelin was a good penalty killer and a solid depth forward, but he seems to have hit his ceiling at around 35-37 points. That can be replaced, and for cheaper than $4 million.

With all of the money tied up in goalies and defense, Gorton needed to make some moves to afford keeping Stepan, a key cog in the machine, as well as have room for some free agents.

By acquiring Etem, Gorton acquired a high ceiling, talented young player from the Ducks, quickly signing him to a one year $850,500 deal, which is very affordable, and fits well under the current salary cap situation.

I look at Etem like I look at JT Miller’s situation. In 114 games, Miller has tallied 33 points (15-18-33), with 23 of them coming this season. In 112 NHL games, Etem has recorded 31 points (15-16-31). Both players have been in similar situations as well.

JT Miller never really found a foothold in the league until Vigneault began to trust him, using him on all of the top three lines and using him in more offensive situations. Etem hasn’t had that luxury, spending most of his time on the fourth line and sporadically on the third, yet he’s still scored the same amount of goals.

When Etem starts getting more consistent playing time, staying on the third line, and building chemistry with his more skilled teammates, I think we will start to see some good production out of him. This isn’t an ordinary prospect we’re talking about. This is a former 60 goal junior hockey player, a point per game AHLer, and the guy who scored this incredible goal.

I really like Etem’s potential to have a good year in the 2015-16 season. I think playing with more skilled players will do wonders for him, and I think that getting more consistency in the top nine and the regular lineup will help him flourish. Vigneault is known for bringing out the best in his young players, and I have the same expectations here.

Does Dylan McIlrath have a legitimate chance at making the roster as a seventh defenseman? – Michael P.

dylan mcilrath

Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

His contract tells me yes, but my common sense is telling me know.

Jeff Gorton showed confidence and trust in the former 10th overall draft pick when he signed him to a one year, one way deal this offseason, a “show me” deal. McIlrath made significant strides in his development around the middle of December in 2014, and anchored the top pairing in the playoffs.

This is a crucial year for McIlrath, and he knows it. If he doesn’t make the team out of training camp, then he would need to clear waivers in order to get to the Wolf Pack. If that’s the case, there’s a good chance that another team claims him and steals him away from the Rangers.

With that in mind, I think the Rangers will give him a legitimate shot at cracking the roster. He’ll play a lot during the preseason and compete for the spot. But he’ll be going up against Raphael Diaz, a former spare defenseman for the Rangers, and the super talented Brady Skjei.

In all likelihood, Diaz will win the roster spot. Skjei is really, really good, but I think he’ll grow at the AHL for a season. McIlrath will give Diaz a run for his money, but I think experience will win out. But I  do think that McIlrath has a legitimate chance.

Who is the Rangers’ biggest competition – Cathy B.

crosby and kessel

Photo courtesy of Greg Abel/Getty Images.

In the Metropolitan, I think it’s the Penguins. Crosby, Kessel and Malkin could all be on the ice at the same time, with Kris Letang at the point, and that’s absolutely petrifying. I do question their depth defensively and on the fourth line, but I think they’re improved. Fleury showed that he is still the solid netminder that they can count on, and Pittsburgh will be strong.

Many people say the Capitals will be a lot better, but I don’t think so. Yes they added big names in Justin Williams and TJ Oshie, but they lost three really good depth players in Joel Ward, Troy Brouwer and Eric Fehr, as well as defenseman Mike Green. They’ll be good, but only slightly better. I also think that if everyone stays healthy, the Blue Jackets will be very good. So watch out for Brandon Saad, Nick Foligno and the Jackets.

In the West, I don’t think that Chicago will make it back to the Stanley Cup Finals. I think that we will see the Blues excel in the regular season before falling apart, again, in the playoffs. I think we will see big step ups from the Nashville Predators and the Dallas Stars, with Dallas being my dark horse pick to make a run to the Cup finals. Anaheim is the favorite to win the Western Conference Championships.

How will the Rangers’ bottom shaking out? Last year’s bottom six was not as strong hope new additions can help improve that! – Jake T.

I do think the new additions will help out! If I was in the meetings with Jeff Gorton and Alain Vigneault, here is how I would structure the forward group;

Rick Nash-Derick Brassard-Mats Zuccarello

Chris Kreider-Derek Stepan-Kevin Hayes

JT Miller-Oscar Lindberg-Emerson Etem

Viktor Stalberg-Dominic Moore-Jesper Fast

Spare: Jarret Stoll

This is what I would do, but I have a feeling that it isn’t what the final decision will be, at least not for opening day. I think that both Vigneault and Gorton like the veteran presence and faceoff prowess that Jarret Stoll brings, and he could certainly be in the starting lineup. Last year, there was room for Tanner Glass, but there is no way that he is better than Stalberg, Etem, Stoll or JT Miller.

I like Etem a lot, and I think that he will be a solid contributor. There’s a very good chance that Vigneault could try and spread out the scoring, and go with Hayes as third line center and Miller on the second line.

There’s a lot that can be switched around. Hayes can go to center, Stoll can come in and play, Fast and Miller have both played on the second line and can again. Stalberg can play on the third line. There will be a lot of moving parts, but that’s the lineup I would go with.

Why did Buchnevich decide to stay in Russia? – Keith S.

Pavel Buchnevich is arguably the Rangers best prospect right now, and he is not yet playing in North America. Despite being told by Gordie Clark, Director of Player Personnel, and Glen Sather that he was ready to come over and join the team.

“Whatever decision he makes, we are 100% behind it,” Clark told Jim Cerny of the New York Rangers. “I think he would have been in the lineup this year. He made his decision and we are behind it and we will just keep going over and tagging up with him. He watches all the Rangers games that he can and it looks like a year from now he will get a crack from it.”

Instead, Buchnevich is currently playing with the Severstal Cherepovets of the KHL, where he currently has two goals and two assists in eight games. From what I’ve been hearing, he’s been playing very well, and his line is the best on the team.

When asked why he decided to stay in Russia, Buchnevich said that the Rangers roster is very good, and it would have been “very difficult” to make the team. He also said that his English isn’t that good, and he wants to improve it before coming to America. However, he wouldn’t rule out the possibility of coming to New York is Severstal doesn’t make the playoffs. (LINK)

Honestly, I commend the kid. He’s playing as a top six forward in a competitive league, and he wants to be more proficient in English before talking to American media. You can’t really blame him for that. Sure, it would have been nice to have him on the roster, and he may have even made the team out of training camp like Anthony Duclair did, but he’s still just 20 years old. There’s a lot of time for him to come to New York and crack the NHL roster.

Posted on September 15, 2015, in In the Crease and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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