Rangers Recap: Preseason Game Notes

Bobby Bevilacqua

Chris Kreider and Kevin Klein Preseason

Viktor Stalberg, Brady Skjei and Kevin Klein all performed well over the first two preseason games. Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

The Rangers officially opened the preseason with back-to-back contests, defeating the Devils 6-3 at Madison Square Garden and falling to the Philadelphia Flyers.

Coming into training camp, it was obvious that the battle for roster spots would be much more competitive than last season. During the 2014 camp, it was pretty clear who would make the team and who wouldn’t.

This year, the Rangers signed guys like Jayson Megna and Luke Adam to bolster their AHL depth, as well as acquiring NHL players in Viktor Stalberg and Emerson Etem. On top of that, their young talent, both on offense and defense, took big steps towards stepping into the NHL.

Who would have guessed it, but the Rangers actually appear to have a plethora of players that can potentially make the NHL roster.

That was clearly evident in the preseason opener, where plenty of newcomers and young talents played very well en route to a 6-3 Rangers victory. That trend continued against the Flyers, with some unexpected performers stepping out, and standing out.

Here are my game notes from the first two preseason games.

  • The goaltender battle will be more competitive than we initially thought. Vigneault openly stated that both Raanta and Hellberg would get a good look during camp, and both players could win the job. Raanta and Hellberg have played half of each of the preseason games so far. Both goalies have had their moments, but I think Raanta seems to be the more controlled and steady netminder. He’s quicker when it comes to lateral movements, and seems to have a better glove. But under the guidance of goalie guru Benoit Allaire, Hellberg could become a good goalie, and benefit from his 6-foot-5 stature. As of right now, slight edge to Raanta.
  • Before Monday night, I had absolutely no idea who Brian Gibbons and Jayson Megna were. I briefly mentioned them over the summer when I wrote about the free agent signings, but brushed them off as AHL depth. However, they were probably the two best players against the Devils. Gibbons opened the scoring against the Devils, capitalizing off of a turnover and rifling a wrist shot past Corey Schneider. Megna, playing on a line with Gibbons, scored twice in that game, and the two former Penguins demonstrated obvious chemistry. Gibbons particularly impressed me. He looked pretty quick, made some excellent passes, and was always positioned well. Megna also played against the Flyers, and was effective, creating some chances but not scoring again. These two may be more than just AHL depth forwards.

    Jayson Megna 9-21

    Jayson Megna. Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

  • Chris Kreider must have eaten his Wheaties before the preseason opener against the Devils, because he was flying out on the ice. We all know this by know, but Kreider is unique in the fact that he is big, strong, and lightning quick. Players don’t usually have all three of those capabilities. On top of that, Kreider showed off an incredible wrist shot, striking the crossbar once and surprising Danis with a well-placed shot in the upper corner. If Kreider has added an elite wrist shot to his repertoire, defenders might as well just give up now. A 30 goal season is something that is surely close.
  • Oscar Lindberg is doing everything he can to make the opening night roster, and honestly, I’ll be surprised if he isn’t there. Lindberg scored a long slap shot goal against the Devils, and then scored against the Flyers with an impressive wrister. He won 7 of the 11 faceoffs he took on Monday, and showed his versatility by playing the wing last night. He’s a very strong two way forward, he can kill penalties, win faceoffs, and he can score (28-28-56 with Hartford last season). What’s not to like! If he isn’t on the roster come October, I’ll be pretty disappointed.

    Oscar Lindberg skating 9-21

    Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

  • Lindberg’s counterpart, and someone who is battling with him for a roster spot, is Jarret Stoll. He made his debut against the Flyers, recording no shots on goal and winning 9 of the 17 faceoffs he took. However, there’s more to his game and presence than just points. Lindberg said that Stoll was communicating with him all night on the ice, helping guide him and set him up for plays. He also was pretty strong on the forecheck, and he played hard throughout the night. That kind of presence could be vital on a roster that’s very, very young on the bottom two lines.
  • Viktor Stalberg has done everything I expected of him and more. I knew he was quick, but he’s faster than I thought he’d be, surprising opposing defenders by bursting down the wings. He was able to use his that and his size to his advantage on defense, often getting the puck away from defenders and quickly transitioning to an attack. He’ll be a quality player for Vigneault.
  • JT Miller had an excellent game against the Flyers despite not getting on the scoresheet. Joe Micheletti said it all night, raving about his awareness. Miller was often getting a stick on passes and disrupting the opposing attack. He has a shot at being a top six player, potentially paired with Stepan and Kreider again.
  • Emerson Etem did not have a great debut against the Flyers. He didn’t do much offensively, made a mistake that led to one of the goals, and didn’t use his size or speed to his advantage. It’s only one game, but Etem needs to do more as the preseason goes on.
  • Brady Skjei is believed to be NHL ready by a lot of people, and he looks it. First, Vignealt raved about his conditioning and fitness coming into camp. During the game, he was poised with the puck, skating well and making good passes. He’s very talented, but a year or a half year in the AHL would do him some good.

    Brady Skjei 9-21

    Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

  • Dylan McIlrath looks drastically improved from the player we’ve seen in past years. His skating is drastically improved, his decision making has been much better, his passing is better. You may not have noticed him during the games, but that’s fine for a defensive defenseman, because it means that he isn’t making mistakes. He’s a much better player, and he looked very good when paired with Keith Yandle. I’m still not sure if he will make the team, or usurp Diaz for the seventh defenseman spot, but after these two games, I’m a more confident in McIlrath, and that seventh d-man role isn’t a guarantee for anyone. The one-way deal that McIlrath has could play a big part in the decision making.
  • Mat Bodie played a fantastic game against the Flyers, scoring the first and third goal for the Rangers and standing out as the best player on the ice. The former Union College standout has been known for his offensive skills; his passing was crisp, he was willing to get the puck to the net, and he moved the puck well. This defense is extremely deep, so he won’t make the team, but it was a good showing from him.
  • Raphael Diaz has had a pretty solid two games, but he took three lazy penalties against the Flyers, who wound up scoring three goals on the man advantage. You know what you’re going to get with Diaz, and he’s probably more offensively capable than McIlrath or Skjei, but he needs to be careful too. It’s not a guaranteed spot for him.

Posted on September 23, 2015, in Game Recaps and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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