McIlrath, Lindberg proving their worth, lineup for final preseason game

Bobby Bevilacqua

Dylan McIlrath and Oscar Lindberg collage

Dylan McIlrath and Oscar Lindberg are two rookies who are seriously pushing for am opening night roster spot. Photos courtesy of MSG Photos.

It’s going to be very tough for Alain Vigneault to go against the youth movement for this upcoming season.

Like Anthony Duclair did last season in training camp, Oscar Lindberg and Dylan McIlrath, both rookies, have opened the eyes of the coaching staff, make a significant case for them to be on the opening night roster.

The strong performances from many of the youngsters has Vigneault perplexed too, stating that he has not finalized the roster heading into the final preseason game tonight against the Boston Bruins.

“I can tell you right now we have not come up with a definite answer yet,” Vigneault told Blueshirts United. “These are all questions we are right now debating within our group. This player brings this element, this player brings that element. How do we look with a certain guy in the lineup? Young versus older? We’re working through the process and I can tell you right now we haven’t come up with a definite answer on any of those things.”

Here is the expected lineup for tonight against Boston:

As of now, despite Vigneault’s desire to keep eight defensemen and 13 forwards, it looks like the Rangers will have to cut one defenseman and two forwards. Jayson Megna is all but a guarantee for a cut, not dressing for the second game in a row.

On Defense, McIlrath and veteran defenseman Raphael Diaz are in a battle for the seventh defenseman spot. Diaz is surely the better puck mover and offensive talent (despite scoring just twice with Calgary last season). But McIlrath has shown that he’s not making big mental mistakes anymore, his skating is a lot better, and he maintains his physical presence without taking a lot of penalties.

If McIlrath reaches waivers, he’s gone. Some team will definitely claim him. I’m not quite sure that the Rangers are willing to essentially give up on their 2010 first round pick. Last season in Hartford was the first time that he was healthy for the full season, and it paid dividends.

McIlrath is a stay-at-home defenseman, similar to Kevin Klein and Dan Girardi, while Diaz’s playstyle can be compared to Dan Boyle or Keith Yandle. As a seventh defenseman, Vigneault might want to keep around McIlrath because of his focus on the defensive aspect of the game. Diaz has taken some foolish penalties throughout the playoffs, and has been caught out of position at times.

Dylan McIlrath diving

Photo courtesy of the New York Rangers.

McIlrath has been so impressive that some believe he could be pushing for a starting spot. He has paired very well with Keith Yandle throughout the preseason, a spot held by Kevin Klein last season. With Chris Kreider, Kevin Hayes, and Keith Yandle all having expiring contracts after this season, removing an additional $3 million off the cap could be very helpful. Plenty of teams could surely use his services.

Oscar Lindberg is another player that needs to make the roster. Essentially, he’s practically made the roster already. Vigneault has constantly pointed out that he’s been impressed by his performances, and he’s been playing almost every game.

“They’ve impressed me,” Vigneault said of Stalberg and Lindberg. “They’ve come in, played hard, played smart. The other guys, I’m waiting for somebody to grab it and say this is where I belong and let me play and let’s go.”

Lindberg has played all three lines effectively, he’s been winning faceoffs, playing excellent defensively, and on top of all of that, he’s probably been the best offensive player throughout the preseason. He’ll make the team, but the interesting selection will be who doesn’t make the cut.

Oscar Lindberg hi five line 9-21

Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

Jarret Stoll seems to be well-liked by his teammates and the coaching staff. His faceoff skills have been evident when he’s played, and it’s something he’s really, really good at. Stoll can win the puck and get it directly to the triggerman at the point, leading to good scoring chances. He’s been good on the penalty kill, and has played well with Dominic Moore.

Like Viktor Stalberg, he’s won a Stanley Cup before, and the Rangers are counting on their veteran leadership to help the team get over the final hump, something they’ve struggled to do over the past few seasons.

The odd man out seems to be Tanner Glass. Last year, there really wasn’t much depth or competition for his spot on the fourth line, so he fit in fine. But this year, there are much better players, and it’s time for the team to move away from the enforcer, and fully embrace skill and speed, two aspects of the game the fully surrounds the NHL now.

People will say that the Rangers need Glass in order to stand up to any aggressors on the other team. But research shows that there isn’t really a correlation between having enforcers and preventing injuries or acting as a deterrent (LINK and LINK).

When looking at the last four Stanley Cup winning teams, they’ve all ranked near the bottom of the league in fighting majors (CHI ’15: 29th, LAK ’14: 21st, CHI ’13: 26th, LAK ’12: 18th). Also, have you ever noticed how fights almost never occur in the playoffs? It’s because it’s not important there, and teams resort to physical play rather than fighting.

There is no need for a designated fighter who really doesn’t contribute in any other ways, i.e. Tanner Glass. If need be, Chris Kreider, Viktor Stalberg, McIlrath, Kevin Klein or others will drop the gloves on occasion. But they also serve another role, and contribute in more ways than one.

tanner glass 3-26

It’s time for the Rangers to move away from the designated enforcer role, and cut Tanner Glass. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

Look, I get that Glass is probably a great person and good to have in the locker room and well liked, but the NHL is moving away from designated enforcers and moving towards skilled and speedy forwards. If the Rangers don’t adapt, they’ll be left behind and wasting a roster spot.

It’s time to move forward.

The Rangers will face off against the Boston Bruins at 7 PM at Madison Square Garden. The game will be broadcasted on MSG Network.

Posted on September 30, 2015, in Game Previews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Does Etem have to go through waivers to go to HFD?

    I think Glass is a goner, and I also agree that Diaz will be the defenceman that gets cut, but that final forward cut is a puzzler. Stalberg looks good and should stay, and I think the experience and more importantly the faceoff prowess that Stoll brings should keep him here. I think our worst forward through the preseason might just be Etem. I know he shows flashes of upside, but I think he may be the last forward sent down.


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