Before tonight’s preseason visit at Barclays Center, the Rangers finally made some cuts. Eight players were reassigned to Hartford following last night. They are Ryan Gropp, Adam Tambellini, Calle Andersson, Steven Fogarty, Chris Brown, Tommy Hughes, Philip McRae and Michael Paliotta.
Of the eight, Gropp had the strongest showing. The 20-year old former 2015 second round pick showed the ability to create offense off the rush due to his strong skating and set up a goal in preseason. There should be excitement over the former Seattle Thunderbird who will start with the Wolf Pack and probably stay there.
There were a few more cuts made today. Maxim Lapierre was released from his tryout. The former NHL checking center just wasn’t up to speed. He still is capable of killing penalties but his skating isn’t up to par. He took three penalties and was behind the play at even strength. So to all those experts who assumed he would make it to due to his past relationship with the coach, WRONG! Logic prevailed.
Defenseman Mat Bodie was also placed on waivers. The under sized defenseman who had a nice camp last year didn’t this time. It looks like the 26-year old is an AHL player. If he doesn’t clear, another team will pick him up and assign him.
Chris Summers was also on waivers. The throw in in the Keith Yandle deal that sent Anthony Duclair and too many draft picks to Arizona never proved capable.
So, who’s left still? After an impressive night in which he scored, Ryan Graves is still around. The 2013 fourth round pick had a solid first pro year in Hartford. Only 21 and another solid skating left defenseman, there’s no reason to rush him. Especially with it looking more likely that Brady Skjei could be ticketed for Hartford. He’ll get another shot tonight at the Islanders where he’ll be on the second pair with Adam Clendening.
John Gilmour will also be in the lineup pairing with Dylan McIlrath. At the very least, it looks like Jeff Gorton and his scouts did a great job improving the Rangers’ defensive depth. Gilmour definitely has impressed. The top pair will be starters Marc Staal and Kevin Klein.
Antti Raanta gets the start with Magnus Hellberg backing up. Given the strong showing from Mackenzie Skapski, Hellberg remains fourth on the depth chart. It looks like Skapski will reclaim the starting job with Hartford and be the emergency call up.
As far as the forwards, prospect Robin Kovacs gets another look on a fourth line with Marek Hrivik and Tanner Glass. An afterthought, Hrivik is more of a traditional fourth line option than offensive-minded Brandon Pirri, who Alain Vigneault won’t commit to despite his four goals and two helpers thus far. He actually is preaching team defense. It also could be a smoke screen. Pirri will be on the second line with Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider.
A slimmed down and faster Kevin Hayes will center J.T. Miller and Nicklas Jensen, who is probably on his last chance. Acquired for Emerson Etem and a seventh round pick, he hasn’t shown much. The sad aspect is Etem played better with Vancouver and will have a role.
The third line is centered by Nathan Gerbe with Michael Grabner and Jesper Fast flanking it. That trio very well could be the fourth line on Opening Night against the Islanders on Oct. 13 at MSG. But Gerbe is still in a battle with Hrivik.
As for Glass, he hasn’t hurt himself. His skating has looked improved. He worked with a physiologist in the off-season who told him that his left leg was 50 percent weaker than his right. Still a long shot to beat out the competition, he’s best suited as a second extra who can be inserted for tough opponents. But it is a numbers game.
Vigneault also had some positive thoughts on Pavel Buchnevich, who still hasn’t scored a goal. He’s liked what he’s seen in terms of the scoring chances the first-year Russian has gotten and also likes how he’s been on the power play. Good stuff.
As for the Islanders, center Mathew Barzal looks like he’ll make them out of preseason. He had a goal and assist in a 4-3 win over the Devils Monday night. If he does make it, that should really help the Isles offensively. Especially if he’s ready. They’ll need a better season from Ryan Strome.
Here are the Islander lines for tonight: