Following last night’s 4-2 loss to the Islanders in Bridgeport, coach David Quinn discussed both the final preseason game and the tough decisions he will make regarding the roster.
In less than 24 hours, the Rangers will make the final eight cuts to get down to what their 23-man roster should look like. While some are obvious such as Vinni Lettieri, Micheal Haley, Joe Morrow, along with both Igor Shesterkin and Yegor Rykov Hartford bound, the last few choices are always the hardest.
Quinn talked about taking the best 23 players. If that’s true, then there should be a place for Vitali Kravtsov. Only 19, the 2018 first round pick the club took with the number nine pick, has done enough to warrant keeping him at the start of the season.
A good skater with smart offensive instincts and size, the Russian forward showed enough in training camp to be given a spot in the starting lineup this Thursday against Winnipeg at MSG. One thing Quinn also noted prior to yesterday was that Kravtsov looks like he cares about making the right decisions with the puck in the defensive zone and neutral zone. A positive outlook that felt like a ringing endorsement.
While I believe he should be a top six forward, Kravtsov won’t be right away. With Quinn shifting versatile forward Ryan Strome to center the second line, that means at best Kravtsov can be in the top nine. As much as a third line of Lias Andersson, Vladislav Namestnikov and Jesper Fast makes sense, the Blueshirts would be better suited with Fast playing the right side on a checking line with Brendan Lemieux and Brett Howden, who should get the nod at fourth line center over veteran Greg McKegg.
You can stick Kravtsov with Andersson and Namestnikov, giving the third line more skill. Not a bad thing for two tenacious hard workers. There’s no reason not to try it out. If he’s ready, maybe Kravtsov will stick. If he stays, he should also see power play time on the second unit.
It really all depends on what the organization thinks is best. They could just decide to send down Kravtsov with Filip Chytil, who looks like he needs more time to develop at Hartford. Especially after a disappointing camp in which he struggled to distinguish himself. Chytil can play his natural position of center and learn while receiving top line and power play duties.
Three players the Rangers must decide on are Boo Nieves, Ryan Lindgren and vet Brendan Smith. Both Lindgren and Smith played well. But who would be better suited as a seventh defenseman? Assuming Libor Hajek is on the third pair with Adam Fox, it probably makes sense to send Lindgren to Hartford. That way he gets game action and stays sharp. He did enough to make the team, but being a scratch won’t help his development.
As for Nieves, he is a solid extra forward, who can come in and play fourth line while killing penalties. However, McKegg is more proven and had a better showing. He set up a couple of goals including Tony DeAngelo’s yesterday when the Islanders were “head hunting.” A Quinn reference to both Cal Clutterbuck and Matt Martin going after Brendan Lemieux while DeAngelo scored, which was appropriate.
If Quinn is serious about taking the best 23 players, then Kravtsov should be on the roster. Let’s see what he can do.
Here’s what my roster would look like: