In what can best be described as an eyesore of a game from a Rangers perspective, the play on the ice isn’t too much of a concern. The Devils easily handled an AHL roster with a few exceptions to win handily 7-1 in Newark.
While the young stars shined brightly on future Devils Dawson Mercer and Tyce Thompson, it was a forgettable night for Vitali Kravtsov. The rookie forward who’s expected to make the roster and play on the third line, left the game in the first period. Only playing 5:44, he didn’t return due to a lower-body injury. The dreaded term we’ve come to accept in hockey due to teams being less than forthcoming on the actual injuries.
What that means for Kravtsov who knows. If it’s serious, then he won’t be penciled into the lineup for Opening Night. With three tuneups left before they have to submit a final roster, hopefully the injury to Kravtsov isn’t bad. That would be a tough break for the former ’18 first round draft pick. In 20 games last season, he posted two goals and two assists. There is an opportunity for the 21-year old Russian. With the kind of skating and instincts he possesses, the right wing has a bright future. If he isn’t able to go by season’s start, the organization should make sure he’s back to 100 percent.
In a disjointed performance that saw the Devils do whatever they wanted including burning the tandem of K’Andre Miller and Jacob Trouba for four goals at even strength, Julien Gauthier was a bright spot. Playing with Filip Chytil and Barclay Goodrow, Gauthier had some moments. On a two-on-one rush, he showed a burst of speed and all but setup Chytil for a goal. But he missed. The 23-year old former Carolina first round pick was kept over Colin Blackwell, who the Seattle Kraken selected from the Rangers in the Expansion Draft. If he’s to have a role under new coach Gerard Gallant, now is the time.
There aren’t many lineup openings. With Dryden Hunt looking good so far, that could signal even fewer spots to make the roster. Morgan Barron and Gauthier are competing to make it. At this point, I’d say Gauthier has more upside than Barron. Especially if Kravtsov can’t start the season. Gauthier also can play right wing unlike Barron, who’s a depth center that can win draws and kill penalties. The problem is he’s behind Kevin Rooney, who filled that void on the fourth line and penalty kill in ’21.
In terms of key defensemen, neither Nils Lundkvist or Zac Jones did anything to hurt their chances. However, Lundkvist assisted on a Mika Zibanejad power play goal. Taking a Goodrow feed, he passed across for a Zibanejad one-timer that beat Devils goalie Jonathan Bernier for the Rangers’ only goal in the first period. Lundkvist played with Jarred Tinordi while Jones again teamed with Braden Schneider. Neither pair were as bad as the established one between Miller and Trouba, who had a rough night. He also took a penalty that the Devils converted a power play goal on with Pavel Zacha sniping one home on a pass from big addition Dougie Hamilton (2 assists).
In truth, there wasn’t much to go on. Zibanejad played with Chris Kreider on the right side. A new experiment Gallant wants to give a try due to Alexis Lafreniere being more comfortable on the left side. Kravtsov was supposed to play the right wing on that top line, but his mystery injury finished that. So, they played the rest of the game with 11 forwards. Igor Shesterkin got the first half allowing four goals on 20 shots. Adam Huska came in and gave up three more on 14 shots.
Among regulars included Sammy Blais, Chytil, Goodrow, Kreider, Miller, Trouba and Zibanejad. As already mentioned, Gauthier and Barron are in direct competition while Lundkvist and Jones are. Tinordi had a better game than his first one. Hunt is also in the mix for a spot. We’ll have to wait and see about Kravtsov.
The Devils had Bernier go the whole way. He did well making 24 saves on 25 shots. Aside from Hamilton having a good debut, Tomas Tatar had a goal and helper. Both Zacha and veteran P.K. Subban recorded a goal and assist. Alexander Holtz assisted on a Janne Kuokkanen power play goal. He’s been good so far. Holtz used his quick wrist shot to score in their first preseason game. Both he and Mercer (goal) have looked good. If either makes the club, that’ll give the Jersey side of the Hudson Rivalry a boost.
If you put too much stock in a meaningless exhibition, I feel sorry for you. There are still many players who won’t be playing when it all starts up in two weeks. Take it with a grain of salt. Teams want to avoid injuries. Hopefully, the Rangers get good news on Kravtsov.
All six players cleared waivers to be reassigned to Hartford training camp. That includes Keith Kinkaid, who could be in a numbers game due to Huska and Tyler Wall. Kinkaid is good insurance for Shesterkin and Alex Georgiev. It’s never a bad thing to have goalie depth. Especially over a full schedule. You never know what could happen.
Recent first round pick Brennan Othmann was appreciative of being able to experience his first camp. He took away a lot of positives from team practices and the one game he got into. It definitely will serve as motivation for the 18-year old forward to excel at the OHL level after being assigned to his junior team. He made a nice first impression. So much so that he thinks if he can become one of the best players in the Ontario Hockey League, maybe he can come in next year and make the roster. He acknowledged that he will need to get stronger. A wise observation from a teenager.
Only Will Cuylle is left over who can be assigned to his junior club. They might take another look at him this weekend before sending him back. That’ll do it for this post. I’ll have more either Saturday or Sunday.