NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 26: Carl Hagelin #62 of the New York Rangers celebrates scoring his first NHL goal in the third period against the Philadelphia Flyers at Madison Square Garden on November 26, 2011 in New York City. The Rangers defeated the Flyers 2-0. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
After the Rick Nash trade there seems to be a general consensus that the New York Rangers have gotten their final piece to truly contend for a Stanley Cup. Look, Nash wanted the move from Columbus, he only had a few destinations he would go to, he got his wish to come to Broadway and now we're here. There will be pressure on Nash, and his importance will be immense, at least while Marian Gaborik is gone.
But if you take a look at the Rangers' roster as it stands right now, there's another player who might have more pressure on him (although probably not by the fans or the media): Carl Hagelin.
Think about it. At the moment almost every single player on the roster has a role already tagged to them: Ryan Callahan, Brad Richards, Nash, Gaborik, Chris Kreider and Derek Stepan are all penciled in to be top six players. Arron Asham and Mike Rupp (physical), Taylor Pyatt and Brian Boyle (third line, tough minutes), Jeff Halpern (face off guy, depth player). Hagelin, on the other hand, has almost a double role.
Join me after the jump for more.
Let me explain.
While Gaborik is out, Hagelin is going to be expected to play in the Rangers' top six. He'll play a similar role to the one he had last year: Play on the top line (potentially), float around the net and halfboards in the offensive zone, find space using his speed and add offense, of course. Throw this on top of his forechecking responsibilities and the need for his speed to make sure defenders are always on their toes. He was successful in that role last year.
But things will change a little once Gaborik is back. The forechecking and speed will stay the same, but his role will take a significant shift towards defense. Hagelin is the player many -- myself included -- has relegated to the third line once the Rangers are at full strength. Hagelin would be use for the tougher minutes -- along with Brian Boyle and probably Taylor Pyatt.
That's a ton of pressure for a sophomore player, but pressure John Tortorella probably thinks he should be able to handle. Hagelin -- who had a rough, but not horrible, playoffs -- has the type of speed players beg for, and that helps on both ends of the ice. He will use his speed to make sure that he's not caught behind in the offensive zone, and he can also take turnovers in the defensive zone and break out with them.
If he can handle the pressure, that is. To be fair, there's no reason to assume he can't. Speed helps in many facets of the game, but Hagelin proved his worth last season. Just don't jump the gun and assume all the pressure is on Nash.
It might be, though, if Hagelin can race past it.