According to Andrew Gross it looks like the Rangers' first line out of the gate will be Rick Nash, Brad Richards, and sophomore speedster Carl Hagelin. Of course John Tortorella's line combinations often have the life spans of lemmings but it is encouraging and intriguing to see that Hagelin is going to be entrusted to compliment the two superstars on the Rangers' top line.
We all know Hagelin will bring speed to the first line but he will also bring his two-way game and his work ethic which will prove crucial for battles along the boards and getting pucks to the skilled sticks of Richards and Nash. Hagelin, the Rangers sixth round choice in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, believes he can score more goals this year and is optimistic about the upcoming season.
"Hopefully, after playing 64 regular-season games and 17 playoff games, it's almost like a full year. I should be more experienced and now you know what's expected from you, and you know the system.
"There's a lot of things I learned last year that will be useful this year," Hagelin added. "How to use my speed, when to use it, be smart about it and, at the same time, maybe be more selfish around the net and take more shots."
Brad Richards also had encouraging words for Hagelin.
"He got a lot of new things thrown at him [last season], playing on a top line, his first playoff... Couple all that, you don't blame him that some days he was probably a little straight ahead and wasn't as creative as he probably would have been in college because he wanted to stick and do the right things. If he plays a give-and-go type of game, no one is going to be able to slow him down."
I wouldn't be shocked if we see plenty of line juggling from Torts, even during the first game of the season, but I think Hagelin has a real chance to make an impact on the Rangers' top line. Hagelin playing wing on the first line means that the Rangers will better distribute their offense as well as their speed with Gaborik playing on the second line.
Hagelin on the first line also suggests that Chris Kreider will be playing on the third line along with Brian Boyle and most likely Taylor Pyatt. I wouldn't be surprised if Kreider eventually finds a way to work himself up into the top six and challenge Hagelin and others for ice time, including significant powerplay time but who really knows what is going to happen with the lines once Torts starts juggling things around. More than anything I take this as a big vote of confidence for Hagelin and his play last year and an attempt to give the Rangers' first line some speed to compliment its obvious skill.
What are your thoughts guys? Have at it in the comments.