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Jimmy Vesey and Pavel Buchnevich -- They didn't even play but the duo pretty much secured their roster spots last night. Vigneault gushed about Buchnevich on Tuesday night after the loss to the Flyers and Vesey has been just as good. I think both are in the opening night lineup -- rightfully so.
Adam Clendening -- Vigneault watched the game from the sky last night to get a better idea of what he was going to do with this roster. During the broadcast the Islanders guys (it was so awful) talked about how the Rangers had made it clear playing time was going to be given to guys fighting for a spot so they could get a good look at them.
Clendening played 22 minutes -- although he wasn’t used in overtime which I found both annoying and strange — including time on the penalty kill. He got more power play time than any player on the Rangers (including forwards) and looked as good there as he has all fall.
As much as I love Dylan McIlrath and Brady Skjei, Clendening has outplayed the former and clearly outplayed the latter. He’s been fine in his own end, brings a much, much, much needed skillset to the man advantage and continues to impress. I think at this point he’s played his way onto the roster opening night. Even if he’s getting sixth defenseman even strength minutes he’s earned a lion’s share of the power play time.
As hard as that might be when it comes to Skjei (more on that later) it is what it is. Clendening has earned his role. If you want to hear Beth cry about how this might take away from McIlrath’s spot on the team, well, you can listen to Bantering The Blueshirts tonight at 8.
Brandon Pirri -- He didn't score for the first time in the preseason, but I have a feeling this game was more about his play away from the puck.
Pirri made a great defensive play to break up a chance in the crease, hustled all night (as he's done all preseason to be fair) and you can see he wants it bad.
In terms of ice time, he only played 13:44. I can’t decide if that’s a good or a bad thing (in regards to AV wanting to see more from guys fighting for a spot). With that said, Mika Zibanejad played nearly 23 minutes and he’s not fighting for a spot, so I might be overthinking this.
There's no excuse for him not to make the team out of camp. Period. I wanted him to sit as the 13th forward before things really got going but I'm a believer now. Vigneault has a chance to run four skill lines and he needs to take the opportunity.
Mika Zibanejad -- I love this kid. He makes the power play more dangerous with his puck movement and lethal shot (even strength too). He missed the net a few times you'd like to see him at least work the goalie but he's an all around player.
That's an enormous play, pure hustle and saves a goal. You might not care about that in the preseason, but you sure as hell care about that when there are points on the board. I'm feeling that breakout year from him.
Chris Kreider -- He's ready.
Kevin Hayes -- So is he.
Marc Staal -- I’ve actually been happy with Staal this preseason. For all his flaws, he’s the one twin that has improved. He might not be worth his contract, but Staal has been serviceable this preseason and made a fantastic play on the Kreider goal to put the puck in an area where he could deflect it.
Stock The Same
Dylan McIlrath — I think he’s gotten better and better with each game. I really do. He played over 17 minutes last night, got a good amount of PK time and had an assist. He also had a puck deflect off him for a goal, but that was far more luck than anything else.
I’m not sure if he’s done enough to earn a starting role over Skjei -- he’s been better for sure, but I don’t know how AV is prioritizing investments — but his game has changed for the better. I love the shoot first mentality he’s rocking, too. Honestly.
Michael Grabner — I think Grabner is the guy to grab that pre-Oscar Lindberg spot before he returns from injury. He looked quick last night, had a nice chance stopped and did some fine work on the penalty kill.
Nathan Gerbe — With that said, that makes Gerbe the odd man out. Gerbe is obviously fighting for his life -- Arniel gave him over 20 minutes last night — and earned an assist to go along with nearly two minutes of penalty kill time. If Granber isn’t the guy to make the team it’s going to be Gerbe. I wouldn’t be upset one way or another, but I do think Grabner brings more offense with just as much defense.
J.T. Miller -- He took another bad penalty (although it was a really soft call) but was pretty solid overall.
If we're being honest this wasn't the best showing from him, but I'm chalking this up to his preseason spent with Team NA. He'll be fine.
Brady Skjei -- I have to put him here, but I also have to clarify that this judgement comes from where I think the players are falling in terms of the coaching staff. If you had reasonable expectations for Skjei, last night was a big improvement from where he’s been.
Skjei was better at times last night -- it was his best overall game by far -- but still made a slew of mistakes you'd expect out of a rookie. He had a dreadful blue line turnover that led to a breakaway against, as an example. He did use his speed a little more effectively but I think he's gripping the stick a little tight. That's what happens when you heap unreasonable expectations on a rookie before he hits the ice.
The Rangers made it clear they needed Skjei to take that playoff step he made last year immediately. If they judged his abilities — and made summer moves because of said judgement — because of his small playoff sample in the tire fire that was last postseason then they're getting what they deserve. Skjei will probably still make the team out of camp, but he's going to have lumps and bumps that should have been expected.
Nicklas Jensen -- Scored a goal ... That's about his only highlight from this preseason. Jensen can probably state he deserves a shot with this team as the 12th or 13th forward based off his games in Hatford last year and the World Championship this year but it's just not enough with this much talent on the roster.
Marek Hrivik — Again: Nothing to do with his play. He didn’t even play 10 minutes last night. He’s going to Hartford in today’s cuts I’m sure.
Robin Kovacs and Malte Stromwall — Same goes here. Give em hell in Hartford, boys.