For a few years now I have done rankings of New York Rangers prospects, using the knowledge I've gathered from watching way more hockey than can be justified. Prospects come and go, but one mainstay has been Marek Hrivik. This is now Hrivik's sixth year in the Rangers' organization, and I've always appreciated him for how he has played in Hartford over that time. However, my outlook on a potential future in the NHL has always been pessimistic.
In January of 2015, I wrote, "I just don't see where the long-term potential lies. I think he's going to be a quality player in the AHL and perhaps eventually in one of the top European leagues."
This past summer, I wrote, "In the long run I still don't view him as a legitimate NHL forward."
When Hrivik was cut from the team in training camp, it appeared that his fate was sealed. It was hard to imagine Hrivik breaking through a team dominating offensively with four productive lines, and at 25 years old there's not really a long-term outlook.
However, a slew of injuries forced the Rangers' hand, and Hrivik was called up. He has surprised - at least, surprised me - since. Playing on a makeshift fourth line with a still recovering Oscar Lindberg and
a newly promoted Nicklas Jensen Jesper Fast, Hrivik has been even or positive in shot attempts in all five games he's played. At five-on-five, the Rangers have out-attempted the opposition 5 77 to 48 with Hrivik on the ice (61.6% shot attempts percentage), and that percentage increases to 64.9% when adjusting for the score and zone starts.
The visuals appear to back it up. His line is doing a good job of applying high pressure in the offensive zone, forcing turnovers or at least forcing the opposition to spend a lot of time and energy getting the puck forward. Though the line is bereft of much skill on the puck, they have successfully wreaked havoc in the slot area and created plenty of screens, rebounds, and general battles for loose pucks around the crease. Hrivik is pointless in these five games, but the Rangers are shooting at 2.4% - just one goal on 41 shots - during his shifts. Even without gifted finishers on the line, one would expect equilibrium to kick in eventually and for a few more pucks to successfully cross the goal line.
Perhaps Hrivik is proving me wrong and confirming what we already know; I am an idiot and have no idea what I am talking about. Or maybe this is another example of fun with sample size. There have been players with far better five-game stretches who never amounted to anything long-term. A balanced assessment right now is that Hrivik has raised a few eyebrows and deserves some more time to truly sink or swim. The Rangers seemingly agree, having chosen to waive center Josh Jooris (claimed by Arizona) and send Nicklas Jensen (who also had a solid few games) down to Hartford.
With most of the Rangers' forwards returning to health, the team will soon have to make decisions yet again about how to deal with having more depth than roster limits allow. If Hrivik continues to play well in however many guaranteed games he has left, it could create an interesting debate.