Aaron Asham, Darroll Powe, Brandon Mashinter, Taylor Pyatt, Tanner Glass, Chris Mueller, Ryan Malone, Jarret Stoll, Jayson Megna, Daniel Paille, Brandon Pirri, and Matt Puempel.
Those twelve former (or current) Rangers all have two things in common: Each of them were brought into the organizational fold by the dynamic duo of Glen Sather and Jeff Gorton, and they all served as roadblocks in Marek Hrivik’s unexpected rise to the National Hockey League. For years before this past summer, fans spanning across all generations wanted New York to do one thing with their depth, and that as to let their youth flourish. With a surfeit of young players ready to take the next step in their careers each and every year, the Rangers’ general managers usually opted against allowing their prospects a chance to finally break through and create an influx of young, talented depth in the team’s lineup. Some of those players have successfully made the NHL and are now solid contributors, including Oscar Lindberg and Jesper Fast. Other former farmhands have left the organization and have either seen their careers blossom elsewhere, such as Jonathan Marchessault in Florida, or still find themselves toiling away in the minor leagues waiting for their chance, like former Hartford Wolfpack captain and current Hershey Bear Ryan Bourque. For a time, Marek Hrivik seemed destined to follow the path of the latter, and leave New York without ever receiving a fair chance at staking his claim to a spot in the best hockey league in the world.
However, Hrivik finally got his break last season after the Dan Paille experiment went about as well as third grade science project. With Paille unable to do his job and shore up the Rangers’ shoddy depth, Hrivik received his first recall to New York and played his first game on Broadway on February 21st. Despite four games of adequate play at even strength and on the penalty kill, the Rangers opted to move in a different direction, acquiring Eric Staal at the trade deadline, and demoting Hrivik back to the AHL. Hrivik returned in the season finale, but with no playoff appearances in the team’s five game loss to Pittsburgh for the then-24 year old Czech forward, and a litany of forward signings over the summer that buried him behind highly touted prospects and proven NHL players, Hrivik’s window of opportunity in New York was slammed shut. Or, so it seemed.
After getting cut from training camp back in October, the final nail in Hrivik’s coffin was supposed to be nailed. With a new wave of young, talented forwards arriving in Hartford such as Robin Kovacs, Cristoval Nieves, and Malte Stromwall, time looked to have run out for Hrivik, as he was about to be passed on the depth chart by another influx of youth. But when the Rangers were hit with a rash of injuries, Jeff Gorton decided that he liked what he saw from Hrivik in previous year’s camps and during his five game cup of coffee last season, so Gorton recalled him from the Wolfpack once more. Since making his season debut last month against the Islanders, Hrivik has gone from making a case for staying in the NHL to having the case made, proving his first few games in the league were not a fluke. In spite of being unable to produce many points (one primary assist through 21 games at five-on-five, two total assists), Hrivik has put up sparkling numbers across the board.
According to Corsica, Hrivik’s ranked in the following places after adjusting for score, zone, and venue among qualifying Rangers forwards since last season: 2nd in Relative Corsi For%, (+5.96, Zibanejad) 2nd in Relative Goals For%, (+12.53, Grabner) 2nd in Relative Expected Goals For%, (+6.70, Zibanejad) and 2nd in Relative Scoring Chances For% (+7.19, Zibanejad). Although his numbers should be taken with a grain of salt, as Hrivik’s only skated a shade over 200 hundred minutes at even strength, there’s no denying that he has quietly become one of New York’s most dependable depth options. When the team was swamped with injuries, Jeff Gorton took a leap of faith by recalling Hrivik instead of making a desperation move for a “steady” veteran, and he has made his general manager look like a very smart man. Even when the team gets healthy, Hrivik has done more than enough to prove himself as a legitimate NHL forward for the Rangers, especially in light of the fact that he’s competing with replacement level players like Puempel and Pirri.
Although he may not be one of New York’s top 12 forwards, Marek Hrivik was able to take advantage of the organization getting swamped with injuries and prove himself as an NHL-caliber forward. In what might have been his last chance at making the big leagues, Hrivik was able to take what was given to him by Alain Vigneault, play dependable hockey on the team’s 4th Line, and solidify himself as the 13th forward once everything returns back to normal.
The Rangers have let too many young players with NHL futures leave for greener pastures in the past, and they’d be best served doing whatever they can to keep Hrivik in the fold beyond this season.