The Rangers are a finalist in the race to sign Union College forward Mike Vecchione, as first reported by Sportsnet’s Eric Engels and later confirmed by the New York Post’s Larry Brooks.
Vecchione, 24, had a monster season for Union, recording 29 goals and 34 assists in 38 games. As a result of that production, he was named a Hobey Baker finalist and became one of the top names on the college free agent market. Here is part of SBN College Hockey’s scouting report of Vecchione:
Vecchione is a complete, 200-foot player. His skating is good enough to make plays in open ice, and he can win battles along the wall. He’s also capable of playing center and being a go-to guy in the face-off circle, which makes him more intriguing as a pro.
Regardless of whether the Rangers actually land Vecchione or not, the game plan is evident. The Rangers have already signed three different college free agents in Vinni Lettieri, Chris Nell, and Vince Pedrie. Russian defenseman Alexei Bereglazov, 22, is also rumored to be headed to New York once his KHL season ends. Adding five different free agent prospects would be incredibly aggressive in any year, but especially this year given that the pool of available prospects is relatively weak. However, on a number of levels the strategy is justified.
The elephant in the room is that the team has traded so many draft picks over the years, with a second- and third-round pick being victim to the most recent trade deadline. It hasn’t caught up to the team yet at the NHL level, but the lack of talent at lower levels is definitely becoming noticeable. These signings are closer to being fifth-round picks than first- or second-round picks, but every addition counts.
That is just part of the picture, though. A topic that I’ve been avoiding discussing too much this season, for a variety of reasons, is that the Hartford Wolf Pack need a massive facelift. They missed the playoffs last season, and this season are dead-last in the AHL. Very few players have had what can be described as productive individual seasons. There aren’t many noteworthy internal prospects the team can promote from the CHL or NCAA who can make a meaningful impact next season. The Rangers know the Wolf Pack need a massive dose of fresh blood next season, and successful NCAA players already in their 20s should in theory be able to make an immediate impact at the AHL level. In fact, the Rangers have done some reshuffling of the roster already to make room for Lettieri, Nell, and Pedrie, who will very likely see some action in the Wolf Pack’s remaining eight games. If nothing else, the Rangers are addressing a need to add new talent to a team that is going to probably part ways with a number of underperforming players.