Every year I do a stock market report on the Rangers during the preseason. I think it’s a good way to look at both the way the team and the players who are actually fighting for roles on the team. Anyway, here we go.
Stock Trending Up
Neal Pionk: I’m not even talking about the out-of-your-dreams game-winner where Pionk spun his way around a veteran NHL defenseman and picked the top corner for the OT winner. I feel like that should give you a good indication of how well Pionk played last night.
Pionk was solid in his own end, made a few really good defensive plays, and had some great outlet passes. During his time with Ryan McDonagh he looked solid, and on the man advantage he moved the puck well into space. When he could, he jumped the rush a few times and didn’t look out of place.
There have been stray reports that Pionk might be capable of making an NHL impact this year. Some scouts love the way his game projects to transition in the NHL. I have to say I was skeptical of that, but last night is making me re-think my skepticism.
Anthony DeAngelo: The big knock on DeAngelo in terms of his ability to function as an NHL-level defenseman is his defense. And against the first-preseason-roster-Islanders, DeAngelo looked surprisingly good. He made solid defensive zone reads, cleared the crease to avoid screens, worked pucks free in the corners, and for the most part wasn’t involved in any major gaffs.
The offense, however, is where DeAngelo is so intoxicating, and he showed why last night. When he was the man at the point, he ran a clean and efficient power play. He moved the puck into space, moved himself into space, took shots when he saw the lane, and could have had a few assists with some fantastic passes had his linemates finished the chance. Overall, him and Pionk needed to make a big statement to stick around for those final two defensive slots, and they did just that.
Lias Andersson: One of the big things to keep an eye on with Andersson is going to be the way he’s able to work the puck and generate space with the tighter ice surface. The offense he’s created in the SHL, however, has all been in tight, around the net, or right on top of the crease. I’m not as worried about the garbage goals and him crashing the crease, but there should be some concerns about him freeing up pucks and working the space more efficiently. Last night he looked really good in the corners and behind the net. He also had an assist on the game winner, and could have had a few others.
One thing he does need to watch out for, though, is the cross-ice passes. He made a cross-ice pass on a 3-on-2 that turned the other way for a 2-on-1. On the bigger ice surfaces, that puck probably falls all the way to the corner and they have time to turn around and get back. In the smaller rink, that puck hits the boards and the Islanders spun it right around. He’s got to be aware of that stuff.
Pavel Buchnevich: Buchnevich clearly looked like one of the best players on the ice, although I know that’s not saying much. He was a little too pass-friendly for my liking, but he was working with a rookie and there’s not a ton of help for him on the power play with some of the other guys playing.
Gabrial Fontaine: I haven’t been in love with Fontaine, nor have I been on the Fontaine Train (see what I did there?), but now I think I might have been a little hard on him. I’m not sure he’s ever going to be much more than a defensive NHL depth forward even at his best, but he had a very quietly good game last night in his own zone, had a breakaway opportunity, and only stood out in a bad way once.
J.T. Miller the Center: 71% winning percentage. He was apparently talking to the officials all night to get a feel for things. I thought he looked fine, but again, we’re talking about preseason rosters.
Stock Trending Down
Nick Holden: Holden was easily the Rangers worst defenseman last night. That’s a good thing in terms of younger kids making the team over him, but it’s not a good look for him.
Holden, Staal, and Bereglazov’s Chances: Not that one game changes much of anything, but for those three (who are fighting with Pionk and DeAngelo for those final two spots) the heat is on for them to impress in the second game.
Penalty Calling: There were about 14,017 slashing penalties last night. I get that it’s a new point of emphasis but seriously? The Islanders went 0-for-7 and the Rangers went 0-for-8. And there were a million more calls that resulted in no loss of man power. Woof.
Power Plays: The Rangers power play looked OK in spurts -- specifically with Pionk and DeAngelo on the point — but going 0-for isn’t a great look. I can already see the Kevin Shattenkirk expectations exploding.