For the final game of the preseason I always handle these reviews a little differently. I try to make out where I think players stand in terms of making the team itself. Enjoy.
The (Deserved) Locks
Henrik Lundqvist, Ondrej Pavelec, Rick Nash, Mika Zibanejad, Mats Zuccarello, Michael Grabner, Kevin Hayes, J.T. Miller, Chris Kreider, Jesper Fast, David Desharnais, Jimmy Vesey, Ryan McDonagh, Brady Skjei, Brendan Smith, and Kevin Shattenkirk: Nothing surprising here.
Pavel Buchnevich: He’s a lock, too, but I have a few things to say about him. I think Buchnevich was as good as any other forward in the preseason. At the times he was dominant, he was the best player on the ice. He might have talked himself into a top-six role, but at the very least he has to be a consistent top-nine player this year.
The (Undeserved) Locks
Marc Staal and Nick Holden: Not sure there’s much more to be explained here. Staal has a NMC that means he’s starting the year in New York, and there’s value for Holden on the market, so I can’t see him being sent down to start the year, either.
The True Bubble Players
Filip Chytil: Yes, for real, Chytil deserves a role to start the year. He’s going to get the nine-games simply because there’s no risk for the Rangers, but showed he can easily hang in the NHL even as a newly-turned 18-year-old. Whether or not he sticks is a totally different question, but for now he’s a true bubble player.
Tony DeAngelo and Neal Pionk: The real fight in the preseason was this one: The defensive battle for the final two spots. Where Holden and Staal showed no reason they should be on the opening night roster, DeAngelo and Pionk impressed at every turn. Pionk’s overall game was shockingly polished, and DeAngelo can run a power play better than anyone on the team not named Shattenkirk. Keep an eye on this one because of the whole Alain Vigneault and veterans thing ...
Paul Carey: That the 28-year-old even talked himself into this conversation is an impressive feat, but here we are. At his age, and with his AHL experience, I don’t think there should be a real opportunity for him here. Discriminatory, I know, but if there are kids who can get the experience then to me they get the edge. Both Lias Andersson and Chytil (in different ways) give the team far more than Carey. However, if he makes the team to start for Fast I get it, especially if he’s thrown into a bottom-feeder role since you don’t have to worry about his development.
The “He’ll get nine games because there’s no reason not to” Players
Lias Andersson: Andersson’s defensive game is there right now, which is good. He needs time to develop, though, and the best place for that is to spend the entire year overseas in a big role for Frolunda.
The Iffy Bubble Players
Vinni Lettieri: I was really impressed with Lettieri after the first game where he was dreadful, and there were times he stood out nearly every time he touched the puck. I like him a lot, and I think he has value here. The reason why he’s in this category is because I’m not sure he did enough more than Chytil to earn the “this kid needs to get an actual role” spot. And if Lettieri is going to do the whole “fourth line for seven minutes a night” thing, he’s better served in the AHL.
Matt Puempel: His veteran status might help him make the team, especially with Fast out, but I’m not sure I see a big role for him here.
Not Making It But He Impressed Me
Gabriel Fontaine: I’m on the train now. Sue me.