According to multiple sources, Rangers’ General Manager Jeff Gorton was in Utica last night to watch the Hartford Wolf Pack play. While this could theoretically be a trip with trading deadline implications, it is more likely that Gorton is using the approaching NHL All-Star break to take an extended look at the Rangers’ prospects for general evaluation purposes.
In particular, Gorton got a first-hand look at 2017 first-round pick Lias Andersson, who was transferred from Frolunda in the Swedish Hockey league and made his AHL debut last night. Hartford Head Coach Keith McCambridge did not hesitate to use Andersson immediately, giving him top-nine minutes as well as power play and penalty kill time. It was a somewhat quiet game for Andersson, which is understandable given that it was his debut as a teenager and he was coming off of a separated shoulder. However, he did earn a 4:00 power play and five-on-three for Hartford after getting high sticked in a puck battle. He also earned his first career AHL point with a secondary assist in overtime from a faceoff win.
Unsurprisingly, it was Andersson’s counterpart, Filip Chytil, who made himself most noticeable. The 18-year-old generated four shots on net, some of legitimate quality.
He also earned two primary assists at even strength.
Chytil now has generated 18 points through 22 AHL games. It’s a total that stacks up very nicely compared to recent players of a similar age.
Particularly notable is Chytil’s five-on-five production, which surpassed that of William Nylander’s. Jesse Puljujarvi currently has 14 points through 31 NHL games as a 19-year-old, so might Chytil be ready to be a legitimate top-six forward as soon as next season?
It’s always interesting to see how certain players handle demotions. I spoke to one AHLer a few years ago who had seen a handful of players seen a handful of players come back from the NHL, and he remarked that there’s a danger in coming back with a sour attitude due to a sense of not belonging in the minors. Boo Nieves, however, has said all of the right things since the Rangers sent him to Hartford, and I was particularly impressed with his assertiveness on the puck. He was using his big frame to take on defenders and tried to make plays all game.
The message for prospects sent down is usually about a need to solidify their game away from the puck and in the defensive end, but I imagine Nieves is an exception here. I would bet the Rangers told him to go back to Hartford and become more of an offensive threat. I suspect we’ll see him again in New York for another look.
Finally, I have been down on Sergey Zborovskiy ever since the Rangers drafted him in the third round of the 2015 NHL Draft, and I still am. However, I did like what I saw from him in the defensive end in what was his second AHL game. On numerous occasions he was able to stay with his man on the rush and he made multiple great reads with his stick to break up sequences.
Zborovskiy has spent most of this season in the ECHL, but was called up to Hartford after DeAngelo’s promotion to the Rangers. His offensive production in the ECHL was not great, but the Rangers will first want him to prove capable of handling the speed of the AHL before worrying about his long-term prospects.