The Hartford Wolf Pack have started the season in a very different manner than the Rangers have, winning on both Friday and Sunday to start the season 2-0.
On a team level, the wins are encouraging, though definitely imperfect. Hartford has generated just 36 shots over the two games, and they are working on creating more sustained offense. On the other hand, they have done a fairly good job of suppressing offense themselves.
Lias Andersson does not have a primary point, though he did generate a secondary assist and has had a number of quality scoring chances. Furthermore, he’s made an impact in other ways. He (#28) created Hartford’s opening goal on Sunday vs Laval without even touching the puck.
This is exactly how the Rangers want their F1s to forecheck, applying aggressive pressure while constricting the puck carrier’s space. The primary points do need to come eventually, but if Andersson is making plays like this it won’t be long before he’s ready for the NHL in some capacity.
Libor Hajek had mixed results in his first games with Hartford. At times, his rawness showed. He (#43) got bailed out by Dustin Tokarski after being walked around in the slot on Sunday.
He also had a series of turnovers on the power play, resulting in a shorthanded goal against.
On the other hand, he did have some good shifts, and in particular he showed his ability to retrieve loose pucks in the defensive zone and skate them out of danger.
There were no guarantees that Sean Day would start the season in Hartford, but he did indeed make the roster. In fact, he has slotted on the second pairing. He has not looked out of place, which is all anyone could have asked for to start the season. For sure, he looks a lot more timid on the puck than he did in the OHL, where he would dice through the neutral zone multiple times each game. That’s a feeling out process he’s going to undergo. He did draw a power play with a good read and transition rush, however.
The far more notable part of his first AHL appearances was that there were no egregious defensive zone lapses. Here is good man-to-man coverage from him (#74).
It’s not a highlight reel play, but these kinds of shifts have been the ones to plague Day in the past. He stands no chance of making the NHL if he blows coverages in these situations regardless of how skilled he might be. It’s encouraging that he is showing improvement in this regard.
Tim Gettinger scored his first pro hockey goal in his first game, showing off his powerful shot.
He also did a very good job away from the puck, creating turnovers both on the forecheck as well as in his defensive coverages. The Wolf Pack are using him prominently on the penalty kill. By no means is he close to a finished product, but he impressed in training camp and looked good in Hartford’s opening games. Gtetinger is definitely someone to watch this season.
Michael Lindqvist, who had an extremely disappointing training camp, looked much more engaged in Hartford’s opening games. He scored his first AHL goal in the previously shown Lias Andersson clip and set up Cole Schneider for a prime scoring chance with a creative pass.
He also seems to have committed to the system, playing his part in the defensive zone to pressure the puck from the wing. Steve Valiquette recently spoke on MSG Networks about putting Jesper Fast in the slot on the power play for the sake of a much needed right-handed option, and while I agree in principle, it says a lot about the team’s lack of options. In theory, Lindqvist would be perfect for that role. It would be a big boost to the Rangers if he could produce consistently in Hartford and earn a midseason call-up.
Finally, one of the biggest stories is about who didn’t play for Hartford; Ty Ronning. It could possibly be due to injury, but there’s been no assertion that this is the case. Hartford’s roster is overpopulated, and it’s going to get worse once Matt Beleskey and Boo Nieves get healthy. It will be interesting to see what happens with Ronning and how the Rangers deal with this situation going forward.