Rangers prospects got pummeled by Detroit in their third Traverse City game on Monday, losing 5-0. They got outshot 34-to-14, and to be blunt there were not many positive takeaways. Here are a few nonetheless.
One thing that has been encouraging to see throughout the tournament is Chytil’s play away from the puck. An impressive aspect of his game is that he immediately engages in forechecking mode when there is a turnover in the offensive zone. Here is one extended shift where you see this twice.
He knows exactly where to go in order to take away the outlets. Chytil has the ability to make skilled plays, and that’s course very important. The ability to extend shifts in the offensive zone by recycling possession (and preventing the opposition from pushing up the ice themselves) is what he will need to do in order to become a complete first-line center.
Ty Ronning always hustles, but in this game particularly his effort stood out. Though it amounted to nothing on the scoreboard, he worked hard to win puck battles behind the goal line. He also showed off why, despite his size, he could become a good penalty killing option in the NHL. Check out this incredible read by him in the neutral zone on one penalty kill.
Though this game was a mess defensively for the Rangers (more on this later), I thought Joey Keane was the lone bright spot in the back. He rushed the puck well, tried to make plays in the offensive end, and defended one-on-one very well. Watch this shift carefully (Keane is #82 in white).
He stands up his man immediately upon the initial zone entry. Then, despite losing his stick, he completely erases elite offensive winger Filip Zadina along the boards and creates another turnover.
Finally, I’ll say that both Brett Howden and Lias Andersson showed their polish. Andersson in particular showed his defensive chops, while Howden made another quality pass off the rush.
Before I get to the ugly bits, I want to again send a reminder that this is a ragtag group of players still on their summer legs. They’re barely using organized tactics, they just met the guys they’re sharing the ice with, and a third of the roster consists of fringe prospects or guys on tryouts.
There have been moments where Libor Hajek has looked very good. There have, however, been less optimal moments. After Friday’s game I highlighted an example of a poor turnover by Hajek, which is something that plagues his game. He did it again against Detroit, and this time it cost the Rangers on the scoreboard.
Hajek has also taken four separate penalties through three games. That would have been more understandable from one of the younger players. Given Hajek’s pedigree, though, the Rangers probably expect a bit better.
It’s a similar situation for Ryan Lindgren. He too is a veteran and has taken four different minor penalties. In my prospect rankings I wrote that I think his lack of offensive ability significantly limits his upside, in my view. A common refrain has been that it’s not Lindgren’s job, as a defensive defenseman, to put up points. Here are two Lindgren (#55) clips to elaborate on my point.
Lindgren is actually decent enough at skating with the puck, and his defensive outlets are okay. But he struggles when it comes to contributing to possession in the offensive zone. Twice here you can see how uncomfortable he is on the puck with any sort of pressure. On both occasions his misplays end the team’s possession in the offensive zone and Detroit is able to push the puck into the Rangers’ zone.
It’s not solely about goals and assists, though that certainly is a part of it. But can Lindgren improve his poise on the puck in order to keep shifts in the offensive end instead of defensive end?
Finally, 2018 4th-round pick Nico Gross (#41) got exposed on a few occasions.
Twice here you can see him drift to his defensive partner’s side. Detroit makes a rudimentary pass across, and because Gross leaves such a massive gap it’s basically a free zone entry. Then, on the first clip he awkwardly bends over and pretty much takes himself out of the passing lane. Detroit scores. On the second, he gets burned clean on the outside lane and allows a scoring chance.
Gross is just an 18-year-old in his first camp of this kind, so his rawness is understandable. I also think this is a correctable issue, as Gross is a good skater. He has the athletic ability to play a tighter gap. Some work on technique and time in the video room could do the job here. It’s a big problem, but not necessary a lost cause.
The Rangers finish the tournament today against St. Louis at 3 pm EST.