The Rangers lost their final Traverse City Prospects Tournament game to St. Louis on Tuesday, 8-4.
Filip Chytil, Lias Andersson, Brett Howden, and Libor Hajek all sat out. Presumably, the Rangers decided to rest all four, who had previously played three games in four days, knowing that they were going to be important figures in the upcoming training camp.
The best player for the Rangers against St. Louis, in my eyes, was Gabriel Fontaine. Fontaine had moments in previous games, but on Tuesday he was a consistent force. Though Fontaine is a checking line center, he does have a few tricks up his sleeve. Here were a few dynamic dekes he pulled off.
And here is another rush where he drew a penalty.
The Rangers have a logjam at center, both going into training camp and long-term. Fontaine needs to assert himself more consistently, as he did against St. Louis, in order to meaningfully put himself in the discussion.
Ville Meskanen, signed out of Finland, also had a strong showing. Against St. Louis, he (#81 in blue) was very involved offensively, and made two great passes to set up prime scoring opportunities. The second resulted in a power play goal by Nico Gross.
Meskanen also played a strong game in the defensive end, highlighted by this shift.
Meskanen is an offensive winger, but probably does not have the firepower to get by on that alone. In our prospect rankings, Alex expressed concern over the limits to Meskanen’s game away from the scoresheet. If Meskanen can make contributions away from the scoresheet, like during this shift, then he stands a much better chance of carving out an NHL career.
Finally, some credit to Ryan Lindgren after I offered some criticism yesterday of his puck poise. First, he is a very good skater, and while he’s not going to dice through the neutral zone and break down a forecheck, he has shown competence at skating the puck into open areas. Though, let’s note that he was incorrectly given the primary assist on the opening goal. In reality, he deserved the secondary helper, with Brandon Crawley the primary assister on the play.
He also gives it all whenever he’s on the ice. Again, this is a relatively easy-going tournament, but he sure did not play like it was. Check out this penalty kill shift in which he (#55 in blue) blocked two dangerous shooting opportunities and definitely felt the effects (and even attempted to block another one in-between).
Finally, some general thoughts on the tournament and its impact leading into training camp.
Brett Howden’s long-term outlook (in my eyes, high-end third line center, perhaps fringe second-liner) hasn’t changed, but he definitely has earned the right to a long look in training camp. I’d consider it very, very likely that Howden begins the year in the AHL, but that’s not the foregone conclusion I considered it to be last week.
Going into training camp, I had Meskanen and Michael Lindqvist neck-and-neck for a roster spot in the NHL, but giving the edge to Lindqvist. I’d consider the race equally close now, only with Meskanen pulling ever so slightly ahead. Of course, it’s possible neither make the team depending on how everything shakes out with Vinni Lettieri and the center prospects, among others.
I would guess that the Rangers feel otherwise, but I did not see anything from Libor Hajek nor Ryan Lindgren to suggest that either should get serious NHL consideration this season. Both do have mature aspects of their games, but there are also some notable weak points that are better dealt with against lower competition.
Joey Keane, drafted in the third round this past summer with the pick acquired from Boston for Nick Holden, was the Rangers’ best defenseman in my view. There were a few sloppy moments, but that’s par for the course in this tournament. He showed a well rounded game, both defending well one-on-one, making plays with the puck in the defensive zone to contribute to rushes, and moving the puck well around the offensive zone. There’s not much doubt about his landing spot this season - he’ll be back in Barrie for what is likely his last OHL season - but he can feel satisfied with his play at this tournament.
Tim Gettinger got a few looks at center. This tournament is meant as a testing ground, but I do wonder if his future might possibly be at center. He does have some experience at the position at the junior level. We’ve compared his game stylistically to Brian Boyle before.