Stock Going Way Up
Tony DeAngelo and Neal Pionk — The hot debate in the space right now is whether or not DeAngelo or Pionk should make the team out of camp. I have always been of the “why not both” mentality there, but I think the two men have played so well that they’re forcing that thought onto the brass as well. To me, DeAngelo was the far-and-away more noticeable of the two through the first two preseason games. Last night things shifted a little, at least at first. Pionk played over 24 minutes, and dominated through the first and the second. He finished with two assists, some masterful work down low on both goals he was a part of, forced a turnover in the offensive zone on one of his assistants, and finished the game with two shots and three takeaways. A majority of Pionk’s special teams time was on the penalty kill, a role Quinn seems to favor him for (small sample size, of course). DeAngelo, on the other hand, I thought had a quiet (not bad, just quiet) first half of the game, before really turning it on the final period. He played a hair under 19 minutes with all of his special teams time coming on the power play, which is a role Quinn should favor him for. In the third DeAngelo sprung Mika Zibanejad for the Chris Kreider goal, and played well in overtime; by comparison I thought Pionk was noticeably shaky in the 3-on-3 frame. All that said, both Pionk and DeAngelo have played their way onto the team in my book. If it won’t come at the expense of Adam McQuaid, then it has to come at the expense of Marc Staal (who was dreadful). This will be the first big test of Quinn’s tenure.
Kevin Hayes — I don’t think Hayes has ever looked better. He was a monster all night, did the most disgusting “wait out the defense” dance I’ve ever seen in overtime, and genuinely looked like a guy who was really smart to force a one-year deal this summer.
Stock Going Up
Pavel Buchnevich — Not much more to say here other than I thought Buchnevich had another very strong game. In the third period alone he generated three grade-a chances, and almost roofed a back-to-the-net-gonna-backhand goal in the third. I also liked him a lot with Hayes — who again, I think is going to be a monster this year — and Mats Zuccarello — who will feed the two of them with glee if this is a long-term pairing.
Mika Zibanejad — I think Zibanejad proved a lot of his critics wrong last year, and I think he’s going to be even better this year.
Matt Beleskey — Injury aside — and we’ll need to wait and see on that front — I really do think Beleskey is going to make the team out of camp. He’s a perfect fit for the fourth line, has some of that good grit and toughness you want, and can add a scoring pop. At 50% of his salary he’s expensive, but manageable. I will say these preseason “let me fight to help me make the team” bouts have been mostly senseless, and even more so with Beleskey getting injured during it.
Mats Zuccarello — The man is a wizard, what more can one say?
Steve Fogarty — He’s working his way into the center conversation for the fourth line; especially if Quinn would rather Andersson get 20 minutes a night in the AHL rather than 13 a night in the NHL. He scored a goal, and with Boo Nieves’ concussion injury, this is the best shot he has at sticking in the lineup.
Stock Staying The Same
Henrik Lundqvist — Just like he wasn’t put in the “down” category after a bad game, he doesn’t go in the “up” for a good game. His stock isn’t changing in September, one way or another. 14 saves on 15 shots, including two “wow” saves in the first. Solid showing for him in his 39+ minutes. The defense was better in front of him, too.
Vinni Lettieri — It was easily his best game of the preseason, regardless of the overtime game-winner. He played well on both ends of the ice, even did a little penalty killing, and played a fair amount on the power play. He’s a volume shooter, which the Rangers don’t have a plethora of, I just don’t think he’s done enough to work his way onto the team. Again, that’s a product of some guys being back we didn’t think would be more than his play.
Cody McLeod — Through the first two periods I found myself thinking “I’m pretty sure McLeod has been really good tonight” and apparently the numbers agree! Outside of DeAngelo, McLeod had the second best possession metrics of the night, and had an assist. I’m sure McLeod has a place on this team, it just shouldn’t be a regular or even semi-regular one. When he does play, thought, he needs to keep playing like that (which, to be fair, is highly doubtful).
Stock Going Down
Marek Mazanec — Mazanec probably wasn’t making the team out of camp anyway, but both goals in the third period felt soft, and he was very luck the two golden chances the Rangers’ defense handed the Devils in overtime slipped just wide. Mazanec got manhandled on the blocker side twice, and the Devils kept trying to pick that corner. It honestly could have been worse.
Lias Andersson — It’s not that he was bad, he just wasn’t as noticeable as he has been — and really needs to be — in order to make the team. There were periods of time I completely forgot Andersson was playing, and his 16:50 of ice time raised my eyebrows a little; especially with both Jesper Fast and Beleskey missing time due to injury.
The whole injuries thing — Fast was pulled for precautionary reasons, while Beleskey was removed due to a shoulder injury. Quinn didn’t seem overly concerned about the injuries, but Beleskey’s is the more volatile of the two.