With the New York Rangers inconsistent play this season they’ve been hogging all the spotlight, so we decided to take a step back and check on the baby Rangers. Let’s take a short trip up the Merritt Parkway to good ol’ Hartford, Connecticut home of the Hartford Wolf Pack and let’s talk about what we see.
On a complete side note, for anyone planning on going to a Wolf Pack game FYI make sure your itinerary brings you into the Constitution State on a Friday night where you can enjoy $2 beers and $1 hot dogs at the XL Center.
While the team may be struggling this season you’d be remiss to not reflect on the fact all the Rangers’ prospects are getting some serious development time. From Matthew Robertson to Karl Henriksson, players are getting minutes in a professional North American hockey setting and it’s nothing but helpful for the organization.
A few key mentionables are Will Cuylle, he’s been an incredibly engaged player for the team. With a stat line of 2 goals and 3 assists in 12 games, his production may be overlooked but he’s been in the thick of it and playing a physically imposing game in a league with men. This will be his first full professional season and it’s an incredibly important step for him to become more and more acclimated. Another key player is Dylan Garand. Having just won the CHL Goalie of the Year Award, big things are expected from this young goalie. Sporting a 3.36 GAA and a .892 SV%, his play hasn’t been spectacular, but if you’ve had the chance to watch him play, he has made some remarkable saves only made possible from his raw athleticism, digging a little deeper more often than not the team is hanging him out to dry. With some more development, Garand could have a future in New York as Igor’s next back up.
Hey, @SportsCenter— Hartford Wolf Pack (@WolfPackAHL) November 13, 2022
This @DylanGarand save is calling for #SCTop10 pic.twitter.com/QRDFlci5iO
Where do we start? The team is currently at 4-4-1-3, not good. Yet still considered just bad solely on the context that they’re only twelve games into their season. While they sit in last place in the Atlantic Division and only the top six teams within the division make the playoffs, they have two games in hand over many of their divisional rivals and a point or two in each of their games puts them back in the race for a playoff spot.
No one on the team is flourishing offensively. The team is struggling to score simply put. Lauri Pajuniemi leads the team with five goals and while he’s proving he has a hell of a shot, five goals in twelve games isn’t exactly known as a dominant performance. Jonny Brodzinski leads the team with eight points in twelve games. There isn’t a Wolf Pack player in the top 100 scorers in the AHL as it currently stands.
The Wolf Pack’s special teams are performing quite badly. Their power play 17.6%, and penalty kill 80.4%, are both second worst in their division. They’ve only scored 9 power play goals so far this year while leading their division with the most short handed goals against with 3, those are not great optics. On top of this they have the highest goals against ratio in their division. So breaking it down they’re scoring far too little, and getting scored on far too much in all situations.
The development of some players has very much stalled or not progressed anywhere according to plan. One of those players, Ryder Korczak was just sent back to the WHL for an overage season with the Moose Jaw Warriors. Ryder was struggling to make an impact and was often not dressed to play because of this. He had zero points in fives games played.
Another player struggling is Karl Henriksson. This is a very important year for Henriksson, there have been a lot of doubters on his ability or potential to ever make it to the big league and this year was a great opportunity for him to show he belonged. Unfortunately, he’s played in eleven games this season and has been invisible in most of it. The first year in the AHL can be a little bit of a transition for players, but he has yet to register a single point and more is needed from the Rangers 2019 2nd round pick.
Last but not least the Wolf Pack have the most extra time losses in their division. Losing once in OT and three times in the shootout, something is going wrong for the team. While we try to remain objective, I have a gut feeling it’s their lack of dynamic talent. Other teams have star players or players who at the very least are figuring it out and the Wolf Pack’s start to this year has been sluggish and unproductive. The roster is filled with free agent signings with the Rangers brass often emphasizing things like size and taking fliers on tall defensemen, this is not a good model for building a good team. Hopefully their skilled prospects can turn it around and find some way to dig in and add a few W’s in the next few weeks.