A Look at the Rangers Depth Down the Middle
"I play center." -Rob Lowe as Youngblood in the motion picture "Youngblood".
Having depth at the center position is something that most teams in the league covet. How long have the Maple Leafs, Flames, and others been without a true first-line center and center depth? Successful teams that make deep playoff runs often owe a great deal of their success to how deep they are down the middle and as we approach the 2013-14 season I look at who the Rangers have at center ice and can't help but smile.
The Rangers hardly have the best centers in the league but they have a very interesting and well-rounded group that includes a lot of young players with all kinds of potential. Let's have a look at who the Rangers have at center ice and why we should be excited about the youth and depth we have down the middle.
- Derek Stepan- The as-yet-unsigned Stepan is the best center on the team. Stepan, just 23 years old, led the team with forty-four points last season and outside of being lackluster on the faceoff dot, showed that he is a true two-way player with all kinds of upside. Stepan also managed to click with Rick Nash for stretches of last season which is something that Brad Richards was unable to do.
- Brad Richards- No matter how disappointed and frustrated I am that Richards wasn't bought out this offseason I can't pretend that having someone with his talent in the lineup is a bad thing. His speed, defensive game, and some of his decisions with the puck certainly leave a lot to be desired but Richards has managed to score 100 points in 128 games as a Ranger.
- Derick Brassard- We all remember what Brassard managed to do in his brief time with the Rangers last season and in the 2013 NHL Playoffs. I don't think any of us are really expecting him to play like that consistently but just knowing that he has that kind of potential makes him a player that most teams would love to have as a second line center. Where he'll fit into Alain Vigneault's lineup is still a bit of question mark with Richards still part of the team. Brassard has struggled with his consistency for most of his career and has been criticized for not putting the puck on the net enough but there is no denying his offensive acumen and ability to make things happen with the puck. He's shifty, he's creative, and he's still just 25 years old.
- Dominic Moore- Moore signed for just one year but his return to the team brings the Rangers their first true faceoff-specialist and defensive forward on the fourth line since Blair Betts (or at least the first one that I have liked). Moore, in my opinion, could be one of the best bottom-six signings Sather has made in several years.
- Brian Boyle- Will he play wing this year? Yes. Will he still find himself taking draws and playing center shorthanded? Almost certainly. Boyle's game is unpolished but his athleticism and size alone make him a valuable player to have in the bottom six. Boyle was a wrecking ball in the playoffs and often gave the opposition all they could handle when he was on the ice. I am sure we will see a motivated Boyle this year because at the end of the season he will become an UFA.
- J.T. Miller- Miller, 20, has the versatility to play both center and wing but is a natural center. Miller plays his game at a high-tempo and though he might not have the skill necessary to be a first line center one day, his physicality, speed, and offensive instincts could make him a valuable second or third line center one day very soon. With both Hagelin and Callahan likely out of the lineup at the beginning of the season, Miller has a real shot at making the lineup though it won't likely be at the center position.
- Oscar Lindberg- Lindberg, 21, is a true center with a well-rounded game. Oscar turned a heck of a lot of heads last season when he won the award for the Most Valuable Player in the SEL Playoffs in 2012-2013. Lindberg is an intelligent, creative player that is good on the dot. Lindberg, like Miller, is a player that most of us are going to have our eyes on during the Rangers training camp before the season and could make a push to make the team or be one of the first players called up in the event of an injury.
There are obviously more centers on the team and in the system (I didn't bother to list Powe) but I thought I'd focus on the ones that are most likely to make the team and/or be a big part of the team in coming seasons. For a few seasons now the Rangers have had some interesting young players at the center position, including Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov, but this current group has me very optimistic about the future of the club.
My questions and discussion points for you guys today: How would you rank the centers we have on the team now and where do you think we'll see them in the lineup? Which young center are you more excited about, Miller or Lindberg? Which team has the best depth at the center position in the league? How do the Rangers compare to the rest of the league at the center position? Have at in the comments guys and girls. I hope you're all having a great week.
Let's go Rangers.