Despite an apparently dire need to fortify their blue line corps, the New York Rangers instead spent a vast majority of their offseason resources adding depth to the forward ranks. After a flurry of free agent transactions, the Blueshirts added Brandon Pirri, Jimmy Vesey, Josh Jooris, Nathan Gerbe and Michael Grabner giving the club 15 forwards with a realistic shot to contribute this season on Manhattan. This depth is sure to create competition and provide head coach Alain Vigneault with plenty of alternatives to guard against injuries or ineffectiveness.
Vesey joins top prospect Pavel Buchnevich as rookies who hope to provide a significant impact in their first seasons in New York. But given the Rangers depth up front, the two youngsters don’t have their spots in the lineup guaranteed as Brett Cyrgalis of the New York Post writes. For his part, Vesey understands that he will have to earn ice time and accepts it as part of being a professional.
“Nothing is given in sports. At the end of the day, I have to go and make the team. It’s my first camp, and I’m looking to definitely turn some heads and earn a roster spot.”
The talented youngsters are already getting a head start as they are part of the Rangers prospect contingent that is participating in the annual Traverse City tournament. Newsday’s Steve Zipay reports that Buchnevich and Vesey are skating together on a line centered by University of Michigan Wolverine Cristoval “Boo” Nieves.
Ultimately, Vesey and Buchnevich will have their fair share of opportunities to contribute this season for the Rangers. Their upside trumps their lack of experience and should ensure they earn regular roles up front with the Blueshirts.
Elsewhere around the NHL:
- Once the Ducks get Hampus Lindholm signed to a new contract, the team will have seven NHL-caliber defensemen on their roster. That doesn’t count top prospect Shea Theodore, who saw his first NHL action in 2015-16 and had a solid showing, collecting eight points in 19 games. This enviable depth has fueled rumors all summer that the team could look to move one of their pricier d-men in a deal to acquire a scoring left wing. While a trade has not yet transpired, were it to happen, Theodore would not be the only blue liner to potentially benefit. Brandon Montour, the Ducks second-round pick in 2014, has added needed muscle and strength this offseason to aid his quest to make his NHL debut in 2016-17, writes Kyle Shohara of the Ducks official website. Montour was named to the AHL All-Rookie Team on the heels of an impressive 12-goal, 57-point season with the San Diego Gulls. Even if the Ducks do deal one of their defenders, it’s likely Montour will again spend a majority of his time in San Diego but it’s conceivable the 22-year-old will make his NHL debut.
- Long one of the best offensive defenseman in the AHL, T.J. Brennan has yet to parlay his minor league success into consistent work in the NHL. Now Brennan has joined his hometown Philadelphia Flyers with the hope that he can suit up at some point this season for the team he grew up rooting for, as Sam Carchidi reports. Brennan, 27, has appeared in 443 AHL contests and his 113 goals rank fifth all time among defensemen in that league. As Carchidi points out, Brennan’s struggles in his own end are likely the reason the offensively-inclined blue liner has accumulated just 53 games of NHL experience. The Flyers boast a wealth of defensive prospects which will likely work against Brennan’s chances of making the team. But he should at least serve the organization well as a mentor for those prospects joining him with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.