The New York Rangers have officially made their first round of cuts and trimmed the training camp roster from 63 to 28 players. The entire list of cuts can be viewed here. There were not any truly shocking decisions made by John Tortorella and the rest of the staff. There are a few players of note to be cut and to stay on the roster, however. Let’s highlight a few of them.
Pavel Valentenko- Is Pavel Valentenko this year’s Michael Sauer? Two seasons ago Michael Sauer was expected to be a main contender for a spot on the Rangers blue line only to be an early cut by John Tortorella. While the battle for spots on defense is not as wide open as it was then, Pavel Valentenko was a guy who many people believe could be NHL ready and anticipated that he’d get a long look, if not make the team altogether. There is speculation that Valentenko might return to Russia instead of reporting to the AHL. Valentenko also has to clear waivers. So we’ll have to see what transpires.
Christian Thomas- If Valentenko is the new Sauer then Christian Thomas is the new Evgeny Grachev. And I don’t mean that as a critique of him. Like Grachev, many people saw great performances in the OHL from Thomas and immediately hyped him up to be something he is not. Despite what many people thought, Thomas was never really in the picture this season. He has a lot of work to do on his game and definitely needs seasoning before getting a legitimate look at earning a spot in the NHL. That being said, his stock has not decreased, even though I’m sure a lot of people will be jumping off the bandwagon now.
J.T. Miller- Miller was very impressive in Traverse City and also in training camp. One could easily justify keeping him through the first round of cuts, because he would have earned it. However, I think the Rangers realize that they have a lot more forwards than they need as it stands so it’s not really worth keeping him around when just to get cut in a few days. Miller could be an NHL player as early as next season.
Notable Remaining Players
Dylan McIlrath- McIlrath clearly did a lot of work this summer because he’s a noticeably better player now than he was at the end of last season. He’s improved in basically every facet of the game; skating, defensive positioning, strength, passing, and poise. He’s still raw and likely could use one more year in the WHL, but McIlrath has surpassed my expectations and I don’t think traveling with the team to Europe is out of the question.
Scott Stajcer- Cam Talbot and Chad Johnson are the more experienced goaltenders and were fine in preseason play. And yet it isScott Stajcer who is the only goaltender outside of Biron and Lundqvist remaining in camp. What are the reasons for this? Are they trying to still evaluate him to figure out whether to send him back to Juniors for an overage year instead of the AHL? Are they trying to put him on display as trade bait? Or do they simply think he’s the third best goaltender we have in the organization? Whatever the case may be, it likely signals progress for a guy who was not even a lock to be signed to a contract 6 months ago.
Blake Parlett- I think that Parlett surviving the first round of cuts was a given, but I think it’s just worth pointing out how quickly he has put himself on the map. At this point last season he was owned by no NHL team and was preparing for his first professional season in the ECHL. Now he’s surpassed Valentenko, Kundratek, and Niemi on the depth chart and will likely travel with the team to Europe. That’s incredibly quick progression.