New York Rangers: What the final cut down means for the season

NEW YORK, NY – JANUARY 16: The New York Rangers salute the crowd after defeating the Philadelphia Flyers 5-1 at Madison Square Garden on January 16, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images)

The New York Rangers are less than a week away from the start of the regular season. The team made its final cuts on Friday afternoon and had a pair of surprises.

After two weeks of training camp that included five preseason games, the New York Rangers have their team for opening night. The final cut down is always a tricky task for the coaching staff being that the preseason is so brief. Are five games in which no player plays more than three a reasonable sample size for player evaluation?

The team’s final cut down reflected a pair of decisions that were forced by the contract situation. Typically, a team does not carry eight defenseman on the roster, but the Rangers have two players that cannot be sent to the AHL without first clearing waivers. Both Tony DeAngelo and Frederik Claesson would need to clear before they could join the Hartford Wolf Pack.

The team opted for the unusual eight defenseman and thirteen forwards instead of the conventional seven and 14. The logic being that since a team has more forwards, it would make sense to have extra forwards.

There were a pair of roster surprises in terms of who made the team and who didn’t.

Close but no cigar

The obvious surprise was Brett Howden making the opening night roster over Lias Andersson. Based on where both players were selected in the draft, it is a genuine shock that the coaching staff and front office elected to go with Howden.

The logic must be that the team expects Howden to be the fourth line center. A role too small for Andersson and one that may ultimately stunt his growth. The Swede would be better served by playing 20 minutes per night in the AHL instead of 14 minutes in the NHL.

In addition, there is an expectation that Andersson is a top six forward in the making. Using a top ten pick as a fourth line center is counter intuitive to the prospect’s development. The type of play of a fourth line center is drastically different from that of a top six center.

It is rather disappointing that Andersson failed to crack the opening night roster for the second straight season. However, the context of the team around him is part of the story. The Rangers simply have three NHL quality centers in Mika Zibanejad, Kevin Hayes and Filip Chytil.

That is just too much for Andersson to have to pass to make the team. Howden playing fourth line center minutes until Boo Nieves is healthy makes plenty of sense.

Notes and analysis

  • Cody McLeod somehow has latched on and will at least be on the roster even if he does not dress
  • To the surprise of no one, Alexandar Georgiev will serve as the backup to Henrik Lundqvist
  • After a strong preseason, Vinni Lettieri earned his roster spot and hopefully gets to play
  • There are no leaders in the clubhouse as to which six defenseman will dress opening

  • If nothing else, David Quinn has these guys ready to play this season

There will be real New York Rangers hockey on Thursday. This summer has been way too long and uneventful. Buckle up, the blue shirts are back.