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The 2022 New York Rangers training camp is officially complete, and the Rangers begin their season on Tuesday, October 11th against the Tampa Bay Lightning. With training camp complete, let’s look at five takeaways from the Rangers preseason expeditions.
Takeaway 1: Jimmy Vesey’s Return
In classic New York Rangers fashion, Jimmy Vesey has returned to the New York Rangers after securing a contract whilst on a professional try-out (PTO). While Jimmy Vesey’s reunion with the Rangers seemed to be somewhat of a surprise to most Ranger fans at first, he has done more than enough to earn him a roster spot. A goal and two assists in his first two games seemed to cement his place in the roster almost immediately, and for good reason. Vesey’s play has improved greatly since his original stint with the team, and his deployment as a player that can play on the first or the fourth line will come incredibly useful when the injury bug inevitably hits.
Jimmy Vesey can be deployed as a first or second line winger, but with that said, he should be in the lineup as a 3rd or 4th line player. If Jimmy Vesey is in the top-6, then that could mean one of two things: the injury bug has hit the Rangers, or there is something seriously wrong with the chemistry in the Rangers’ lineup. Regardless, Vesey is another piece of organizational depth at the Rangers disposal, and at a cheap price as well.
Takeaway 2: The Kid Line
The kid line seems to be keeping up their chemistry from last season. Kaapo Kakko, Filip Chytil, and Alexis Lafrenière seem to have an additional confidence gained from their Stanley Cup run. Throughout the preseason, this line was the Rangers most notable, as they seemed to always have control of the puck in the offensive zone. Kakko specifically has shown the most growth, as his decision making was greatly improved. Whenever he has the puck, he always seemed to make the smart pass, and never put the puck into the other teams’ hands. Additionally, his shot seems to have improved greatly compared to the last couple years, and, so far, he is playing up to his 2nd overall potential.
Chytil as well has shown growth, as the control he exudes on the puck, as well as his ability to enter the zone with the puck on his stick as opposed to the dump and chase method flaunts the skillset that got Chytil drafted in the first round way back when in 2017. Additionally, his ability to drive the play of his line as well the natural chemistry he has developed with his linemates Kakko and Lafrenière indicates that Chytil is poised for a breakout season, although Rangers general manager Chris Drury would like to keep the young centerman.
Lastly, look to a breakout season from Alexis Lafrenière. The former first overall pick, like his peers, gained expertise and confidence in their 2022 playoff run. With increased time on the powerplay as well as (hopefully) increased deployment, Alexis Lafrenière will be looking considerably more dangerous on the scoresheet this season.
Takeaway 3: Zac Jones and the Bottom Pairing
To the cheers of many-a Ranger fan, Zac Jones has made the opening night roster playing alongside Braden Schneider. Jones, who I mentioned in detail in my Ranger lineup overview, was given every opportunity to succeed in training camp, and did just that. Scoring a goal in four preseason games, Jones may not have excelled on the scoresheet, but showed enough prowess on the defensive end to gain the trust of the Rangers coaching staff. While he’s still getting acclimated to the systems in place as well as the pace of the NHL, he will be given a complete opportunity alongside Braden Schneider.
Speaking of Schneider, who had just changed his number today, looks for an improved sophomore year alongside a more skilled partner in Jones. No shade to Patrik Nemeth, but he seems to drain the offense out of his partners as he did with Nils Lundkvist during his short stint with the Rangers. Look for an improved season from Schneider alongside a stronger defensive partner in Jones.
Takeaway 4: Vitali Kravtsov
When Vitali Kravtsov announced that he would be returning to the Rangers, many Rangers fans, including myself, were excited. However in his preseason stint with the team, he’s looked rather pedestrian. He scored no goals, and only notched one secondary assist on an Artemi Panarin goal. Speaking of, Panarin is seemingly insistent that Kravtsov remain on his line, as he is his only fellow countryman on the Rangers offensive core. Whether or not Kravtsov is able to adjust to the American game, time will tell, but so far his camp has been rather disappointing.
Despite his disappointing camp, Kravtsov will be given every opportunity to succeed. He seems almost stapled to Artemi Panarin’s opposite wing, and having Panarin as a mentor is certainly a good thing for his development. Hopefully Kravtsov is able to develop his game in a manner similar to Panarin, and the Rangers will be able to reap the rewards of the former 2018 first round pick.
Takeaway 5: Artemi Panarin and Vinny Trocheck
When Ryan Strome was still a member of the Rangers, he was more or less the scapegoat on the Rangers offense. Missing open nets was his forte, and yet his chemistry with Artemi Panarin revitalized his career. They were almost as inseparable as Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider, and yet, this offseason saw Strome take his talents to Southern California. The Rangers were then in the market for a 2C, and with Andrew Copp leaving the Rangers for the Detroit Red Wings, they sought out Vincent Trocheck to fill that 2C role.
Taking Strome’s old number 16, the Rangers were hoping that the chemistry with the numbers would translate from Strome to Trocheck. Unfortunately, in the preseason at least, the two have not yet seemed to gel. With the emergence of Filip Chytil as a star player, the clock is already ticking on Trocheck’s seven year contract, which many Rangers fans seemed hesitant to support when it was signed. If the line of Panarin, Trocheck, and Kravtsov can find their chemistry as the season starts, then there is not much to worry about. But if the season reaches December, and that line is already broken up, then there might be some concern amongst Ranger fans.
The Final Lineup
As the sun rises on the Rangers 2022-23 season, let’s take a look at how their opening night roster might look.
Kreider – Zib – Kakko
Panarin – Trocheck – Kravtsov
Laf – Chytil – Goodrow
Vesey – Carpenter – Reaves
Lindgren – Fox
Miller – Trouba
Jones – Schneider