We’re inside a week until the regular season begins on Friday, and head coach John Tortorella and company have trimmed the roster down to just 25 players, one more than the 24 required for the roster.
Tim Erixon, Blake Parlett, Ryan Bourque, Carl Hagelin, John Mitchell, Kris Newbury and Dale Weise were all sent back to the Connecticut Whale (AHL), and defenseman Dylan McIlrath was returned to his WHL team, Moose Jaw.
According to Andrew Gross at Rangers Rants, Tortorella wants to keep 13 forwards on the roster, so the final spot up-front will be between Sean Avery and Erik Christensen. The Rangers have decided to keep both Brendan Bell and Stu Bickel around on the back-end, obviously due to the question marks surrounding both Marc Staal and Michael Sauer.
“I thought all guys that were sent down have had good camps,” Tortorella said. “It’s encouraging to me to think we added to depth. As far as forwards I’d still rather carry one, I’d like to just carry 13. I’m not sure who the 13th forward is. Erik and Sean are battling for that spot.” He said both Hagelin and Bourque will benefit more from playing in the minors rather than playing every fourth or fifth game with the big club. Expect those two to be apart of the first-round of call ups once injuries rear their head.
The problem with sending Weise back to the AHL is that he must pass through waivers, which isn’t a guarantee. “I’m not sure what the rules are,” Tortorella say. “If somebody picks him up, good for him. He wants to play in the NHL. We think he will play in the NHL.”
“I thought [Erixon] played his best game last night [against Frolunda], then again, he could be used to the bigger building,” Tortorella said of Erixon’s camp. “I think he has a bright future. Taking time and space, that’s something we stress with him. He’s got to get used to the small buildings. He had a good camp, he improved each day.” He added it is a similar situation as Ryan McDonagh last year, who began the season with the Whale before being called up mid-season.
The final spot on the roster has got to go to Avery, even though Christensen scored a goal last night. Avery has showed his importance to the team, both in terms of forechecking and grit, as well as agitating the opposition and drawing penalties. Whether you like him or not, that is still a big part of his game that is still productive.
Christensen has showed he doesn’t play with enough consistency to stay in the NHL. He showed it with his three previous organizations as well. He’s inconsistent being in the lineup everyday, imagine him playing every fifth game?
On defense, I’m not shocked that Erixon was sent to the AHL. It worked last year with McDonagh, and he definitely benefited more from the time in Connecticut. Also, I was more pro-Michael Del Zotto making this team because the team could benefit more from his offensive upside. Better to keep Bickel and Bell on the team as spare parts on defense rather than a younger player who will benefit from playing on a regular basis.