*Appeared in One Game or More 99-00
Mike Richter*(Injured sidelined for part of camp)
With Mike Richter`s knee not yet 100% healed J.F.Labbe will likely back-up Kirk McLean to start the season. Outside Shot to Johan Holmqvist and Vitali Yeremeyev. This is the Rangers strongest position. Just a note…many NHL scouts will be in Hartford to see the Rangers prospects between the pipes.
For this year it has to be J.F.Labbe a most dominant AHL goalie. With the recovering Mike Richter on the mend, Labbe may actually get to appear in a couple games. He has lightning fast reflexes and can be a reliable NHL goalie.
Mike Mottau(On Try Out Basis, W/O Contract)
With Leetch, Lefebvre, Johnsson, Quintal, and Malakhov as the “Big 5” the remaining regular position, or no.6 will likely be a battle between Mottau(If signed), Purinton(maybe moved to wing to Compliment McCarthy), Vasiliev, Doig(tremendous upside offensively for a big man), Bannister, Pilon and Kloucek. Sather may keep a no.7 to start the season as this practice is common. If so…Pilon if not waived or released and has a strong camp will be the no.6 and the rest will battle for the no.7 spot.
On the outside looking in are behemoth Wes Jarvis, Burke Henry and David Wilkie(NHL experience via Montreal, TB). With 2 possible spots available to start the season this could be the most interesting position to watch. The Rangers defense has grown with Pilon, Lefebvre, Malakhov, and Quintal all 200lbs plus and Purinton, Jarvis, Doig in competition in that same catagory this is one position where the Rangers may realize a true physical presence for the first time in recent memory.
Dale Purinton in a toss up between himself and the new Eric Cairns, Wes Jarvis. Purinton may have to focus more on his defensive skills as Sandy McCarthy has been given the NHL tough guy job. Purinton however brings enough skill that may allow him to stick as a winger if McCarthy goes down and the no.7 emergency defender. His personality is one that the Rangers`faithful will flock to.
Graves, Hlavac and Kamensky and locks… Eric Lacroix showed much heart and a decent physical presence last season. All hopes are for him to regain his scoring touch he showed in Colorado and to an extent Los Angeles. It would be a nice suprise to squeeze 15 goals and 35 points out of a no.4 winger. On the outside looking in are Pavel Brendl, Todd Hall and monster Evgeny Gusakov with Brendl likely to earn the last spot. With the jury out on Kamensky and how Capt.Messier feels about him a move may be made if Brendl impresses. Daniel Goneau is on his last shot… the former top prospect has fallen aside from the the pack lead by Brendl, Lundmark and others… this will be his last chance with the Rangers, he may impress enough to get another look but it is not likely.
Todd Hall. The versatile 215 pounder from Hamden, Connecticut plays both Wing and Defense. He bangs and works hard along the board. Not a prolific scorer in the AHL he could bring some decent numbers to the NHL with his style.
All big four positions on Ron Low`s 4 line system are spoken for. The only thing that could happen and probably will is hard working Tim Taylor again finds the injury bug. Taylor can score 20 with a regular shift but he has begun to hone his skills on the defensive “Jan Erixon” side of the game. Manny Malhotra will have to beat out someone and who that is, is truly up to the heavens. He will likely see the season in Hartford.
Many… to name one I would have to say Derek Armstrong who is sooooo deserving on a NHL shot. Armstrong has seen time on the Island and in Ottawa as well as New York but he just keeps getting better at the AHL level. Problem is… no free seats on the bus nor can he play as a checking forward. Best opportunity… trade or waivers.
Sandy McCarthy*(TRADE CARO.)
Sandy Moger (Injured Will Not Attend)
Johan Witehall* (Resigned 9.7.2000)
Without question Fleury has to rebound from his less that poor season. Enough comment on him. Dvorak and MacLean(unless exposed in waiver draft)are locks while Dawe, McCarthy(99% lock) will battle for ice time. In the odd game Dawe, Witehall will battle with Smyth deserving a shot. All eyes will be on Stefan Cherneski and his knees. Sandy Moger invited to camp was injured in an accident and the 31 year old mostly center will not attend the start of camp.
Johan Witehall, the flying Swede has excellent hands a knack for finding the net and working harder than everyone. His just under 200 frame allows him to bang and create open ice. Witehall has not been alotted the right ice time under Muckler and hopefully Sather/Low will see his potential and let him loose. If John MacLean starts slow look for him to be dumped or unprotected in the waiver draft but his high salary may keep others from taking a shot. Witehall has the potential to be a 25-30 scorer if not ruined by the NY system of letting over priced players in their social security years have all the ice time.
As mentioned in the header there are few spots available. The first 3 lines are set With Messier-Graves and Fleury, followed by Nedved-Hlavac-Dvorak and York,MacLean and Kamensky. The 4th line features a battle between Taylor, Lundmark, Malhotra for the center spot with McCarthy, LaCroix, Brendl and Witehall for wing ice time. A suprise maybe feisty Jeff Ulmer or Brandon Deitrich. Defense will remain similar to last season with the exception of the Schneider loss and the add of Malakhov and the loss of Kevin Hatcher. Goaltending is set with the minor exception being the recovery period of Mike Richter thus giving some bench time to Labbe or Yeremeyev or even Holmqvist.
Until Later, I look forward to your comments…