This article was written by Evan Schnittman, who can be reached at RIPBIH@aol.com. Evan originally wrote the article for his school newspaper, The Thunderbird, at Half Hollow Hills High School East in Dix Hills, New York. With Evan’s permission, I have posted this article here on Hockey’s Future for our readers enjoyment.
Mike Richter – Even if Eric Lindros plays a full season for the first time in his career, any chances of making the playoffs rest on the shoulders of Mike Richter. Richter, thirty-five, will try to comeback from reconstructive knee surgery for the second year in a row. Richter is ahead of schedule, and should start the season with no complications.
Petr Nedved – Petr Nedved is proned for an excellent year. Nedved, who at times had to carry the entire organization on his shoulders, can now slide into the second line center role, which he is more suited for. Nedved will no longer have to face the opposing teams top line, and most the ferocious checkers looking to take him out. Nedved has quietly established himself as an all around center, with underrated defensive and physical abilities. Nedved is the insurance in case Lindros gets hurt. It is safe to say that Lindros will miss games due to injury, as he has never played more than seventy-three games in a season.
Theo Fleury – Theo Fleury is making a comeback from a substance abuse problem, which caused him to miss time at the end of the year in rehab. Fleury was having an excellent season, after his worst in his career in 99-00. Fleury was the Rangers best forward last year until his rehab, scoring goals at even strength, on the penalty kill, and on the power play. Fleury is the Ranger’s best agitator, and should flourish with Lindros as his center.
Vladimir Malakhov – Malakhov played in only three games last year, thus Brian Leetch became overburdened with creating offense for the Rangers. Leetch played over thirty minutes a game last year, and clearly was worn down by the end of the season. A healthy Vladimir Malakhov will take some of the offensive burden off of Leetch, and help reduce his minutes. Malakhov will team with Leetch on the power play, in what should now be a formidable pairing.
Eric Lindros – Lindros was the only marquee talent brought in during the off-season. Lindros must prove that he can transcend the doubts surrounding his health. Fortunately, in his time off, Lindros is coming to the Rangers bigger and stronger than ever. Lindros is the most physically dominating center in the league, and should match up well against the other giants in the eastern conference. Lindros gives the Rangers a top five player in the league, and someone who will draw fans to the seats of Madison Square Garden.
In the System
Jamie Lundmark – With the departure of Pavel Brendl, Lundmark is now the Rangers top prospect. The speedy playmaker has bulked up to 195 pounds. The 6’1″ 195 pound center, is now physically able to compete in the NHL, but will likely start the season off in Hartford because of the logjam at center in New York. Lundmark, who plays a similar game to Steve Yzerman, is a natural goal scorer with excellent leadership qualities.
Dan Blackburn – Blackburn was drafted tenth overall by the Rangers in the 2001 draft. Blackburn, a goaltender, plays a similar style to Curtis Joseph of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Blackburn, 6′ 1″ 190 pounds, takes up a lot of space in the goal. Blackburn is a big game goalie, making the crucial saves when his team needs him the most. Blackburn relies on his quick reflexes and his mental concentration to lead his team to victory.
Filip Novak – Novak was Glen Sather’s first draft pick as the Rangers General Manager. Drafted in the second round by the Rangers in the 2000 draft, Novak has improved tremendously to become one of the Western Hockey Leagues top scoring defenseman. Novak, who like Lundmark had bulked up to 205 pounds, was given the opportunity to make the Rangers this year, but was returned to his junior team. At 6’1″ 205, the questions surrounding Novak’s size have been silenced. Novak is two-way defenseman with a promising offensive upside. Novak joins the rush effectively, and put effort into his defensive responsibilities.
Barret Heisten– Hestien was a teammate of Jamie Lundmark on Seattle of the WHL. Heisten, who was signed in the off-season, is a gritty physical force. An ideal third liner, who plays with heart and toughness, he will start the season in Hartford. Heisten should see time on the power play, as he is an excellent passer.
Fedor Tyutin – Tyutin was the Rangers second round pick of the 2001 draft. The 6’3″ 202 pound defenseman from Russia plays a defensive game. While Tyutin is not as physical as Tomas Kloucek, he will get his fair share of hits. Tyutin relies on his speed and his instincts. Tyutin is very good at making the outlet pass, which comprises his offensive upside. Considered a steal in the second round, he will come to North America to play junior hockey.