With each passing day the Rangers team continues to mould itself into a finer well oiled machine, one that looks to be without 1st round selections Pavel Brendl and Jamie Lundmark. Brendl has been less than impressive of late due to his conditioning or lack of. His skating needs work as it appears he is NOT ready for NHL action. During the Rangers latest day of practice Captain Brian Leetch had Brendl lead the skating group in laps. Veteran Kevin Stevens started a group chant that included “come on Pavel, you can do it…”. It seems as the one time roster lock has just about had his bags packed and is headed back to the Western League and Calgary Hitmen for an encore. Many outside of the Rangers management believe that Brendl can still score 15-20 goals at the NHL level this year if he is given the proper amount of ice time but not under John Muckler`s system. With Brendl just about out of the running one has to wonder about the draft day trade that sent a first rounder as well as up and comer Daniel Cloutier and Niklas Sundstrøm to Tampa. The positive is Brendl can learn from his first NHL camp and flourish in the WHL and hone his skills for the 2000-01 season in NYC and open a spot on the wing allowing Mike Knuble to gain more ice time as he has deserved with a strong pre-season.
Erstwhile Jamie Lundmark has been most impressive and looks most ready for the NHL although his size(strength) has been his downfall. Another year of Juniors and an NHL strength training regimen could very solve this problem.
Otherwise rookie Mike York looks to be a lock with his cutting and strong passing style. York has been rumored to be already assured of a power play spot and the 3rd line ahead of recovering Tim Taylor. York has been superb so far in the pre-season.
The Jan Hlavac nicknamed “Yawn” look continues…with only one assist some doubt Neil Smith`s commentary on “a budding star” and the loss of small but talented Marc Savard for the quiet Hlavac. Hlavac lead the Czech.League in goal scoring with 33 during the 1998-99 season. He has played well, but not brilliantly but looks to be in the no.1 or 2 wing spot as he has shown strong moves and hands during the pre-season.
Manny Malhotra has struggled as of late due to his pressing style. He knows the Rangers have the no.2 center spot open but he has been pushing and pushing to hard. He has not been playing relaxed hockey and as a result has been struggling. There is a question mark as to where he may fall, it looks as though unless there is a deal made before the season he will be the no.2.
On defense Kim Johnsson has all but locked up the no.2 pair with Stephane Quintal. As of now the pairings are Brian Leetch-Sylvain Lefebvre, Stephane Quintal- Kim Johnsson, Matthieu Schneider- Peter Popovic. The no.7 spot is open, impressive rookie Tomas Kloucek was sent down to Hartford while Burke Henry was recalled for another look. Jason Doig is on the bubble as much as anyone could be.
Recent holdout signee P.J.Stock was sent to Hartford with Derek Armstrong. Armstrong had a solid camp and could be one of the first season recalls if trouble hits the Garden. Daniel Goneau and Rumun Ndur continue their holdouts and they look to be on their way out of Rangers Red, White and Blue. Neil Smith was contacted by Quebec(AHL) about a deal for the French Canadian Goneau but the offer would need to be sweetened if anything would happen. Rumun Ndur looks to be this years Eric Cairns and may have held his way out of the NHL. J.F.Labbe was sent to Hartford after an impressive camp as rookie Czech. World Championship Star Milan Hnilika stays in New York as the number 3 for now. He knows he has to wait and see as the newly signed Free Agent Kirk McLean has a big contract and this means ice time. It appears as though the Rangers staff really did not know how good the Czech. goalie was before signing Captain Kirk to a two year deal.
Ulf Samuelsson was at MSG watching the Rangers pre-season game vs New Jersey. Ulfie may just yet return to NY as the Rangers search for a number 7 continues. Former Ranger Chris O`sullivan was sent down to Syracuse by Vancouver and Marc Savard has impressed in Calgary.