With the NHL regular season already one week old, the New York Rangers have already seen a bit of what their “kids” can do. Mike York and Kim Johnsson have already earned regular shifts on ice. Johnsson perhaps at this juncture, the Best Rangers back liner. His smooth skating style and soft hands have prompted him to the no.2 unit with Stephane Quintal. Quintal, more of a defensive defenseman, will cover for the often up wandering Johnsson, together making a potentially lethal no.2 unit, offensively and defensively. Mike York has nailed down the no.2 center for the time being. The smallish York has been perhaps New York`s top forward, showing excellent hands and a nose for open ice, somewhat remeniscent of Wayne Gretzky, although no one is comparing him to The Great One. York possesses a team attitude and will to work, something that dogged Marc Savard last year in New York, as his commitment was questioned from time to time by Coach John Muckler.
Other young Rangers Jan Hlavac and countryman Milan Hnilicka have yet to earn sufficient ice time to be fairly judged. Hlavac with the injury to Valeri Kamensky may earn additional ice time in the coming days. Hnilicka will assume the role of back up netminder behind Kirk McLean until Mike Richter resumes play. Hnilicka has proven on an international level, that he can play “the game” but can he play in the NHL? My answer is yes.
In an internet interview courtesy of NHL.com, John Davidson interviewed Rangers General Manager Neil Smith who commented on Rangers prospects, Pavel Brendl and Jamie Lundmark. Brendl`s play-style will not be run from New York. Kelly Kisio and company will control the development of Brendl, however The Rangers will control the nutrition and exercise regimine of Brendl as he will placed on a healthy diet and is under a strengthening program to build his cardio vascular system up as well as his overall physical strength. Brendl has responded to his demotion to the WHL by scoring in each of his first games, including a game winner earlier this week.
Erstwhile, Jamie Lundmark really impressed Rangers` Management. Smith was quoted as saying “if it had not been for the 23 man NHL roster Lundmark would have been with the club”. High remarks for the Rangers no.2 first round pick this year. The undersized Center played NHL worthy hockey but older Mike York played equal to the task and showed to be a bit stronger. Lundmark has a serious shot at a NHL job next season…at 19.
The Hartford Wolf Pack as expected acquired veteran defenseman John Namestnikov who was released by Vancouver after the Canucks signed Ed Jovanovski. In turn the Wolf Pack announced Kevin Colley and David Wilkie would be reassigned, Wilkie probably to an IHL club while Colley was sent to Charlotte of the ECHL. Namestnikov was promised to be picked up if waived by Vancouver, by the Rangers. He will quarterback the Power Play for the Pack and provide veteran leadership, perhaps a cup of coffee later this season if Jason Doig does not develop as expected.
Meanwhile, Alexander Daigle will make his AHL debut for the Pack tonite in Providence, as the Bruins and current Pack player Terry Virtue receive their championship rings. Daigle is slotted to play with tough wingers Chris Kenady and PJ Stock. JF.Labbe will start in goal and will be backed by Jeff Heil who replaced Milan Hnilicka who was recalled by the Rangers.
The Rangers Baby Defense was bolstered with the signing of Namestnikov as he looks to , with the help of veteran Terry Virtue aid in the development of youngsters, Wes Jarvis, Tomas Kloucek and Burke Henry. With the aid of the veterans, the young defense looks very physical and with the experience of Ken Gernander and Todd Hall, the Wolf Pack win the league championship yet.