With the offseason coming to a close, the New York Rangers are gearing up for this year’s training camp. Not only will prospects have the opportunity to plead their case for an NHL roster spot, but full-time Rangers players will be warming up for another season and trying to earn more significant positions. The Rangers’ lineup seems mostly solidified, however, there are still opportunities for players to earn more playing time during training camp.
The Rangers’ 2C may not be locked up just yet
After signing Vincent Trocheck to a massive seven-year deal last year, it seemed as if the Rangers’ top two centers had been solidified for the foreseeable future. Mika Zibanejad would remain as the top center, with Trocheck right behind him on the second line. After his first season with the Rangers, Trocheck did not disappoint by any means, but there is another young star in the midst of a breakout who is also looking for more minutes.
Filip Chytil’s emergence as an elite player began in the 2022 postseason when he and the kid line propelled the Rangers deep into the tournament. This breakout continued throughout the 2022-23 season, as Chytil notched 45 points in 74 games, scoring a career-high in every point category. If this upcoming season goes as expected for Chytil, it’s likely that the young center will tally even higher career numbers in a further breakout campaign.
Although Trocheck is currently slotted as the Rangers’ current 2C, there is a chance that Chytil may spend significant time in that role this season. Depending on his performance throughout training camp, HC Peter Laviolette may make adjustments if he feels that Chytil would benefit the Rangers with more ice time in a more prominent role.
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Lafreniere has the chance to prove his worth
Now that the Rangers have officially re-signed Alexis Lafreniere to a two-year extension, the clock has begun ticking for the former first-overall pick to prove himself. Lafreniere has been somewhat underwhelming throughout his first three NHL seasons, but now is the time to show that he has the capability of succeeding in the big leagues.
The main factor that has held Lafreniere back is his lack of ice time. Throughout his career, the kid has been buried down in the bottom six, never having a full-time opportunity to shine. In the 2022-23 season, Lafreniere only averaged just over 15 minutes of playing time per game. With this new deal, Lafreniere should hopefully be able to earn a top-six role.
“Statistically, Lafrenière has averaged the least amount of ice time (14:25) by first overall picks between 2010-2020, losing out to Yakupov (14:51) and Hischier (17:23) at the bottom of the list. Considering the average ice time for these ten players is 18:17, the Rangers left winger is skating about four minutes less per game than his peers, consisting mainly of forwards.”via Forever Blueshirts
If Lafreniere thrives during training camp, it’s possible that Laviolette could shift him over to the right side and slot him in as the second-line right winger. That position is currently being held by newly signed Blake Wheeler, but it’s possible that a switch could be made.
Both Rangers fans and the organization want to see Lafreniere break out and succeed, but that would require him to receive more minutes. With a successful training camp, hopefully, Lafreniere can continue to excel through pre-season and straight into opening night in the top six.