Rangers: 3 players to watch in pre-season opener

Zac Jones, new york rangers
Apr 23, 2021; New York, New York, USA; Zac Jones #6 of the New York Rangers skates against the Philadelphia Flyers during the first period at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Bennett/POOL PHOTOS-USA TODAY Sports

After a long offseason, the New York Rangers are finally set to play hockey again tonight against the Boston Bruins in the 2023-24 preseason opener. The first group of players slated to hit the ice consists mainly of prospects attempting to show their skills to the organization, but there are a handful of regular NHL players who also have a lot to prove before the regular season begins. The Bruins are coming off an incredible record-setting season, which already puts the Rangers at the front of a tough battle.

Young Rangers’ defenseman will be clawing his way to an NHL roster spot

Following a busy offseason from Rangers’ GM Chris Drury, the Blueshirts’ roster is almost entirely finalized despite not set line combinations just yet. There seems to be only one open spot left, the third left defenseman alongside Braden Schneider.

With a handful of defensemen in the system, such as Ben Harpur and Erik Gustafsson, it will be a competitive pre-season to determine who earns the role. However, there is one young defenseman ready to hit the ice tonight that could finally become a full-time NHL player.

Zac Jones is the Rangers’ top defensive prospect, as he has already played a few games with the Rangers. If any defensive prospect were to have realistic chances at making the hurdle up to the big leagues, it would be Jones. This challenge will not be easy, but Jones will have to hit the ground running with a hot start tonight against the Bruins.

Lafreniere will be tested on the right wing for the first time

Following multiple practices and scrimmages on the right wing, Alexis Lafreniere will finally put this transition to the test against an NHL-caliber team. Lafreniere has stated that he’s confident while playing on the right side, but this will be the first chance to prove his abilities in a position other than his natural left wing.

“I had conversations with him about playing the off-side,” Laviolette said. “He expressed to me that he’s comfortable with that and looks forward to that opportunity. I’m looking forward to giving it to him and seeing what he can do.”

via Yahoo Sports

Lafreniere has a lot to prove to the Rangers this season as he begins his two-year bridge deal. His development has been disappointing for a former first-overall pick, so there is a lot on the table for the potential breakout player. A lack of top-six ice time has been a major contributing factor to this problem, and a change to the right wing seems to be the best possible solution.

Although the line combinations have yet to be released by the Rangers, it is confirmed that Lafreniere will be playing in tonight’s contest. All signs point towards him earning time on the right wing, so it will be interesting to see how he performs for the first time.

Veteran goaltender will begin redemption tour in NY

Ahead of tonight’s pre-season opener, there are currently three goaltenders slated to receive some ice time. Talyn Boys, Louis Domingue, and Jonathan Quick have all been announced to play, letting superstar Igor Shesterkin rest and giving some veterans and prospects some spotlight.

Once again, it is unclear which of the three goaltenders will be starting, but it’s likely that all three will receive a decent amount of playing time throughout the game. Boyko is a young prospect, while Domingue is a decent AHL goalie, but Quick has the most to prove to the Rangers.

Quick has been on a steep statistical decline for the last five or so seasons. Although he has three Stanley Cups to his name and will eventually be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, Quick is at the tail end of his career and must bounce back in order to help the Rangers succeed.

Quick’s recent struggles have not entirely been his fault, as he’s had multiple injuries as well as a few team changes, but he must put those troubles in the past and move forward. Not only will he need to serve as a suitable backup, he must also provide HOF-level insight to an already elite Shesterkin. It will be interesting to see how Quick performs tonight in his first game, repping the Blueshirts’ jerseys.

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