The New York Rangers brought in a handful of fresh faces this past offseason to bolster the lineup in their quest for the Stanley Cup. Many of these acquisitions have proven to be perfect fits, with Jonathan Quick and Erik Gustafsson taking most of the spotlight. But there has been one key addition to the roster, one that came from within the Blueshirts’ system, that deserves more recognition.
Will Cuylle was brought onto the Rangers as a rookie following an incredible training camp performance. He defied the odds and earned the call-up ahead of many other star prospects, and he’s shown through the first 27 games of the season that this he the right choice.
The Rangers have found the physicality they were lacking with Cuylle
One of the Blueshirts’ main areas of concern heading into the season was a lack of strength and physicality. The 2022-23 playoffs exploited this weakness, as a star-studded roster filled with silk hands was decimated by the New Jersey Devils. They needed to get bigger and grittier, which is exactly what Cuylle provides to the Rangers.
In the first 27 games of the season, Cuylle has recorded a massive total of 73 hits. Considering that his average time on ice per game is just over 11:30, it’s hard to deny that he’s been a brute force practically every second that he is playing. He’s been one of the better defensive forwards for the Rangers as well, as Cuylle provides solid depth in their own zone.
Cuylle isn’t afraid to hop on the score sheet either
Whereas most power forwards focus all of their game on defense and physicality, Cuylle has managed to add an underrated offensive touch to his game. He has seven points in 27 games this season, which isn’t spectacular, but he’s acquired these points on a third line that isn’t constructed to apply much offensive pressure.
Ever since Kaapo Kakko and Filip Chytil went down with injuries, Cuylle has been playing alongside Nick Bonino and a combination of Blake Wheeler/Jonny Brodzinski. This is a defensively built line not at full strength, but Cuylle still finds ways to score when the Rangers need him to most.
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Cuylle was the right choice to call up
Back before the season began, there was a hot debate over which rookie the Rangers should call up to the NHL. It appeared that Brennan Othmann was next in line as the most skilled, but it was hard to deny the stellar performance that Cuylle was putting on each day as camp progressed.
Cuylle was easily the right choice over Othmann this season. The only open spot was a bottom-six role, and Othmann’s offensive potential would have been wasted on the third line. He needs a top-six spot, and although some have opened due to injuries this season, the Rangers are opting to let him develop for a full season down in the AHL.
With both forwards finding success in their respective leagues, it is now confirmed that the Rangers did not make a mistake in calling Cuylle up. He may not have the flashiest play style and isn’t in the headlines as often as Quick or Gustafsson, but he’s been a key addition that has largely contributed to the overall success of the Blueshirts this season.