The New York Rangers announced their their first batch of cuts Saturday afternoon, assigning a 21 to their AHL affiliate and seven to Juniors. With the first-round of cuts complete, the Blueshirts have 35 players left in training camp. The beat reporters universally agree that the Rangers will bring 33 players to Europe, which they will travel to for four games after they play Philadelphia on Monday.
The full list of the cuts are below, but let's first discuss some of the more shocking demotions and the more eye-opening players who will stick around.
With the state of the Rangers' defense, cutting 23-year-old Pavel Valentenko reveals that the organization believes he's taken a step back this training camp. Last year, he had 17 points in 79 games, but with a big shot and physical presence, he nearly had a chance to make the team after last year's camp. He had a very underwhelming game against the Devils on Friday night, which certainly played into this decision. He has to clear waivers to be assigned to the Connecticut Whale, and I'd think a team would take a chance on him.
Christian Thomas was sent back to his Juniors team. Not that I expected him to make the final roster, but the reviews on him have been glowing and I at least thought he'd stick around for a few more days for the experience. Chad Johnson and Cam Talbot were also sent to the AHL, but that's moreso to get consistent experience, which they wouldn't with the Rangers (they can bring three goalies to Europe).
The nicest surprise player still in camp is 2010 first-round defenseman Dylan McIlrath. He looked more comfortable as the first preseason game went on, throwing some mean hits along the way. Since he's still only 19 years old, he's liikely staying just to gain valuable experience.
The Rangers kept 11 defensemen in camp (including Marc Staal). If Staal's post-concussion symptoms linger, there's a real chance here for guys like Brendan Bell, Stu Bickel, Michael Del Zotto and Blake Parlett to make their case. Del Zotto would had a better game Friday, and would be the surest to make the team out of this bunch, but needs to sustain a simple game and not look so afraid all the time.
Out of the forwards the Rangers kept around, youngsters Ryan Bourque, Dale Weise and Carl Hagelin figure to have the best chances of claiming the last spot on the roster, but with the camp Mats Zuccarello has had, it look sto be tough. That's why there's the rest of the preseason to make such a decision. Erik Christensen looks to be an odd-man out, with Sean Avery as well, though he could serve as an extra forward on the roster.
First cut list below:
PLAYERS ASSIGNED TO CONNECTICUT (AHL):
Goalies: Chad Johnson, Jason Missiaen, Cameron Talbot
Defensemen: Lee Baldwin, Collin Bowman, Sam Klassen, Tomas Kundratek, Jyri Niemi, Jared Nightingale, Pavel Valentenko
Forwards: Jonathan Audy-Marchessault, Tommy Grant, Jordan Hickmott, Tayler Jordan, Kale Kerbashian, Chad Kolarik, Chris McKelvie, Matt Rust, Scott Tanski, Kelsey Tessier, Jason Wilson
PLAYERS RETURNED TO JUNIORS:
Defensemen: Peter Ceresnak (Peterborough, OHL), Samuel Noreau (Baie-Comeau, QMJHL)
Forwards: Shane McColgan (Kelowna, WHL), J.T. Miller (Plymouth, OHL), Michael St. Croix (Edmonton, WHL), Christian Thomas (Oshawa, OHL), Andrew Yogan (Peterborough, OHL)
PLAYERS STILL IN RANGERS' CAMP:
Goalies: Martin Biron, Henrik Lundqvist, Scott Stajcer
Defensemen: Brendan Bell, Stu Bickel, Michael Del Zotto, Steve Eminger, Tim Erixon, Dan Girardi, Ryan McDonagh, Dylan McIlrath, Blake Parlett, Michael Sauer, Marc Staal
Forwards: Artem Anisimov, Sean Avery, Ryan Bourque, Brian Boyle, Ryan Callahan, Erik Christensen, Andre Deveaux, Brandon Dubinsky, Ruslan Fedotenko, Marian Gaborik, Carl Hagelin, John Mitchell, Kris Newbury, Brandon Prust, Brad Richards, Mike Rupp, Derek Stepan, Andreas Thuresson, Dale Weise, Wojtek Wolski, Mats Zuccarello