The New York Rangers will most likely start the first few weeks, possibly the entire first month of the season, without their captain Ryan Callahan and winger Carl Hagelin.
With the Rangers starting this upcoming season with a brutal nine-game road trip due to the renovations of Madison Square Garden, aka the home of the Rangers, players will have to step up in Callahan and Hagelin’s absence.
And I don’t just mean veterans. Rookies can play a huge part in October, 2013 for the Rangers with two of these youngsters possibly being the Swedes, Jesper Fast and Oscar Lindberg.
Fast, a right winger, is indeed a fast skater (no pun intended) and has the ability to put the puck in the net. In the NHL, especially for the Rangers, secondary scoring is a necessity.
In 48 games last season in Sweden and with the Rangers’ AHL team the Connecticut Whale, Fast recorded 18 goals and 17 assists. If Fast consistently plays like he did last season and continues to improve year by year, being that he is only 21 years old, the Rangers could have a future 20-30 goal scorer per year on their hands.
Lindberg, a center, is supposedly a great two way player and actually wins face-offs. He can be a much needed asset at the center position for the Rangers in the future and maybe even now depending on what he does in training camp.
In 55 games last season, all in Sweden, Lindberg tallied 17 goals and 25 assists. He’s definitely center material I would say by those stats, having a good number of goals with more helpers. Maybe a Swedish Derek Stepan? That would be amazing, but unfortunately it is still way too early to even think about that.
So Lindberg and Fast are both 21 years of age and have a lot of upside, but will both of them, one of them, or none of them make the Blueshirts’ opening night roster this season?
If I had to take an educated guess I would say most likely neither of them make the opening night roster, but if I had to choose one then I would say Lindberg has the better chance.
Let me explain why.
The reason why I said both of them probably will not make the team on opening night are because both Lindberg and Fast are not used to playing in NHL sized rinks. It might not sound like a big deal, but it actually is.
The European style rinks are much wider and it helps tremendously with avoiding hits. Because of this there is less of a need to be physical, but in the NHL that is just a great way to get killed. Rangers new assistant coach Ulf Samuelsson even said recently that both Fast and Lindberg will probably start the season playing in the AHL to get used to the rink size and adjusting to the North American style of play.
Now the reason why I said Lindberg has the better chance to make the Rangers on opening night over Fast is all because of his position. Every year it seems the Rangers struggle immensely at winning face-offs, and when you lose them consistently then you lose a lot of puck possession time; most of the time the team that loses the game is the team that had the puck less. Lindberg being a good two way player and good in the face-off circle should help change that. Plus you can move a center like Brian Boyle to the wing (who has shown in the past that he is a better offensive player from that position and should make new head coach Alain Vigneault smile) to leave the center slot open for Lindberg.
All in all, no matter if one of them, both, or none make the Rangers’ opening night roster, both Fast and Lindberg have promising young careers ahead of them. That is why both of them should be in Rangers uniforms sooner rather than later.