The NHL has formally announced its plan to resume play of the 2019-20 NHL season, all of which included a new 24-team playoff format.
In lieu of playing out the rest of the regular season, seeds 5-12 in both conferences will participate in a play-in round in order to advance to the ‘first-round’ of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. These series are best of five and use regular-season overtime/shootout rules.
The Rangers are seventh in the Metropolitan Division and are the 11th seed in the format. Assuming everything runs according to plan, they will take on the 6th seed Carolina Hurricanes.
It has been noted that all teams included in the playoffs this year will be able to expand their rosters from 23 to 28 players, and carry as many goaltenders as they want/need.
This has brought up a few questions within the Rangers’ fanbase: who are the candidates to be added to the playoffs roster?
Vinni Lettieri // F
Lettieri was unable to crack an NHL roster this year, but had a solid season in Hartford, putting up 25 goals and 47 points in 61 games. He led the Wolfpack in both goals and points, and he also took Igor Shesterkin’s place in the 2020 AHL All-Star game in Ontario. Lettieri could provide some depth at the center and get his first experience in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Libor Hajek // D
Hajek had a rough go in the NHL this year, playing less than 30 games before suffering a knee injury in early December. After returning from injury, he was quickly demoted back to the AHL, where he registered 3 points in 23 games.
Hajek has more NHL experience than any other defensemen currently in Hartford, which is why he could have a shot at cracking a spot in the expanded lineup.
Vitali Kravtsov // F
The player I’m sure most Rangers fans want on the roster is Kravtsov, who registered 15 points in 39 total AHL games, those games sandwiching in a partial season in the KHL. Kravtsov should definitely be considered as an addition to the roster.
These play-in games will be packed with intensity and also provide Kravstov with some NHL experience, hopefully readying him for next season as well.
Darren Radysh // D
Radysh definitely impressed in his first full season with the Wolfpack, putting up 28 points in 62 games on the back end. He also was second on the team in +/- with a +12.
Radysh could provide some depth on defense, particularly on the right side.
Steven Fogarty // F
Fogarty served as captain for the Wolf Pack, accumulating 13 goals and 37 points in 54 games.
He played 7 games in the NHL this season, failing to register a point. Fogarty is a gritty forward that has NHL experience under his belt and could provide more forward depth, which the Rangers could use in the tough competition that is the playoffs.
Boo Nieves // F
Nieves tallied 27 points in Hartford this season, yet only managed 5 goals. He played in 4 NHL games this season. However, Nieves has more NHL experience than anyone on the Wolf Pack, having played in 76 games and registering 19 points.
Nieves could definitely be an option as a fourth-line center in the case of injury or poor performance.
Yegor Rykov // D
Rykov underperformed in Hartford this year, but he could possibly be an option for the training camp before the playoffs. He registered 11 points in 27 games and is a big-bodied defenseman at 6’2”, 210 pounds. The Rangers are not as strong on the left side (currently), following the trade of Brady Skjei, so Rykov could be an option for depth. However, I think he is a less likely candidate, and would not get much playing time at all if he were to make the expanded roster.
Though we might not see the puck drop on the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs until August, it’s interesting to think about what the Rangers lineup could potentially look like with the roster expansion.
There are many players on the Wolf Pack that are ready to prove themselves to the organization, and these playoffs may be the chance for them to do so.
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