Alas, a new hockey season is here and although the final vestiges of summer are hanging around outside, the ice at Madison Square Garden awaits the 2022-23 Blueshirts and their much-anticipated push to the Stanley Cup playoffs. The Rangers have been conducting a rookie camp this week and the veterans arrive next week. Many of the prospects currently in camp and the returning veterans have compelling story lines building up in anticipation for this season.
Player story lines for 2022-23
Jacob Trouba: Trouba is a solid pick to wear the Rangers “C” on his sweater but that letter C will soon begin to become heavy as the Rangers team fortunes will be intertwined with Trouba’s leadership off and off the ice. Trouba will have to transition into this role and what it entails as he reminds himself nightly of a team captain’s behavior on and off the ice.
Jimmy Vesey: Earning another shot at making the Rangers roster doesn’t necessarily mean he will be on the Rangers this season. Vesey is a familiar commodity and has bounced around the NHL the past few years, never finding a real home. Vesey has a lot to prove and hopefully he can pull through this PTO (professional tryout) and put a Blueshirt back on again. I would not be surprised, however, that he starts the season in Hartford and has to make his way back to MSG the hard way. Stay tuned for this story as it unfolds.
Artemi Panarin: Nearly setting a team record for assists in one season (74) doesn’t automatically buy you a pass in the playoffs as the Breadman struggled a bit. Expect bigger and better things from Panarin this season.
Vincent Trocheck: An off-season acquisition from the Carolina Hurricanes, center Trocheck had the goods in Raleigh for the ‘Canes and looks to bring his talent to New York. If Trocheck and Panarin are teamed up on a line together, watch out – this duo may be the ones sealing the deal on a run to capture Lord Stanley’s Cup this season.
Alexis Lafrenière: Lafrenière will find a way to get as much time on the ice as he can this season but which line is best for his abilities? There’s lots of talk about him playing on the third line and the winger’s ability to move over to left wing. If Lafrenière has a great training camp, the sky may be the limit with his role on the ice this season.
Sammy Blais: Coming off of a major knee injury is never easy in any sport and Blais will be tested quickly to see how that torn ACL has healed up. Chris Drury feels confident enough in Blais to extend his contract and he may be able to win his way back onto the third line but there is definitely more competition in camp this season.
Igor Shesterkin: Enough said. The biggest question for Shesterkin heading into training camp is whether he will repeat as the Vezina Trophy recipient or not this season. As Shesterkin goes, so do the Rangers and based on how well he played last year could be a foreshadowing of even better things for the Blueshirts in the playoffs.
Rangers’ rookies: The jury is still out on the current crop of rookies but top prospect Brennan Othmann will either have to make the roster or he’s going back down to the OHL and spending the season in Flint, MI. Zac Jones and Will Cuylle will be fighting for ice time and small but mighty Bobby Trivigno will have to prove that his small stature isn’t a detriment to his playing ability but his fire and passion more than make up for his size.
Overall, the Rangers are close to their salary cap and have little wiggle room. Chris Drury has done a balancing act by shedding $2.5 million dollars off of Patrik Nemeth’s cap in his trade to the Coyotes. Additionally, if Jimmy Vesey makes the Rangers final roster, his salary will be much lower than that after coming into training camp on a PTO. The Rangers have to walk a financial tightrope this season to stay under the salary cap while still putting together a strong roster to advance far into the postseason.