When most people think of key members of the New York Rangers, names like Henrik Lundqvist, Rick Nash, Ryan Callahan, Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh come to mind.
But what about the likes of Chris Kreider, Dylan McIlrath, JT Miller and Brady Skjei?
Those four are New York’s first-round picks from 2009-12, and widely considered to be cornerstones of the club’s future. Kreider (23 games last year) and Miller (26) have made their marks at the NHL level — Kreider more so, thanks to his stellar 2011-12 playoff run — while McIlrath seems close to making his NHL debut, and Skjei isn’t far away.
“I think I have a legitimate shot,” McIlrath said at July’s prospect camp.
Another prospect is former Habs second-rounder Danny Kristo, acquired in a July trade for Christian Thomas. He’s got “a good chance to fill” the roster holes left by the injured Callahan and Carl Hagelin, according to director of player personnel Gordie Clark.
But will it all pan out?
Under former head coach John Tortorella, it was difficult for those youngsters to get into games (“there are just too many mistakes,” he lamented back in April.) Kreider was a non-factor in 2013 after his postseason breakthrough, and Miller was used sporadically.
Under Vigneault, that might not change.
The new Rangers boss isn’t known as someone that likes youngsters learning on the job. His time in Vancouver was marked by a preference for safe, responsible veterans over talented-but-inexperienced kids.
Cody Hodgson, Michael Grabner and Jordan Schroeder all had issues getting ice time, though those decisions were often made in part by the club’s depth.
In New York, the situation could be similar.
Since hiring Vigneault, the Rangers signed a pair of veteran presences at forward, Dominic Moore and Benoit Pouliot, and added defensive depth in Justin Falk, Danny Syvret and Aaron Johnson.
Considering the Rangers didn’t lose much from last year’s team — the most notable departures were Steve Eminger, Roman Hamrlik, Jeff Halpern and trade deadline pickup Ryane Clowe — it’ll be tough for New York’s kiddie corps to get in the mix.
Especially if they don’t adhere to Vigneault’s preferred style of play.
“I like my teams to play the right way, which is if you have room to make a play, make a play,” he said upon taking the Rangers job. “If you have space and time to carry the puck, carry the puck. If the other team has the gap on you or they’re playing you tight, then sometimes you have to make the high-percentage play and chip those pucks in.
“I really believe in playing the right way both offensively and defensively.”