The NHL season kicks off tomorrow night, and the Rangers get under way a day later when they host the New York Islanders at MSG. With a final practice yesterday, the team made their decisions and settled on the 22 players who will be on the roster to begin the season.
Among those 22 players is 2018 1st round draft pick K'Andre Miller, who looks set to make his professional debut along side the Rangers' highest paid defenseman: Jacob Trouba. The young defender has drawn rave reviews throughout camp, though his rise to prominence has still been a little surprising, not least of all because the coaching staff had begun the pre-season period by moving Tony DeAngelo from his natural right over to the left side.
As it turns out that experiment didn't last long, and the plan changed.
The rise of Miller means that Brendan Smith will be forced out of the line-up, rather than retaining the position he claimed last year due to lack of other viable options.
In the forward ranks, fellow rookie Morgan Barron was unable to press his case and looks destined to either start the year on the taxi squad or in Hartford. Head Coach David Quinn noted that Barron looked nervous in his first pro camp, though he expected he'll see him again this year.
Perhaps the only other modest surprise is that Philip Di Giuseppe made it onto the roster as the fourth line right wing. With Barron not being able to convert his opportunity this time round, it really came down to which veteran forward the coaching staff would gravitate towards. Kevin Rooney will remain as the 13th forward at this stage, with Brett Howden and Di Giuseppe joining Brendan Lemieux. Colin Blackwell, perhaps another consideration, will likely start his season on the Taxi Squad, which will allow the Rangers to carry up to six players at no penalty to the salary cap.
Other members of the squad will include Anthony Bitetto, Keith Kinkaid with the remainder coming from the pool of Jonny Brodzinski, Brandon Crawley, Libor Hajek, Anthony Greco, Barron and Matthew Robertson. At least until the AHL season and CHL seasons get under way.
In another move, the team announced they've signed 2020 1st round pick Braden Schneider to an AHL contract. The signing will allow the 19 year old defenseman to play in the AHL, at least until the WHL season gets underway...if it indeed does. The signing has no effect on Schneider's professional eligibility with respect to the NHL.