The New York Rangers Opening Night Roster (Feat. Will Cuylle)

Will Cuylle Getty Images

The fans asked and pleaded, and General Manager Chris Drury and the Rangers Brass delivered.

All indications point to Will Cuylle (pronounced Coo-lee) making the opening night lineup for the New York Rangers. The Rangers sent Jonny Brodzinski, Ben Harpur, and Brennan Othmann to the Rangers’ AHL Affiliate – the Hartford Wolfpack. Brodzinski and Harpur must clear waivers before getting officially assigned, exposing them to being claimed in the next 24 hours by another team. Othmann, however, can freely pass to the AHL since he is on his entry-level deal. The preseason is over for the Rangers, and with those moves, the Blueshirts are down to a 22-man roster. Unless Drury plans to make some back-door Salary Cap manipulation moves, which we’ve only seen him do once to fit Patrick Kane in at the deadline, we should expect this to be the opening night roster.

Let’s look at what this means for the Rangers starting lines and how Will Cuylle defied the odds.

Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

Starting Lines – What to expect

Based on the last preseason game between the Rangers and the Boston Bruins, the lineup should look very close to this:

Forwards

Kreider (20) – Zibanejad (93) – Kakko (24)
Panarin (10) – Chytil (72) – Lafreniere (13)
Cuylle (50) – Trocheck (16) – Wheeler (17)
Vesey (26) – Bonino (12) – Goodrow (21)
Extra Forward: Pitlick (71)

Defensemen

Lindgren (55) – Fox (23)
Miller (79) – Trouba (8)
Gustavsson (56) – Schneider (4)

Extra D-Man: Jones (6)

Goalies

Shesterkin (31)
Quick (32)


This is assuming both Tyler Pitlick and Filip Chytil are back from injury. If Pitlick is still nursing his upper-body injury, I could see the Rangers rolling with the same lines but only 12 forwards. If Chytil isn’t ready to go, this will require some shuffling in the bottom three lines. Head Coach Peter Laviolette would likely move Goodrow up to fill in for Chytil on the second line – he did this against Boston in the last game – and then Pitlick would be the remaining winger on the fourth line, if healthy.

If both Pitlick and Chytil are not ready to go, they would likely have to recall a player from the AHL, and my guess is Jonny Brodzinski is the first man up. The reason it’s Brodzinski and not Othmann because the decision to send Othmann down was deliberate – to get the young forward some experience and confidence playing top-line minutes on the Wolfpack. The Rangers would not be able to get him the same amount of time in their lineup as it is currently constructed.

Many fans were chomping at the bit this preseason for both Othmann and Cuylle to be regulars on the NHL Roster, and for Othmann, that would’ve been misguided. We’ve seen the Rangers management rush prospects to the NHL before, and it has seldom worked out for them in the past five years. If anything, this shows patience and growth from the young GM, Chris Drury, which is something all fans should be celebrating.

Credit: AP Photo / Frank Franklin II

Preseason: The Will Cuylle Show

Will Cuylle was a standout this preseason. He finished with 2G and 1A on the official score sheet over his five preseason games, which is pretty good for a young 3rd liner limited to mostly 5v5 play. Cuylle posted a net +1 in those five games, even though the Rangers went 0-5 and were outscored 19-8 in that stretch. The line of Cuylle, Trocheck, and Wheeler was the most effective driver of offense and the most defensively responsible line for the Rangers against the Bruins on 10/5. This line didn’t let up a goal, outshot the Bruins 7-0, and had an xGF% of 71.71%, according to Vince Mercogliano of USA Today. The line passed all the analytical and eye tests, and their performance essentially cemented Cuylle as the 3rd string Left Winger.

Fans will likely still be disappointed that Brennan Othmann didn’t make the team out of the gate, considering he produced points and looked like he could hold his own on the NHL ice. What they may forget is that Will Cuylle has already spent time in the AHL, developing and proving that he can produce at that level (Cuylle was the Wolfpack’s leading scorer last season). He also slotted in a few times last season with the Rangers when they were plagued by injury, so it makes sense that Cuylle gets the first crack at NHL playing time.

While Othmann has had two extremely dominant seasons in the OHL with the Flint Firebirds and the Peterborough Petes, the gap between Major Junior hockey and the AHL is big. Additionally, preseason NHL games are not the same as actual NHL games that matter and that see teams icing their best roster every night. Othmann should take this time to develop and work on his game in the AHL arena and prove that he belongs in the NHL. If that happens, then in a few months, whenever the Rangers need to call a man up, he should be the first in line.

For now, it is Will Cuylle’s time to shine, and if preseason performance is any indication, the Rangers expect him to answer the call to duty.

In this week's episode, we have on guest HockeyStatMiner to discuss NYR's Salary cap situation, potential moves and more.How to support us and our sponsors:Columbia Sports ApparelESPN+ SubscriptionFanaticsDraft Kings – CODE ITRThanks for listening! Please rate and review our show on your favorite listening platform. Check out our partner's website at www.insidetherink.com for all your latest hockey news.
  1. Guest HockeyStatMiner
  2. Many Directions, One Goal
  3. A Heartbreaking End, Offseason Begins
  4. Game 5 Recap : Guest Joe Fortunato
  5. Game 4 Recap : Breakout Breakdown

Ben Pratley

I'm a lifelong hockey player and Fan. Grew up playing hockey in the Metro-NY area and now write for Inside The Rink covering all things NY Rangers related. Check out my articles to keep up to date with Rangers news, storylines, and analysis.

2 thoughts on “The New York Rangers Opening Night Roster (Feat. Will Cuylle)

  1. This article was absolutely fantastic. Brought a lot of new ideas to the way I thought about the Rangers players coming into the season. Looking forward to more thank you!!!

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