Monday, July 18, 2011

Carl Hagelin: Next Impact Rookie For Rangers Or Destined For Minors Due To Numbers Game?

The New York Rangers had tremendous success during the 2010-11 season incorporating rookies into their lineup and having those players perform at a very high level.  It is rare that a team can have significant contributions from three or four rookies in a season and still be a very competitive overall.  New York had that last season with Derek Stepan and Michael Sauer performing at very high levels for the entire season, while Ryan McDonagh and Mats Zuccarello also played well in their split seasons between the AHL and NHL.
After a season like that it would be understandable for an organization to lack talented players to step in as rookies the following season.  The Rangers do not have that problem and over the course of the next week we are going to look at some of the rookies that have a chance to make an impact on the Rangers during the 2011-12 season, whether it be in full or partial season duty.  First on the list of potential rookies to look at is LW Carl Hagelin.
Hagelin is coming off a tremendous senior season at Michigan where he had 18 goals and 31 assists in 44 games to top his stellar Wolverine career.  The transition from college hockey to professional hockey is one that happens at different rates for different players.  A player like Derek Stepan was able to step in immediately at the NHL level, while Ryan McDonagh needed a half season in the minors to be ready.  Others never make the transition at all.
Hagelin has the ability to make the transition as he has an all-around game, high hockey IQ and great speed which combine to make him especially dangerous on the penalty kill.  This issue for Hagelin, at least to start the season, might not have anything to do with him or how well he performs in training camp, but the sheer numbers game in terms of the roster.  Being a first year professional Hagelin is not subject to waivers which makes sending him down and easier move than potentially losing another player to waivers.  Beyond that it is likely that he would not be ready to step in immediately and would be on a timetable like McDonagh or even Mats Zuccarello where they go to the minors to start the season, play major minutes while adjusting to the pro game and get a chance to show they belong in the NHL around mid-season.
While deemed mainly a third or fourth line type player, the all-around game that Hagelin brings to the ice will make him a valuable Ranger for years to come.  That said, his chances of him following in the path of Stepan, Sauer or McDonagh in terms of that kind of impact for this season are limited at best.  However, an excellent showing at Traverse City and full training camp along with one or two roster changes to the existing forwards and Hagelin could get his shot from day 1 to show what he has.