When the New York Rangers opened training camp last summer they had spots up for grabs on defense. The talk over who would make the team revolved mainly around prospect Ryan McDonagh as he was expected to challenge for a spot on the opening night roster. One player not thought of as a threat to crack the roster was Michael Sauer, but after an excellent camp he made the team and surprised even more with his tremendous rookie season. Could it happen again for the Rangers?
This year New York will once again open training camp with a couple of spots up for grabs on defense and plethora of candidates to fill the roles. Steve Eminger seems like a lock to make the roster as a 6/7th defenseman so there are possibly two spots up for the taking. The hope is that Michael Del Zotto will rebound and reclaim his spot on the team while Tim Erixon shows enough to warrant making the club on opening night. That is the ideal scenario for the Rangers, but players like Tomas Kundratek and Pavel Valentenko are looking to state their case for a roster spot as well.
One name that was not on the radar as a potential dark horse in the race for a roster spot until his excellent showing this week at Traverse City is defenseman Blake Parlett. Parlett is an unheralded player who much like Dan Girardi has worked his way through the ranks as an undrafted player that rose from the ECHL to the AHL with the hopes of making the NHL. His game is very different from that of Girardi, as Parlett is an offensive defender and not the defensive stopper that Girardi has become.
Parlett’s offensive skills from the blue line and his seeming comfort on the point during the power play are things that give him a chance to make the team. With Marc Staal, Dan Girardi, Michael Sauer and Ryan McDonagh as the top 4 on defense the Rangers have four shutdown defenders, but little in the way of offensive skill. Parlett, Del Zotto and Erixon are all players that have more offensive ability and given that any of their defensive liabilities can be masked somewhat by being protected on the third pair helps their case to make the team. Unless he has an unbelievable camp it is highly unlikely that Parlett would make the team to start the season, but his smooth skating, excellent passive and offensive instincts do give him that chance and if he goes to the AHL he has the opportunity to rise in the pecking order to be one of the first called up should the need arise. That is certainly more than what many thought of Parlett when the Traverse City Tournament got underway last weekend.