The New York Rangers came into camp with 11 forward positions on the roster already decided and a at least a half dozen others competing for only 1 or 2 spots. Erik Christensen and Sean Avery were the incumbents, but both had enough flaws in their play and standing with the team to have them immediately on the bubble. Mats Zuccarello seems as if he is well on his way to securing his spot, which would only leave one spot for the rest of the group to battle for.
The extra forward spot is not the kind of spot that you want a young player to be in because it can stunt their development and would rather have them play down in the minors than sitting in the press box. That seemingly would eliminate contenders like Carl Hagelin and Ryan Bourque for sure, and possibly Dale Weise, from the roster on opening night as their development is better served playing huge minutes with the Whale. Erik Christensen has played his own way off the roster this preseason, while Sean Avery has played well in spots and showed Monday he has flashes of the old Avery still in there.
Avery showed his toughness and skill early in the game when his battle in early in the first period led to Andreas Thuresson’s goal. He continued to channel the good parts of Avery when his pestering got under the skin of Wayne Simmonds and had Simmonds take a foolish penalty against him. However, Avery showed his negative side later in the game when he took his own foolish penalty getting a bench minor for unsportsmanlike conduct. The Flyers converted on the power play and you can bet that coach John Tortorella took note of that.
The two other main contenders for a 13th forward role would be Kris Newbury and John Mitchell. Newbury was ok with the Rangers last season and is good in the faceoff circle, but he also takes foolish penalties from trying too hard. Mitchell on the other hand is in the perfect spot in his career for this kind of chance. At 26 Mitchell is not going to significantly develop further playing with the Whale while he has shown in camp that he can play a solid game on both ends with a little potential offense as a fill in player. Mitchell is mainly a center, but is able to play some wing and that kind of flexibility along with his very good work in the faceoff circle makes him a big threat for that final spot on the roster. In the end this is still Avery's spot to win or lose, but Mitchell is likely his biggest competition.