When the 2010-11 season ended for the New York Rangers their defense was certainly not considered a need area, but that did not stop GM Glen Sather from taking advantage of the contract situation between Tim Erixon and the Calgary Flames to trade for the talented young defender. In the NHL you can never have enough talent or enough assets and Sather stuck to that line of thinking in adding to an already deep defense system. At the time of the trade Tim Erixon was talked about as being NHL ready right now and while last night was only one game at a prospect tournament, Erixon certainly looked the part of an NHL player. The Rangers defense is set at four spots, but the final two spots are certainly up for grabs heading into training camp with Michael Del Zotto, Steve Eminger and Erixon seen as the main three competitors for the spots heading into it.
Last night Erixon showed tremendous poise, very good vision, excellent passing instincts with a hard shot that he was not afraid to take. Watching Erixon quarterback the power play was a pleasure both for what he was able to do and the distinctions between him and how badly the Rangers defenders were at it last season. There was no flash to how Erixon played, but there was a calm cerebral aspect to his game that was impressive as the game appeared to be moving in slow motion at times for him. His patience in deciding whether to pass, where to pass and his quick decision making on firing his excellent shot made the game look easy. He looked like a veteran doing so as his calm, composed demeanor out there showed more instincts in doing so than any other defender currently on the Rangers roster. If Erixon can continue to show the range of offensive skills that he did last night and be solid in his own end throughout the rest of the Traverse City tournament he will definitely go into camp with an excellent chance to make the team on opening night.
Regardless of whether Erixon can continue to play as well as he did last night for the rest of the tournament and in training camp against the NHL caliber players, he showed flashes last night that the talent is certainly there for him to be yet another excellent young defender for the Rangers in the near future. He can either make the team out of camp or take the Ryan McDonagh path in playing part of his first professional year in the AHL before joining the NHL roster. The biggest reason for him to potentially start the year in the AHL would be the adjustment to the rink size which Erixon noted himself in his interview after the second period.
It was only one game, but last night’s performance was an excellent first impression and should reassure any who doubted before that Glen Sather got another steal for the Rangers young defense corps when he traded for Tim Erixon this summer.