When the New York Rangers acquired defenseman Tim Erixon this summer the talked revolved around how NHL ready he was right now. With that talk the expectation level for his performance was to make the team out of camp. During Traverse City earlier this month, Erixon not only lived up to, but exceeded the hype. Erixon was clearly the Rangers best player and Mike Morreale at NHL.com thought he might have been the best player in the whole tournament. That performance only increased the hype and expectations for the 20-year old defender coming into training camp/preseason play.
While the hype continues for Erixon outside the organization with numerous publications touting him as a potential Calder Trophy nominee, Erixon’s play on the ice during preseason likely has him on the outside looking in when the Rangers open the season Oct. 7. The poised, confident player that dominated portions of games in Traverse City is gone, while what is left is a young player who is tentative and leaves the impression that game is just too fast at this stage. The differential in the performances is staggering and thus far in three games Erixon has shown nothing close to what would be necessary to consider him making the team.
Offensively Erixon is rushing himself when he has the puck and his decision making on things like when to carry the puck, where to pass are not nearly crisp enough. He has seemingly fallen into the trap of trying to make the perfect play instead of playing the simple style he was at Traverse. Playing a smart, simple game does not mean diluted the natural talent. In fact, playing that way has the ability to have the opposite effect because it allows the game to slow down a little bit and use the tremendous vision and skill Erixon possesses to carve up defenses.
Defensively is where Erixon is struggling most during the preseason as the speed and strength of some of the opposition is leaving him overmatched. On numerous occasions in the three games Erixon has been caught leaning to far forward on his skates and had opposing players go around him like he was not even there. His footwork has not been good and it has led to him taking four minor penalties in the last two games.
This is not to bash on Tim Erixon or say that the hype was not warranted because you can see he is an elite talent and has the makings of an excellent NHL defender. However, based on his performances thus far in preseason it does not appear Erixon is ready for that step right now. Erixon appears destined for Hartford, which is not a bad thing as Ryan McDonagh showed last season. Time in Hartford would allow Erixon to play major minutes in all situations while working on his game with J.J. Daigneault and Wade Redden so that he can be better prepared when he is called upon. Letting him develop at his own pace is better than throwing him in there to sink or swim and messing with his confidence if he ends up showing he isn’t ready.