New York Rangers 2006-07 Season Preview Rangers on the Rise? NEW YORK (HFAP) – The regular season is rapidly approaching and the New York Rangers have their roster close to finalized for the upcoming year. Last season was a year of transition for the Broadway Blueshirts, after having several roster players (including Alexei Morozov, Andreas Johansson, and Denis Arkhipov) leave to play in European leagues following the 2004-05 lockout. However, the Rangers are gunning for a playoff appearance this season and several experts are predicting a return to the postseason for New York. “After we lost so many of our contributing forwards to Europe, it made us make changes in the way we evaluate European players,” commented General Manager Sean Gaffney. “We won’t hesitate to make a move for a European forward if it will help our team, but we’re going to proceed with more caution than we had in the past.” After a sub-par season in 2005-06, the Rangers have high hopes for 2006-07. Several young players will be asked to play larger roles with the team, and a few key veterans were added to help guide the way. Sergei Fedorov and Chris Gratton were signed as free agents this offseason, and Cory Stillman was added via trade with the New York Islanders. Both Stillman and Gratton played for the Rangers as recently as the 2003-04 season before the lockout. “Chris [Gratton] approached us just after free agency and expressed how interested he was in rejoining the Rangers for next season. He loves the city and sees good potential for a turnaround season,” said Gaffney. In addition to the veteran reinforcements, rookies Petr Prucha, Jim Slater, Shea Weber, and Freddy Meyer are expected to make contributions. Prucha will likely play wing on the second line, while Slater is currently penciled in as the fourth line center on the depth chart. Meyer will play among the top six defensemen and get significant powerplay time. Budding star Weber will compete for the 6th defenseman spot. Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Juraj Kolnik, and Brian Willsie will also take up bigger roles up front, while defensemen Henrik Tallinder and John-Michael Liles will be looked at to step up their games from the blueline. Goaltending is a bit of a question mark at this point, but New York does have solid depth in David Aebischer, Tim Thomas, and Scott Clemmensen Depth Chart at a Glance FORWARDS - The depth at forward is significantly better this season with the addition of Fedorov and Stillman, as well as the development of several young players. Rounding out the top six are returning leading scorer Marc Savard, captain Paul Kariya, Bouchard and Prucha. Third and fourth liners are Gratton, Kolnik, Willsie, Slater, Ethan Moreau, and Taylor Pyatt. In the System – 2006 draft picks Michael Frolik, Trevor Lewis, and Nick Foligno lead the way. Other promising forwards on the way include Chris Bourque and Stefan Meyer. DEFENSEMEN– This is a solid group of young players who should continue to develop for New York. Leading the way is veteran Pavel Kubina, a long-time HFNHL Ranger. The rest of the group includes Liles, Tallinder, Meyer, Weber, Josef Melichar, and Joel Bouchard as the 7th defenseman. In the System – The Rangers have great defensive prospect depth. 2005 first-rounder Jakub Kindl had a good season with the OHL’s Kitchener Rangers last season and finds himself as the organization’s top blueline prospect. Others include Michal Barinka, who will be available to fill in with the pro club should key injuries occur, Nathan Paetsch, Ole-Kristian Tollefson, Russian Alexei Emelin, and the hulking Simon-Danis Pepin. GOALTENDERS – Aebischer and Thomas will compete for starts and should both get significant time in the net this season. Clemmensen is currently listed as the third goalie on the depth chart, but may be dealt before the season begins. In the System – Goaltending is an area of weakness for the organization as things currently stand. There are several solid prospects, but no sure-fire starters waiting in the wings. Alexandre Vincent, Matt Keetley, and Patrick Ehelechner are considered the top prospects followed by Yutaka Fukufuji, Brett Bennett, and Dave Caruso. The team may be in the market for a goaltender-of-the-future type. NOTES It appears that the Rangers are on the verge of acquiring Colorado’s fourth-round draft choice in the 2007 draft as the result of a deal made last summer involving forward Denis Arkhipov. If Arkhipov returns to the league after spending last season in Europe, Colorado sends that pick to New York as part of the “future considerations” included in the deal at the time is was consummated. Arkhipov is in camp and appears to be on his way toward earning a roster spot.