With the passing of the Labor Day Weekend holiday, summer is is clearly being put in the rearview mirror and the hockey season is fresh on the horizon. Tuesday the MSG Training Center was alive with activity as 22 players took part in a 90-minute pre-training camp on-ice workout together, while Rangers' prospects filtered in and were issued equipment to be used at the Traverse City Tournament, which begins on Thursday out in Michigan.
Rick Nash, Ryan Callahan, Marc Staal, Ryan McDonagh, and newcomers Justin Falk, Danny Kristo, and Aaron Johnson were among those players who joined Henrik Lundqvist, Brad Richards, Carl Hagelin, Derick Brassard, Michael Del Zotto, and John Moore who have been sktaing together regularly the past few weeks in New York. Staal was wearing his new tinted visor as he works his way back from last season's frightening eye injury. Nash sported a new, much shorter, haircut. McDonagh displayed a wicked wrist shot that beat Lundqvist in a scrimmage. Stu Bickel showed scoring touch, as well, and could have had three scrimmage goals if not for iron getting in the way of two of his shots.
The early-arriving Rangers were working hard Tuesday, while also enjoying being once again in each other's company. Smiles and laughter filled the dressing room. Grunts and sweat filled the weight room. Training camp is a week away, and clearly the players want to be ready for whatever Alain Vigneault has in store for them before they embark on this season's quest for the Stanley Cup.
And the future of the Rangers---the prospects preparing for their Traverse City departure on Wednesday--was on display, as well. Kristo, the high-scoring forward acquired from Montreal this summer, skated with the big boys in the morning, while intriguing Swedish prospects Jesper Fast and Oscar Lindberg skated with a smaller group of Traverse City-bound players in the afternoon. Those three will be watched closely by the team's coaching staff, scouts, and front office personnel this week and weekend as they have the opportunity to make an early positive first impression before their first NHL training camp kicks off next Wednesday.
And Dylan McIlrath, the Rangers top pick in 2010 who himself played in a pair of Traverse City Tournaments, arrived at the MSG Training Center Tuesday after a 33-hour car ride from Winnipeg. Despite stops along the way, the tall defenseman looked tired and not quite ready to hit the ice on this day, though one can bet that McIlrath will be out on the ice Wednesday as he sizes himself up against the competition heading into his first NHL camp.
There are a few players still to arrive in New York, but likely they will all be here in the coming days.
Summer is in the rearview mirror. Hockey is on the immediate horizon.
Jim Cerny-September 3, 2013