After much careful thought and consideration, Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault reduced his roster to 24 players Sunday morning as the club assigned seven players to the Hartford Wolf Pack at the conclusion of training camp. When the dust settled, rookie forward Jesper Fast had earned a spot on the opening night roster after his strong camp and pre-season play.
The 21 year-old Fast, the 157th player selected in the 2010 NHL Draft, played last season in the Swedish Elite League. He provides speed and offenisve skill to the Rangers lineup, along with defensive responsibility and a willingness to battle against much bigger players.
"We had some decisions to make and when I looked at what Fast did throughout training camp I really liked his hockey smarts, his skill level," explained Vigneault after practice Sunday. "Being a right-hander with Ryan (Callahan) not being ready for the start, I thought also made him a good fit. As I've said, talent shows no age. It's about who can help us win some games."
While Fast won one of the final battles for a roster spot, Justin Falk earned the seventh defenseman's slot. The former Minnesota Wild blueliner made the opening night roster while fellow defensemen Stu Bickel and Conor Allen were assigned to the Whale.
Vigneault called the final decision on defense "challenging", pointing out that Falk's camp "was alright", but that he and management believed both Stu Bickel and Conor Allen needed regular playing time and would benefit by playing bigger roles in Hartford. The head coach praised Allen, and noted that Hartford is a 90 minute drive to New York and either defensemen could easily be recalled of needed or if they played their way back into the mix.
The other five players who were sent to Hartford were all forwards. Chris Kreider, Marek Hrivik, Oscar Lindberg, Brandon Mashinter, and Darroll Powe will start the 2013-14 season with the Wolf Pack.
Vigneault noted that Powe "did everything he could do" in order to make the team, and that "selfishly we hope he clears waivers and reports to Hartford".
"We just felt some of those younger players had a little bit more upside as far as talent and skill," explained Vigneault, who also pointed out that Kreider, a youngster "has a good camp...he's real close...but he needs to play big minutes."
The current make up of the Rangers roster is as follows:
Goalies-Martin Biron and Henrik Lundqvist
Defensemen: Michael Del Zotto, Justin Falk, Dan Girardi, Ryan McDonagh, John Moore, Marc Staal, and Anton Stralman
Forwards: Arron Asham, Brian Boyle, Derick Brassard, Ryan Callahan, Derek Dorsett, Jesper Fast, Carl Hagelin, J.T. Miller, Dominic Moore, Rick Nash, Benoit Pouliot, Taylor Pyatt, Brad Richards, Derek Stepan, and Mats Zuccarello
Follow BlueshirtsUnited.com all day as we update this news with more information and interviews.