The Rangers made another round of roster cuts early Thursday morning with Vinni Lettieri, Cristoval “Boo” Nieves, Ryan Graves, and Neal Pionk being assigned to the Hartford Wolf Pack in the AHL, Matt Puempel being put on waivers, Bobby Farnham getting released from his PTO and unfortunately 2017 #7 overall pick Lias Andersson is being loaned back to Frolunda HC in the Swedish Hockey League. While I’m incredibly dumbfounded about Pionk and Lettieri not cracking the big-league squad, I can certainly explain the others.
Cristoval “Boo” Nieves – The 6’3, 220lb Syracuse native tallied 1 point (assist) in 4 games this preseason while toting a -3 +/-. Sure, he’s a big body that could potentially play 3rd or 4th line minutes in front of the net but knowing Head Coach Alain Vigneault’s obsession with finesse players and perfect plays, sending “Boo” back down to the minors was almost a no brainer. Nieves plays a less than fancy game and it’ll be interesting to see what his future holds with this club.
Ryan Graves – Graves, a 6’5 216lb potential lockdown defenseman with a heavy shot from the point was honestly a little surprising to see on this round of roster cuts. He showed a ton of promise and shining moments despite is -1+/- in 3 games. I was a little disappointed that he didn’t get a ton of power play time, due to DeAngelo, Shattenkirk, Pionk, McDonagh because his shot would be lethal from the blue line. It’ll be great to see how he develops further this year in Hartford. If he can grab at least 30-35 points this year with the Wolf Pack this year he could have another oportunity to show his worth come next training camp.
Matt Puempel – This 2011 1st rounder had a very below average 40 game stint with the Rangers last season. Tallying only 9 points with 6 goals and 3 assists, 3 of those goals coming against Mike Smith and the Arizona Coyotes in late December. He also had a -11 in those 40 games. Very lackluster for the young winger who was taken 24th overall. After clearing waivers on September 29th, Puempel was sent to Hartford. I don’t have very high hopes for him this year and I believe he’ll be in the AHL for a while unless he gets traded to a team who desperately needs youth. But that doesn’t seem to be an eye-opening issue for anyone in the league. The oldest team in the league post-deadline last year as determined by James Mirtle (The Athletic) was the Chicago Blackhawks at an average age of 29.4 just beating out the Ottawa Senators by .3 points. Puempel must show an increase in productivity this year or else his career as an NHLer might be in jeopardy.
Bobby Farnham – This one was almost too obvious. Bobby Farnham plays an unfortunately outdated game. Too much grit and has an enforcer mindset. He had 19 penalty minutes, including a game misconduct against Philly when he fought against 6’7 227lb Samuel Morin for landing a strong hit on young prospect Gabriel Fontaine. He has a ton of heart and you can’t knock him for that but he was set up for failure this training camp.
Lias Andersson – The #7 overall pick in this year’s NHL draft looked very prepared for the NHL workload. Blocking shots, killing penalties, looking comfortable on the smaller NHL ice. But there was one place that he didn’t excel in: the point department. Even though the Swedish rookie tallied 2 assists and showed incredible maturity in 4 games as an 18 year old, he wouldn’t get enough playing time in the NHL compared to the amount of time he would get with Frolunda if he were to make the roster, which is interesting to see because his draft partner, Filip Chytil, #21 in the 2017 draft, looks as though he’s landed a spot on the opening day roster because he put up one more point than Andersson’s numbers and showed a larger skillset. When drafted, it was said that Andersson’s play could be compared to a Chris Kunitz type of player. Someone that could be versatile when needed and fills in whenever called upon. While I’m disappointed in this decision to loan him back to Frolunda, I think it’s better for his all-around development.
With the season right around the corner beginning against the Colorado Avalanche at the World’s Most Famous Arena on October 5th, look out for Filip Chytil and Paul Carey to turn some heads and prove their worth to the NHL.