New York Rangers Talent Pipeline: Wing in Waiting
It no secret that the Metropolitan Division is strong this year. Every team in the division has 20 points under their belts, which is a case that cannot be met by the other divisions in both conferences. This places the New York Rangers in good company, with a climb never extending beyond their grasp. Currently, the team is 5 points from New Jersey, Columbus, and Pittsburgh. The season still holds a lot of hockey to be played, but it is never too early to re-think line combinations.
One of the main eye sores for the Rangers has been 4th line support. At the beginning of the season, the 4th line was delivering output levels far beyond expectations. Two placement holders kept this ship sailing for a brief period: Jimmy Vesey and Boo Nieves. Vesey picked up right where he left off in the playoffs, hosting sound passing and maturity beyond his years. The youngster has battled some injuries as of late, directly relating to his low totals so far. Nieves, through the first couple of games, was producing and dealing. If you look at the sample size through those first two contests, his workload was on pace for career highs. It didn’t take long for this hot start to cool off. Since those initial contests, the name on the back of his jersey has become an afterthought. The injury to Vesey put the Rangers in a tough spot. They experimented, shifting all line combinations up or down. The result wasn’t terrible, but it was far from the production level the team is capable of.
Vesey has now recovered from his injury and has found his stride. Nieves continues to struggle, which begs at the need to restructure this line. The restructure is being looked at from an internal standpoint, but this time, it extends to the AHL ranks. This is where undrafted free-agent Vinni Lettieri is rolling heads. Through 17 games played, Lettieri has scored 8 goals with 5 helpers. His numbers rank him as one of the top producers on the team and he is at the top of the list for time on the ice. These numbers bode well for his production value, but they fail to account for his on-ice contribution. The team +/- is up immensely when his skates touch the ice, creating that reliable team element.
His promotion would make for a great addition to the 4th line. He is only 22 years old, just two years younger of the seasoned Vesey. He also provides a versatile player who can slot into the forward or center position. His style partners with Vesey’s talents. Lettieri is a physical specimen, even if his size keeps the critics at bay. He also possesses a hard and quick shot. This skill set compliments Vesey’s speed and puck handling abilities. The two could combine to be a force on the 4th line, continuing to badger opponents and relieve the top lines. Look for this move to be forthcoming as the Rangers continue to scale the Metropolitan Division.
(original link: https://bluelinestation.com/2017/11/18/new-york-rangers-vinni-lettieri-close-nhl-ready/)