Over the summer there was much speculation concerning the
subject of who would be the left wing to pair with Brad Richards and Marian
Gaborik on the top line for the New York Rangers.
My position throughout was that Wojtek Wolski
would get the first chance to prove he could utilize his talent playing with
those two elite players.
camp have said there is chemistry from the trio, but Wolski has been battling a
groin issue for the last week and is no lock to play this Friday in the season
The hope is Wolski will practice
tomorrow and play on Friday, but the Rangers also have to prepare in case that doesn’t
While Wolski has been on the shelf, coach John Tortorella
has been shuffling Brian Boyle, Ruslan Fedotenko and Brandon Dubinsky in and
out with his Richards and Gaborik looking for who could fill the spot.
If Wolski is unavailable on Friday which
Rangers’ forward should get the spot on the top line?
Based on their play in the preseason, Brian Boyle should be
the guy to get the first look in that role. Dubinsky could certainly fill the
role and do very well there, but removing him from Anisimov and Callahan
changes the dynamic of a very effective line, which is certainly not
Fedotenko gives you a known
player who has a past with Richards and would allow little disruption
throughout the rest of the lineup, but Boyle has just outperformed him during the
Stepan was a player rumored to get a shot there during the
summer, but the grouping has not been given a big chance together and he has
shown more chemistry with Zuccarello.
Zuccarello has not really been considered
because he was significantly more effective as a right wing vs playing the left
side last season.
However, with the
level of improvement that Zuke has shown this fall it would not be a bad idea
to consider him if Boyle did not work out and Wolski was still unable to go.
As for why Boyle should be the guy to get the shot.
He has been able to keep up Richards and
Gaborik skating wise and his size and strength have shown well playing off
Boyle is the kind of player
that can do the dirty work along the boards, especially on the forecheck, and
also create more space for his line mates.
The most noticeable thing about Boyle this preseason has been his improvement
in net presence and understanding how to use his size in front of it.
Watching Boyle work down low, especially
against HC Slovan, showed that he has taken yet another step in developing his
game in understanding the angles necessary to be open for passes and a presence
to disrupt the goaltender.
After a career year last season and a big new contract some
might have expected to see Boyle rest on his performance, but everything from
the exhibition season has him looking even hungrier to prove it was no
Putting him with the Rangers most
talented offensive players would reward that effort while giving him the prime
opportunity he has earned to put his ever increasing abilities on display.