The Rangers rocked the hockey world on July 1 when they announced the free-agent signings of Chris Drury and Scott Gomez. Gomez, one of the NHL’s best setup men, is expected to center for Martin Straka on the left and Jaromir Jagr on the right on what should be one of the best scoring lines in the League. Drury likely will center a tough two-way line with Sean Avery on the left side and Avery's idol, Brendan Shanahan, on the right.
Unheralded Blair Betts does a great job centering the third line, which will likely have Ryan Callahan on the right wing and Petr Prucha on the left. There will be a battle royal during training camp for positions on the fourth line. At center, Brandon Dubinsky will vie with Tom Pyatt, Joe Barnes, Bruce Graham and Artem Anisimov. Dubinsky plays with ferocity, has good skills and is probably the most advanced. Marcel Hossa has the inside track on the left wing, but Nigel Dawes and Brodie Dupont could give him a battle. Tough guy Colton Orr will be challenged by Alex Bourret, a human cannonball and puck magnet, Hugh Jessiman and Greg Moore.
Michael Nylander, now with Washington, led the Rangers with 37 points on power plays, tying Shanahan with 14 goals. Shanahan had 17 assists to rank second in power-play scoring. Straka had eight goals and 20 assists. Prucha had eight goals and eight assists. Jaromir Jagr had seven goals and 34 assists. Hossa and Avery were also effective. Jagr, Nylander, Straka and Shanahan averaged more than five minutes of power-play time.
Betts led the Rangers with an average of 3:22 shorthanded time per game. Shanahan and since-departed Matt Cullen and Jed Ortmeyer averaged more than two minutes. Shanahan had three short-handed goals and an assist. Avery, Ortmeyer and Betts each had a goal.
Drury led Buffalo in both power-play scoring and shorthanded scoring. Gomez was second on the Devils in power-play assists and rarely killed penalties.
Up and Coming
Alex Bourret — The 20-year-old right wing, a first-round pick by Atlanta two years ago, was acquired in a trade last February. Bourret plays a hard-hitting game and he can score. Bourret is rugged at 5-foot-10 and 210 pounds. He had 44 goals and 114 points for Shawinigan in the QMJHL two years ago and 16 goals and 34 assists in his first AHL season, split between Chicago and Hartford.
Nigel Dawes — The 22-year-old left wing led Hartford in scoring with 27 goals and 33 assists, numbers nearly identical to his rookie pro season the year before. Dawes played eight regular-season games and one playoff game with the Rangers in 2006-07, so he's had a taste of the NHL. Dawes is a bit on the small size at 5-foot-8, but he's put on 20 pounds in two years to reach 190. He's a rugged Winnipeg product who’s determined to play in the NHL.
Brandon Dubinsky — The 21-year-old center plays angry and he's always on the puck. Even a good shift often ends with Dubinsky banging his stick as he returns to the bench. Winning matters to Dubinsky, a rugged 6-foot-1 and 224 pounds. His skill set is high, he swears by the Rangers' conditioning program, he was MVP of his junior team, led the WHL playoffs in scoring before his team was eliminated and was voted two years running as the "most irritating player" in the WHL. He's a scorer with size and snarl.
Petr Prucha -- Prucha would be a top-six forward on most teams. Prucha had 30 goals as a rookie in 2005-06 and slipped to 22 goals last season, largely because he played mostly on the third line and lost much of his power-play time. He's not going to move Straka off Jagr's line, but if Avery wears out his welcome — as he has elsewhere — Prucha could step into his spot, though his defensive abilities aren’t that strong. This is only Prucha's third season and it's not hard to project him as a 40-goal scorer, if given the opportunity and the right linemates.