Following Friday's assignment to the Rangers' American Hockey League in Hartford, defenseman Fedor Tjutin was given a second chance to make a big impression on Sunday when he was recalled and inserted in the lineup alongside Greg de Vries vs. the Boston Bruins.
Since being selected as the Blueshirts' second round choice (40th overall) in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft, Tjutin has elevated his staus as a prospect, becoming one of the team's most highly regarded players not playing in the NHL. His performance on Sunday gave both Rangers fans and management a taste of what the future might hold for this gifted Russian player.
Netting a goal while playing a smart, responsible and effective defensive game, Tjutin raised many eyebrows following a steady but unspectacular training camp.
"I thought Tjutin was the best player on the ice (tonight)," commented captain Mark Messier following the game. "He played with a lot of confidence. He moved the puck well and went back into his own zone to get the puck with pressure on him. He found the open man, he shot the puck well, he pinched in and created a goal."
When asked about his impressive effort, Tjutin quietly deflected the praise and spoke about making the most of his opportunity.
"I felt really good (tonight)," he said following the Rangers' 4-1 win. "I have good teammates and everybody has helped me. That makes it a lot easier to play."
Tjutin certainly caught the eye of Rangers President, General Manager and Head Coach Glen Sather, who was also impressed with the rookie blueliner's performance vs. the Bruins.
"I like a lot about him," said Sather. "He's mobile, sees the ice, seems to be able to handle the game. He's a good, young prospect. He can get a little more alert around the puck sometimes, but he's going to be fine."
Following a 2001-02 season in which he finished tied for third overall among OHL defensemen with 59 points, a 2002-03 campaign in which he flourished in the Russian Elite League, and a pair of World Junior Championship gold medals, the 6-3, 202-pounder was extremely focused on his strength and conditioning this past off-season, taking part in both Rangers development camps.
With an array of experienced, established NHL defenseman on New York's roster, Tjutin understands that his 2003-04 season might include time in the American Hockey League. For the 20-year old, this realization is all part of the development process he knows he must undergo.
"I understand it (being assigned to Hartford) depends on how I play," he said. "If someone gets injured, maybe they'll call me up and give me a chance. I just try to play my best."