The Rangers officially opened up their 2015 Training Camp presented by SAP on Friday, and did so by conducting on-ice conditioning tests at the MSG Training Center. A real favorite of the players--note sarcasm--head coach Alain Vigneault pointed out afterwards that "this is an important day" because it provides "scientific proof" about each player's conditioning level.
So what did we learn on the first day of camp?
My Legs Burn Just Watching The On-Ice Testing
Alain Vigneault prefers that his team plays a fast-paced up-tempo style, so it's no surprise that on-ice conditioning testing consisted of sprint laps around the rink with little rest between reps over a 20-25 minute period. Even the best-conditioned Rangers were feeling it in their final one or two sprints--several players stretched out, or even sprawled on the ice, when finally finished. I like to think I am in good shape, but my legs were burning just watching the players in this setting. It's no wonder why the Rangers have been one of the better conditioned teams in the league for several years now.
There Is Some Serious Skating Ability On This Team
Not breaking a lot of new ground here because Vigneault's teams always are built around elite skaters, but this Rangers team has an abundance of impressively fast and powerful skaters. The coaches put Chris Kreider, Viktor Stalberg, Jesper Fast, and Dom Moore in the same testing group, and that foursome absolutely tore through each of their sets, clearly pushing one another at Mach One speed levels. Youngster Brady Skjei impressed with his as-advertised smooth-skating style; and Dylan McIlrath showed a smooth and strong stride, as well, something he clearly has worked diligently on as he tries to crack the NHL roster this fall.
AV Not Only Praised Kreider Today, He Challenged Him
Vigneault had some glowing things to say about Kreider this afternoon, but make no mistake he is sending a challenge Kreider's way, too: it's time to become one of the "go-to" players on the Rangers. Potential is great, but now it's time for Kreider to seriously tap into that potential and become the star the coach believes he can be. Vigneault made it clear the training wheels are coming off the younger Blueshirts--Kevin Hayes, J.T. Miller, Jesper Fast and Oscar Lindberg also included--and that more is expected from the younger players.
This Is Dylan McIlrath's Best Chance To Crack the NHL Roster
Ken Gernander and Jeff Beukeboom down in Hartford have been raving about Dylan McIlrath's growth as a player from the second half of last season right on through the AHL playoffs this past spring. Now Vigneault echoed those positive sentiments today, making it clear that this is McIlrath's best opportunity to crack the Rangers roster, whether that be as a Top 6 d-man, or a seventh or even eighth defenseman. It's been a long road for the rugged 6-foot-6 former first round pick, one that was made more difficult by a a serious knee injury prior to his first pro season, but by all accounts he was Hartford's No. 1 defenseman last season and is on the cusp of being an NHLer--something a solid camp and pre-season could finally solidify.