The New York Rangers had tremendous success during the 2010-11 season incorporating rookies into their lineup and having those players perform at a very high level. It is rare that a team can have significant contributions from three or four rookies in a season and still be a very competitive overall. New York had that last season with Derek Stepan and Michael Sauer performing at very high levels for the entire season, while Ryan McDonagh and Mats Zuccarello also played well in their split seasons between the AHL and NHL.
After a season like that it would be understandable for an organization to lack talented players to step in as rookies the following season. The Rangers do not have that problem and over the course of the next week we are going to look at some of the rookies that have a chance to make an impact on the Rangers during the 2011-12 season, whether it be in full or partial season duty. Yesterday there was a look at CarlHagelin and what his chances were to both in terms of making the team and how big an impact he would have. Today, the focus shifts to elite defensive prospect Tim Erixon and his quest to make the team out of camp and follow in the footsteps of Michael Sauer and Ryan McDonagh in how he adapted quickly at the NHL level.
Of the Rangers prospects that will compete to make the club this year, Erixon is deemed by many to be the most NHL ready. His talent level gives him the markings of someone that an step in an play right away while be an impact player that adds yet another level of depth to the Rangers tremendous young defense corps. The combination of that talent and the Rangers current defensive roster sets Erixon up as one of the favorites to make the roster in the final two spots with Michael Del Zotto. The roster can always change between now and camp to change those odds. If it does not change, this young defensive group has the potential to open the season with Dan Girardi as the oldest member at 27 and amassing an average age of only 23. With a group that is collectively that young it shows the organization is not afraid to allow their young defensive prospects to have a chance to prove themselves as ready for the NHL.
The 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds Erixon brings with him three seasons playing against men in Swedish Elite League (SEL). In each season Erixon has improved his game both offensive and defensively, while improving his body along the way. The physical maturation of his body has been as important to his NHL readiness as the rest of his game on the ice.
In 48 games for Skelleftea last season he showed offensive promise as well scoring five goals and adding 19 assists. The offense held up in the playoffs where he had three goals and five assists in 18 games. He is not a player who is going to be a huge offensive threat, at least not next season, but he has the ability to bring more offense than most of the Rangers defense, while bringing similar ability to be a shutdown type defender.
Reports on Erixon conjure thoughts of a player that is an amalgamation of some of the best qualities different Rangers defenders already have. The closest overall comparison that comes to mind is that of Ryan McDonagh, but unlike McDonagh the SEL likely has Erixon ready to step in from opening night without the necessary grooming in the AHL.