He told reporters prior to a 4-2 loss to the Islanders in the preseason finale Saturday night that three or four players are on the bubble. And decisions will be made in the next 48 hours.
Throughout training camp, Quinn has preached that he expects each player to set himself apart.
Saturday’s game was one of the last opportunities to do so, with second-year centers Lias Andersson and Filip Chytil, in particular, on the hot seat.
When asked what he was hoping to see in his young centers before the preseason finale in Bridgeport, Quinn didn’t hesitate.
“It’s consistency, it’s finding value in things other than points,” he said. “I think that’s a challenge for every young player in this league. I think confidence comes from within and when you do a good job off a faceoff or you do a good job in the D-zone or you make a good decision in the offensive zone or you make a good change, it’s up to you to find value in that. It’s up to you to feel good about that.
“I think within that comes self-confidence, and if you’re doing those things and you feel good about it, you have a much better chance to have success at this level because it can’t just be about points. Points are too hard to come by at this level.”
On paper, Andersson has made the stronger case by notching a point in three of the five preseason games he skated in (two goals, one assist). Quinn has noticed the Swede’s progress, mentioning that he’s gotten into better shape since the Rangers drafted him seventh overall in 2017.
But it’s yet to be seen whether that was enough to beat out Chytil or Brett Howden, who beat out Andersson for a roster spot last season and is likely to make the final cut again this year. There were a lot of expectations placed on the 20-year-old Chytil coming into training camp, but Quinn isn’t listening to the noise.
“I think that to send a 20-year-old to the AHL and have it [be] a big deal is alarming,” Quinn said. “He did play 75 games last year, but we’re talking about a 20-year-old. Not like he had 25 goals like [Elias] Pettersson in Vancouver. If you can’t send a 20-year-old to the AHL then why do we have the AHL?”
Quinn agreed that the second-year players are likely experiencing the most pressure, considering most have already gotten a taste of the NHL and feel they’re expected to make the team. But it’s those who are able to block that out and focus on becoming better who are going to put themselves in the best position to earn a spot, the coach said.
“That’s the challenge that these guys all face and that’s the mental toughness aspect of our level,” he said.
Many NHL teams are already sure of their line combinations and the roster they plan to take into the start of the season this week. But with such a young team, Quinn is faced with deciding whether specific players would benefit from less playing time and his hands-on teaching at the top level or more ice time in the AHL.
It’s the toughest task for Quinn — who was hired in 2018 partially for his reputation of developing young talent — and could decide how the Rangers measure up at the start of the season.
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