Stepan Injury Impacts Depth Chart

Difficult day at New York Ranger training camp today, as Derek Stepan, the big club’s top center, suffered a fractured fibula in an on-ice testing drill.

In the course of pushing off to gain speed in a rink-length sprint, Stepan fell to the ice and had to be helped off.  Shortly thereafter, the fracture was diagnosed, and all of a sudden the organizational depth chart was thrown for somewhat of a loop.

(Photo by Francois Laplante/Freestyle Photo/Getty Images

(Photo by Francois Laplante/Freestyle Photo/Getty Images

Stepan and Derick Brassard had been expected to be the Rangers’ top two pivots, but now Brassard will have to be counted on for even a bigger role, and Dominic Moore is likely to pick up more important minutes in the middle as well.  The loss of Stepan also seems to raise the profiles of center candidates J.T. Miller, who has already been drawing significant praise for his performance thus far in camp and in the Rangers’ first preseason game, and of Kevin Hayes, the rookie out of Boston College who played mostly wing for the Eagles for the bulk of his college career.

“It’s going to give, obviously, a longer look to J.T. or Hayes or (Oscar) Lindberg or (Matthew) Lombardi, (Chris) Mueller,” Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault said to the New York media after today’s practice.  “It’s going to give some of those guys probably a longer look in exhibition, and then depending on how these guys play, we’ll sort it out.

“We’ve got to see how some of these young guys do and how they can play, and how certain guys can play with more skilled players, and see what they can do.”

This certainly will have a trickle-down effect on the Wolf Pack roster, in the ultra-important center spot.  Miller seemed to have a real good chance of making the Ranger team anyway, and Hayes is a prospect who has certainly come in with a lot of upside, but players like Lindberg and Mueller are guys who certainly figured to be likely candidates for the top end of the Wolf Pack lineup.

Regardless of all that, the good news all around is that the Rangers announced later on in the afternoon that Stepan is expected to miss four-to-six weeks, which certainly doesn’t seem too bad compared to what goes through the mind when you hear “broken leg.”

The Rangers are expected to announce their first roster cuts later on today, and Vigneault also said in his media conference today that the plan is for the camp roster to be pared to six lines and nine or ten defensemen after the Blueshirts’ preseason home-and-home with Philadelphia Monday and Tuesday.

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