Gibbons, Megna Make Strong first Ranger Impressions

Brian Gibbons and Jayson Megna, two veteran forwards who can reasonably be said to be “on the bubble” between grabbing one of the last couple of forward spots on the Ranger roster and being top-six forwards with the Wolf Pack, had big nights Monday in the big club’s preseason opener, a 6-3 win over New Jersey at Madison Square Garden. Gibbons had a goal and two assists and Megna scored twice.

Megna and Gibbons were both July 1 free-agent signings by the Rangers, Gibbons from the Columbus organization and Megna late of the Pittsburgh/Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. Both spent some quality time in the NHL last year, Gibbons getting into 25 games with the Blue Jackets and Megna 12 with Pittsburgh, both are relatively young but with solid pro experience (Gibbons four years and Megna three), and neither was getting too carried away about what Monday night’s performances might mean in their quests to make the Rangers.

Jayson Megna (23), Brian Gibbons (24), and others, celebrate a Ranger goal in New York's preseason opener win over New Jersey (MSG Photos)

Jayson Megna (23), Brian Gibbons (14), and others, celebrate a Ranger goal in New York’s preseason opener win over New Jersey (MSG Photos)

“You control what you can control,” Megna told the media after the game. “You can drive yourself nuts looking at the lineups, who’s playing who’s not, every night. For me, I’ve been on two pretty good teams–fortunate to be in two great organizations like this one and Pittsburgh–where the lineups are stacked. So you just have to leave it all out on the ice and prove to the coaches you can help the team win.”

Gibbons expressed similar sentiments, saying, “I think every time you get a chance to show the coaches that you can play at this level and they can trust you on the ice in different situations, I think that’s all I’m trying to do.”

Gibbons has played in 66 NHL games the past two years, having gotten into 41 with Pittsburgh in 2013-14 before signing with Columbus last summer. He has 5-17-22 in those 66 contests, and 101 points (33-68) in 194 career AHL games. Good numbers, but, according to his former Boston College teammate, and now fellow Ranger organization member, Chris Kreider, they do not do justice to Gibbons’ skill level.

“In college in particular, (Gibbons) was) the best player I played with,” Kreider said after last night’s game. “You see the poise, and he’s so fun to watch. He’s electrifying, high in skill, he’s dynamic. He’s a game changer and he sees things other people don’t.”

For Kreider to say that Gibbons was the best player he played with at B.C. is eye-openingly high praise, as Kreider’s other college teammates included the likes of Johnny Gaudreau, Cam Atkinson, and Kevin and Jimmy Hayes.

Also in Monday night’s preseason opener, Oscar Lindberg scored, Ryan Bourque had an assist and Brady Skjei was +3 with an assist.

And, the Rangers go back-to-back with their first two exhibition contests, visiting Philadelphia tonight. Megna, Lindberg, Bourque and Dylan McIlrath were all announced as remaining in the projected lineup for the second game, and Mat Bodie is scheduled to dress as well.

Four tryout players are also slated to play in Philly: veteran defenseman Brett Bellemore, a veteran of 121 NHL games with Carolina and 300 AHL contests with Charlotte and Albany, former New York Islanders third-round pick Kirill Kabanov and rookies Richard Nejezchleb and Jayden Hart. Nejezchleb was a fifth-round selection by the Rangers as a 20-year-old in 2014 and actually started last season on the Wolf Pack roster while rehabbing an injury, before heading back to the Western Hockey League, where he was a better than a point-per-game guy (20-31-51 in 49 GP) with Brandon and Tri-City. Hart, meanwhile, is even more of a Cinderella story out of the WHL (Prince Albert), having been a tryout invite to the Rangers’ Traverse City Prospects Tournament team and having impressed enough not only to earn a spot at Ranger training camp, but to get tabbed for a preseason game as well. Hearing some real good things about him.

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