Seriously, when was the last time the New York Rangers called someone up from the minors during the season and they instantly caused a sensation, not only by succeeding early, but continuing that success for more than just a game or two? It has been a long time, we know that much, and so, it is with open arms that we have watched rookie Carl Hagelin (8 GP; 3 G, 3 A) play in these last eight games. There is much reason to get excited here, and I am not worried about him being a mere flash-in-the-pan, because he has not been getting lucky with his goals, but actually creating them. Last night, against the Buffalo Sabres, he scored two; one at even strength and one shorthanded. Each one was nearly identical: he used his speed to cut down the wing before blasting a shot home. That is the reason why he will succeed in New York this season, because of his speed and determination, and also, his willingness to just shoot the puck (he has 21 shots so far on the season). He even shows signs of backchecking and defensive zone awareness, which is something that rookies often lack mightily.
No puck? No problem. Hagelin fights his way through to try to get it, and then skates into a scoring position, to either shoot or set up a teammate, namely his partner-in-crime, John Mitchell, who came up from the Connecticut Whale with him a few weeks ago. The two had chemistry in the minors, and John Tortorella made the right move by keeping them together, and allowing that skill to further enhance. It is rare enough that one player is called up and automatically fits in, but the Rangers have two. Mitchell and Hagelin have found a decent amount of time being on the flanks of center Brian Boyle, who is struggling very badly this season. He has been the only weak link on the line, which leads me to wonder if the Rangers will try to mix it up a little bit tonight against the surprisingly good Florida Panthers. Late in last night’s game, Hagelin played a few minutes on a line with Brad Richards, which made perfect sense, not only because they were trying to get the youngster an elusive hat trick goal, but because his speed combined with Richards’ vision could be lethal. Add the feisty Ryan Callahan to the mix, who is having a wonderful season thus far, and the Rangers could very well end up having line 1A, as opposed to just a second line. Then comes the possibility that Artem Anisimov may not play tonight, after leaving the game early with a head injury. Could Hagelin be slotted up to play with Marian Gaborik and Derek Stepan?
I do not think this is overreaction, for as I stated above, Hagelin has not been the beneficiary of mere happenstance or dumb luck. He has tremendous speed (probably one of the three best skaters on the entire team already), a good shot, good hockey sense, and backchecking ability. All these added up do not equate to a flash-in-the-pan, and we can only hope he will continue this play all season long. I do not think that a 20-goal season for him is out of the question.