New York Rangers Black Aces

Involved in NHL Rumours, Vitali Kravtsov crowds the net during a preseason game; New York Rangers Black Aces.
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Last Word on Hockey is bringing you its Black Aces Series, covering every team in the upcoming Stanley Cup Playoffs. Recently the NHL owners and NHLPA agreed to an expanded playoff format to finish the 2019-2020 season and award the Stanley Cup. There will be 24 teams participating as opposed to the normal 16 teams. Today, we feature the New York Rangers black aces.

There a lot of details to be worked out as well as the schedule and location of the games. With the AHL season being cancelled, that makes a lot more players available to the NHL teams participating. NHL Black Aces are once again in the news so today we are looking at which players may be among the New York Rangers Black Aces selected.

New York Rangers Black Aces

The term “Black Ace” was once used negatively. The term originated from Eddie Shore who would refer to spare players as a “Black Ace”. Shore would say that a team would be in bad shape if they had to use one of their Black Aces in a game. However, recently, it has been used more positively. A team would use a Black Ace to help them overcome the loss of a player or if they thought a different player could be utilized in a way to help the team win. Let’s look at the Rangers aces in the hole.

Vitali Kravtsov

The young Russian was the ninth overall selection of the 2018 NHL Draft. He’s had his struggles since being drafted as he was with the AHL Hartford Wolf Pack for 39 games. Kravtsov totalled six goals and 15 points in that time in the AHL. He did spend the early part of his season with his old KHL club Traktor Chelyabinsk.

However, he was demoted to Chelmet Chelyabinsk of the VHL after only getting 11 points in three games with the big club. The Rangers ended his loan back home and brought him to Hartford since Dec. 13.

Some are worried that this could be another failed first-round pick for the Rangers. Lias Andersson has had similar struggles and got sent back to Sweden in hopes of a trade. However, bringing Kravtsov along could give him confidence. Kravtsov is still only 20 and still possesses the tools that made the Rangers draft him like his skating and offensive game. He did also do well in the 2019 Gagarin Cup playoffs with six goals in 16 games.

Boo Nieves

The Baldwinsville, New York native does have some NHL experience, as he’s played four games this season. He was a second-round selection for the team in the 2012 NHL Draft. Nieves has been up and down with the organization but spent most of his time in Hartford.

He does have five goals in a total of 76 games across parts of four seasons. His career-best was four markers in the 2018-19 season and got to 10 points. The 6-foot-3 centre can be called on to be a fourth-line centre in a pinch. Gregg McKegg currently holds that spot (according to Daily Face-Off), but that will change when Filip Chytil is ready to go.

Nieves is likely a decent stopgap that has some experience and can give the Blueshirts depth. He posted five goals and 27 points in 43 games with the Wolf Pack.

Vinni Lettieri

The Excelsior, Minn. native is the Wolf Pack’s leading scorer with 47 points (25 goals) in 61 games. He does have 46 games of NHL experience with one goal apiece in the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons.

He’s a righthanded shot and is not afraid to put pucks on net. Lettieri hasn’t translated his AHL goal-scoring success to the next level, but he does have over 20 goals in three AHL campaigns. His 25 this season is a career-high for the former University of Minnesota Golden Gopher.

The 5-foot-11 forward can be plugged into the fourth line if needed and is willing to shoot. That lack of fear could be useful for the Rangers if a game goes a long time.

Yegor Rykov

The Rangers’ young defence has their fans hopeful for the future. However, the future could be now with the Russian blueliner. New York does have an imbalance on the left side of its defensive group.

Rykov did play four seasons in the KHL with SKA St. Petersburg and SK Sochi. He totalled five goals and 33 points in 157 career games in the Russian league. The 23-year-old also has five playoff assists in 36 games. He also was a teammate with Alexandar Georgiev in the 2016 IIHF World Juniors, where Russia won the silver medal.

The Vidnoye, Russia native got two goals and 11 points in 27 games with the Wolf Pack. He may not see ice time, but he should be ready to compete for a spot on the big club. This could be a chance to practice with the Rangers and absorb some knowledge.

Libor Hajek

One of the more veteran players in the group of New York Rangers Black Aces, Hajek spent 28 games with the Blueshirts this season. The Czech defender got five assists in those games.

That experience would likely mean he’d get a spot in the lineup if there’s an injury. He did only have a goal and three points in 23 games with Hartford. However, he does have familiarity with the Rangers system, coaches and they are familiar with him.

Other Notables

The Rangers will carry three goalies in Igor Shesterkin, Henrik Lundqvist and Georgiev. However, Adam Huska would be the next man up and could get some practice time. Darren Raddysh is the top defensive point-getter with six goals and 28 points with Hartford. He is a righthander, so he may have a harder time cracking the lineup unless an injury happens.

Danny O’Regan was second in points for the club with 38 in 62 games. Tim Gettinger could also be called if the Rangers need a big body. He’s 6-foot-6 and could cause problems in front of the net.