This article was added by the user . TheWorldNews is not responsible for the content of the platform.

Zac Jones’ power play specialty not enough to overcome Rangers impediments

KINGSTON, R.I. — The Rangers’ four-righty first power-play unit has been in place since Thanksgiving Eve of 2019 when then-coach David Quinn assembled a group featuring lefty Chris Kreider and a quartet of starboard-side shooters in Mika Zibanejad, Artemi Panarin, Ryan Strome and Tony DeAngelo. 

Asked about the alignment, Quinn said simply: “They’re our five best [offensive] players.” 

Righty Adam Fox replaced DeAngelo at the point at the start of the following year. Now, righty Vincent Trocheck has stepped in for Strome after the summer’s free-agency exchange of the No. 16’s. Having four righties on that unit is no longer, if it ever had been, happenstance. It is a defining feature of a power play that ranked fourth in the NHL at 25.2 percent last season. 

“The important thing is bringing in a righty for a righty,” net-front presence extraordinaire Kreider told The Post following Monday’s practice at this Rhode Island outpost. “A lefty [replacing Strome] would change the element and the dynamic. 

“The guy in the middle has to be a shot threat. If we had a lefty there, we’d have to run everything off the other side.” 

Barring injury, the first unit is inviolate. That means Alexis Lafreniere remains on the second unit, where he will be joined up front by fellow Kids Kaapo Kakko and Filip Chytil. But it gets interesting with Vitali Kravtsov and Jacob Trouba filling out the personnel on the back. 

New York Rangers defenseman Zac Jones (6) when the New Rangers rookies practiced
Robert Sabo

Coach Gerard Gallant said that Kravtsov is not necessarily lining up at the point opposite from Trouba, but playing more of a half-wall position while receiving backcheck protection from one of two forwards on the flank rotating to his side. Still, the coach who generally prioritizes safety is placing a fair amount of faith in Kravtsov and an untested support system. 

Of course, that’s why Lester Patrick invented training camp. 

“I have confidence in him and the [other forwards],” Gallant said. “That’s why we’re working on it now, to get them used to that area. Because if there’s a turnover, you want both those guys coming back hard with one guy getting a better jump. 

“You’ve just got to make sure you’re managing the puck when it’s high and take care of that. But Kravvy has been playing well so far. We’re giving him an opportunity, he’s working hard and doing what we’re asking. The real test is going to come soon.” 

So, you’ve got 10 names comprising the projected season-opening power-play units. Do you spot who is not among them? Correct. That would be Zac Jones, whose primary asset is running the power play. 

So the question becomes whether Jones has enough value at even-strength to include the 21-year-old on the roster, let alone pencil him in as the third pair left defenseman. If the hierarchy is not measuring Jones’ potential impact with the man-advantage, then it is pretty much all about the ability to defend. 

And Jones would not seem to hold an advantage in that department over Libor Hajek. It is unlikely that the club would keep Jones — who does not require waivers to shuttle back to Hartford — as a seventh defenseman when he would be piling up minutes in all critical situations for the AHL Wolf Pack. Perhaps I am reading more into this than necessary, but it does seem to me that the decision to go with Kravtsov (and Trouba) over Jones on PP2 is rather significant. 

NEWARK, NEW JERSEY - SEPTEMBER 30: Zac Jones #6 of the New York Rangers scales the puck
Getty Images

There is this, too: Kravtsov’s assignment also keeps emerging nation K’Andre Miller on the bench during power-play time. Back to Jones: if the Kravtsov experiment does not work, would the Blueshirts’ first alternative be Jones or Miller? If Miller, then isn’t Jones effectively blocked from showcasing his most distinct talent on Broadway? 

Of course, everything can change within a week or two. It is not out of the question that the team’s third-pair left-side guy is not currently in the organization. Hajek has been reasonably solid but hardly a camp standout coming off a season in which he just could not break into the lineup despite Patrik Nemeth’s ongoing struggles on the third pair. 

There is a week to go before the Blueshirts get it on with their Eastern final conquerors Tampa Bay at the Garden in the Oct. 11 season opener. There are a couple of exhibitions remaining mixed in with a handful of practices. 

But it appears as if nearly all of the decisions have been made, maybe not etched in stone, but more than by stencil. The decisions have left Jones off the power play. There is good reason to wonder if that leaves the UMass product off the roster entirely.