New York Rangers: Is Carl Hagelin a Top-Line Player?

James Wrabel, Jr.@TheWrageCorrespondent IIJuly 31, 2012

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JANUARY 1: Carl Hagelin #62 of the New York Rangers skates during practice for the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Citizens Bank Park on January 1, 2012 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Christopher Pasatieri/Getty Images)
Christopher Pasatieri/Getty Images

2011-12 was certainly a roller coaster ride for New York Rangers rookie Carl Hagelin.

Starting out with the Connecticut Whale, Hagelin made his NHL debut the day after Thanksgiving and never looked back. He started on a checking line with John Mitchell and Brian Boyle and immediately displayed chemistry. Through hard work, tenacity on the puck and his all-world speed, Hagelin would finish the season playing on a top line with Marian Gaborik and Brad Richards, seemingly being the key to the line's success.

What does this upcoming season hold for the young Swede? Depending on future acquisitions, Hagelin could see himself playing in multiple situations.

One scenario dictates if New York signs free agent Shane Doan to complement its top six. NHL.com writer Dan Rosen discusses what the Rangers would do should they bring in Phoenix's captain.

The Rangers already have plenty of depth in their top-six forward group with Brad Richards, Rick Nash, Marian Gaborik (out until December due to shoulder surgery), Ryan Callahan, Derek Stepan, Chris Kreider and Carl Hagelin. If Doan signs with New York, he'd likely push Hagelin out of the top six and force Nash to play on the left side, where Nash says he is comfortable.

In 64 games, Hagelin tallied 14 goals and 24 assists in his rookie campaign. However, he did not score a goal in 17 games during the playoffs, which included a three-game suspension for elbowing Sens captain and childhood idol Daniel Alfredsson.

His playoff struggles were highlighted by an inability to finish—something that needs to be done if playing top-line minutes.

It begs the question: Does Hagelin belong in such a role? The answer may be no.

Assuming no other moves are made, by default—and by his past chemistry—Hagelin would once again assume a top-six role because of Gaborik's absence due to injury. When Gaborik returns will be interesting, and we could see Hagelin slot down to the third line—a place where Hagelin may be more comfortable.

There's no doubting Hagelin's skills.

He's one of the fastest skaters in the NHL. He's excellent at chasing down pucks and forechecking. Hagelin's also an adequate passer and can create offense from behind the net. However, he's shown a lack of finish and can get knocked off his game. That may be attributed to his age (23 years old) and being in just his first NHL season.

But, his skill set would suggest playing on a third line in a checking role would suit Hagelin best.

It's not a knock against Hagelin. The team thrived off his puck-retrieving and forechecking abilities. Perhaps he develops into a scorer down the road after getting stronger and learning the NHL game more.

At this point in time, Hagelin will be playing out of position because of an injury. Last year, he was playing out of position because of a lack of scoring. On a good team with proper depth, Hagelin is skating on the third line—something we'll see next season.

 

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