As the Rangers inch closer to training camp, there are still many questions that need to be answered. One of those questions is, can Ryan Callahan step it up this year? If the answer isn't yes, his time as a Ranger might be coming to an end.
Don't get me wrong, I love Callahan. He plays a real good game, always gives 100 percent, and is not afraid to get dirty. His style has made him a bit of a fan favorite in New York.
Just look at his hard working shifts, like the one with two minutes to go in Game Five against the New Jersey Devils where he fore checked his butt off, and killed off valuable time. The way Ranger fans cheered him during that shift made it seem like the game was at MSG.
Things like that can make a player very valuable, at least among fans. But there is more that Ryan has to do if he wants to get a new contract next summer with New York when he becomes a restricted free agent.
As it stands now, we are likely to see Callahan as a third liner. Last season, a season of injuries and a stint in the AHL, limited him to only 52 games. In that span, he scored eight goals and five assists for 13 points.
He scored in the first game of the season, but got hurt, and then didn't score a point for the next 23 games. That scoring drought earned him a ticket to the Hartford Wolfpack for a bit of time in the minors to gain his confidence.
When he returned, he started playing much better, but still wasn't producing an amazing amount of points, at least not enough to get overly excited about. What he did do well was fore check, hit, and play an up-tempo, fast-paced game.
While those are very important aspects of hockey, the fans do want to see a more consistent game with Callahan.
In Ryan's first call up in 06-07 he was able to register six points in just 14 games. We all saw a lot of potential in him after that. In the playoffs that year, he registered two goals and an assist for three points in 10 games. Both goals however, came in Game Three against Atlanta, a game that they won 7-0.
In 07-08, his offense started to slip. In his first 24 games, he had one point, and was a -1.
After the All-Star break, he stepped it up, getting goals and five assists for 12 points and a +8 rating in just 28 games. He also had four points in 10 games during the playoffs, getting two points in each series the Rangers played in.
While Ryan has shown that he has the potential to be an offensive guy, scoring 52 goals in his last year in the OHL, it has yet to consistently translate to the NHL.
With other forwards in the AHL (like Lauri Korpikoski, Greg Moore, Artem Anisimov, and Dane Byers) looking to take a spot on the roster, Callahan must show that he is ready to add a more offensive dimension to his game, or else one of the Rangers' talented foward prospects might take his place.
If Callahan can add an offensive side, he can definitely make the jump to a second line player. If he doesn't, he might wind up becoming a fourth line guy on New York, or on another team entirely. We have all seen the offense that's been buried deep inside of him.
It's come out a few times, but not enough. This could be a very important year for his career. Hopefully, it will be his first full year as an NHL player, but it's up to him to make sure that he never will see the AHL again.
If he breaks out of his shell and starts to produce more on offense, he could make a big impression during his contract year. If not, he might be seen strictly as a lower line guy who can only hit and fore check. Either way, this is a make or break year for Ryan Callahan.