Will Cuylle’s NHL debut gives Rangers much-needed physical boost

Will Cuylle will make his NHL debut with the Rangers on Wednesday night against the Maple Leafs in front of friends and family in his hometown of Toronto.

Sometimes the story naturally unfolds better than it could ever have been written. It’s one of those moments, as Cuylle prepares to start his NHL career two years, three months and 20 days after the Rangers traded Lias Andersson to the Kings for the right to draft the winger at the big picture. body in 2020.

It may have been the birth of Cuylle’s career, but the corresponding Rangers move signaled the potential downfall of another.

In addition to recalling Cuylle from Hartford for the first time, Rangers then sent Sammy Blais to the Wolf Pack for a two-week conditioning assignment. Blais, who hasn’t been the same player since suffering an ACL tear in 14 games last season, had to accept the move to the AHL, during which the 26-year-old winger will skate in six games with the Wolf Pack throughout the NHL bye week.

William Cuylle, right, skates against the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center on September 30, 2022 in Newark, New Jersey.
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Blais is still getting his NHL salary and he will still count towards the cap and roster, which means the Rangers are now carrying the maximum 23 players and not racking up as much cap space with 39 days to go. Exchanges.

“You just have to go out there and play some big minutes and hopefully things go well for him,” head coach Gerard Gallant said of what he hopes Blais will take away from him. the conditioning task. “He didn’t play badly for us when he played, he played 8/9/10 minutes most games. He didn’t go into a groove. He was unlucky this year. Hopefully good things happen to him there.

Both moves came on the heels of a 6-2 win over the Panthers, which, despite the score, didn’t thrill Gallant. Although the fourth line took a particularly beating on Monday night, having pulled off an 8-0 takedown attempt in 6:49 of ice time together, Gallant said bringing in Cuylle wasn’t a direct response to that.

Cuylle led the Wolf Pack with 13 goals in 39 games while mostly playing in a top-six role. His 20 points were also good for third on the team, trailing only Turner Elson’s 23 and Tanner Fritz’s 21. The hope is that Cuylle can make the fourth line look more physical with his 6-foot-3, 211-pound frame.

Sammy Blais (91) of the Rangers skates against the Devils at the Prudential Center on January 7, 2023 in Newark, New Jersey.
Sammy Blais (91) of the Rangers skates against the Devils at the Prudential Center on January 7, 2023 in Newark, New Jersey.
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“I just think about my hard work, my work ethic,” he said of what he wants to bring to Rangers. “I’ve scored a little less in the AHL and I think I’m just going to bring a lot of energy to the forecheck here and maybe try to get some goals in the net as well.

Cuylle, 20, expressed confidence in his ability to adapt to a new role in New York, saying he considers himself reliable defensively. In practice Tuesday, he skated on the fourth line with Jake Leschyshyn, Julien Gauthier and Vitali Kravtsov, who will likely be released healthy after a 17-game streak.

Having scored five goals in the last eight games, Cuylle’s confidence should be in good shape. His ice time will be much less, however, it may take him some time to adjust to a point where he can contribute offensively.

“My whole family is there, I’ll have lots of friends and family, so it’s pretty exciting,” Cuylle said of Toronto. “If I could choose a place other than MSG to host a game, it would probably be there.”

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