Rangers News & Rumors: COVID Pause, Chiarot, WJC & More

On Monday, the Rangers found out that their Dec. 22 game at Madison Square Garden (MSG) against the Montreal Canadian was postponed due to the rising COVID numbers. Speaking of the Canadian, could Ben Chiarot be coming to Broadway? Finally, the Rangers have four prospects invited to the World Junior Championships (WJC) and more.

Rangers vs. Habs Postponed

A little over 24 hours before their final game before Christmas break, the Rangers found out they were going home early when their game against the struggling Canadians was postponed. In fact, the league postponed all games between Canadian and American teams due to border restrictions.

The following evening, the NHL released a statement that NHL locker rooms would be closed off from Dec. 22-25, and players could report back to their team facilities a day early on Dec. 26, since they’re now getting extra time off beforehand and teams can get a headstart on testing before games on Dec. 27.

Chiarot to Rangers?

Things have not gone well for the Canadiens this season. Last season’s Stanley Cup finalist has a 7-21-3 record and fired general manager (GM) Marc Bergevin at the end of November – hiring former Rangers GM Jeff Gorton as vice president of hockey operations. It’s safe to say the Habs will be sellers at the trade deadline.

Ben Chiarot Montreal Canadiens
Ben Chiarot, Montreal Canadiens (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Chiarot, the 6-foot-3, 234-pound veteran defenseman, would bolster the Rangers’ blueline He could lend Jacob Trouba a hand, providing hits and blocked shots. Chiarot has 65 hits and 52 blocked shots this season, among the league’s leaders. He’s also averaging over 22 minutes a game (TOI) and plays a solid shutdown role. That type of contribution would be a much-needed boost for the Rangers come playoff time when players are feeling the effects of what we hope is an 82-game season (COVID). The fact that he will be an unrestricted free agent (UFA) in July means the Blueshirts might not have to get rid of much to get him.

Berard, Cuylle, Garand, Vaisanen; WJC

The Rangers have four prospects in the WJC: Brett Berard for Team USA, Will Cuylle and Dylan Garand for Team Canada, and Kalle Vaisanen. They’re all poised to make significant contributions.

USNTDP Brett Berard
Brett Berard of the USNTDP (Rena Laverty)

Berard is in his sophomore year at Providence College, and this will be his second WJC tournament. He helped Team USA win gold in 2021 over Team Canada, the 2022 tournament hosts. He has 24 points in 21 games this season and had five points in seven games for Team USA at last year’s WJC.

Related: Rangers’ Berard Poised For Big World Juniors For Team USA

The Rangers’ 2020 second round, 60th-overall pick Will Cuylle made Team Canada’s roster. This will be Cuylle’s first WJC, and he’s expected to provide Team Canada with some grit on the fourth line. The 6-foot-4, 209-pound left wing is currently playing under former Rangers center Marc Savard with the Ontario Hockey League’s (OHL) Windsor Spitfires. Cuylle is the captain of the Spits and has 18 goals with seven assists in 22 games thus far. Word out of camp was that Cuylle beat out another Rangers prospect, Brennan Othmann, for one of the final spots.

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Garand is playing in his second WJC with Team Canada. He played one game in last year’s tournament and allowed three goals. The 6-foot-1, 181-pound netminder is in his fourth season with the Kamloops Blazers of the Western Hockey League (WHL). He’s having his best season yet, notching 15 wins with a 1.85 goals-against average (GAA). Reports suggest he’s likely to start when Canada has their opening game against Team Czech Republic on Dec. 26.

Kalle Vaisanen is the Rangers’ 2021 fourth-round pick. He’ll represent Team Finland at the 2022 WJC. Vaisnanen is slotted to play on the fourth line. The 18-year-old 6-foot-4, 181-pound right wing is expected to play solid defense and be a physical presence for Finland. Vaisanen currently plays for TPS in Finland’s Liiga.

Lundqvist Retirement Party

The Rangers announced they’re holding a viewing party for Henrik Lundqvist Retirement Night. Doors open at 5 pm, and the event starts at 5:30 pm in the Hulu Theater at MSG on Jan. 28, against the Minnesota Wild. Lundkvist played his entire career in a Rangers uniform. He was forced to retire due to a medical issue while under contract with the Washington Capitals.

Rangers Ups and Downs

The Rangers had another game postponed and the NHL paused for an early Christmas break. However, the WJC will go ahead as scheduled, and it should be USA and Canada back in the gold medal game. “Henrik” chants will be heard again at MSG on Jan. 28.

*All stats courtesy of Elite Pro Prospects

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