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. This is one of those times, as Coyle prepares to start his NHL career at two years, three months, and 20 days after the Rangers traded Lias Andersson to the Kings for the right to recruit the big-bodied winger in 2020.
This could be the start of Coyle’s career, but the Rangers’ counter-action suggests another downfall is possible.
In addition to calling Cuylle up from Hartford for the first time, the Rangers later sent Sammy Blais to the Wolf Pack on a two-week conditioning assignment. Blais, who hasn’t been the same player since suffering an ACL tear at the end of 14 games last season, had to agree to an AHL assignment, during which the 26-year-old winger will skate in six games with the Wolf Pack through the NHL’s bye week.
Blais still gets paid in the NHL and will still count against the cap and roster, which means the Rangers are now carrying 23 players cap and not getting much space with 39 days until the trade deadline.
“Just go out there and play some big minutes and hope it goes well for him,” coach Gerard Gallant said of his hope for Bliss to get out of the conditioning job. “He didn’t play badly for us when he played, he played 8/9/10 minutes most games. He didn’t get into a groove. He hasn’t had much luck this year. Hopefully some good things will happen to him there.”
The two movements came in the wake of A 6-2 win over the Panthers, which, despite the outcome, Gallant was not thrilled with. Although the fourth streak was particularly manhandled Monday night, going 8-0 down in 6:49 of ice time all together, Gallant said bringing Cuylle in wasn’t a direct response to that.
Coyle was leading the Wolf Pack with 13 goals in 39 matches while mainly playing in the top six round. His 20 points were also good for third on the team, behind only Turner Elson’s 23 and Tanner Fritz’s 21. The hope is Cuylle can give the fourth line a more physical look with his 6-foot-3, 211-pound frame.
“I think it’s just my hard work, my work ethic,” he said of what he wanted to bring to Rangers. “I’ve been scoring quite a bit in the AHL and I think I’m going to bring a lot of energy into the forehand here and maybe try to score a couple of goals on the net as well.”
The 20-year-old Coyle has expressed confidence in his ability to adapt to a new role in New York, saying he considers himself reliable defensively. In practice on Tuesday, he skated on the fourth line with Jake Lechichin, Julien Gauthier and Vitaly Kravtsov, who would likely be a healthy scratch after a 17-game streak.
Having scored five goals in his last eight matches, Coyle’s confidence must be in a good place. However, his ice time would be significantly less, so it might take some time to adjust to the point where he could contribute an attack.
“All my family is there, and it’s going to have a lot of friends and family, so it’s very exciting,” Coyle said of Toronto. “If I could choose somewhere other than MSG to get a game, it would probably be there.”