(Photo by Christine Baker | pennlive.com)
Chris Mueller had already been inked to bolster the pivot position, but with the big difference that T.J. Hensick made for the Wolf Pack after his January arrival last season, I had a feeling that the organization might be looking for a similar guy, to make the mantle lighter for young centers who will see quality time with the Wolf Pack.
And, lo and behold, the news came last week that the Rangers had landed Ryan Potulny on an AHL contract, a home run, in my opinion, when you look at the Hensick-type guys who were out there.
Last season was somewhat of a lost year for Potulny, who played only 38 games in his third year with Hershey, and had three goals and ten points in those 38 games. The year before, though, he had 19-22-41 with the Bears in 66 games, leading the team in goals, and as recently as 2011-12, had 33 goals, tied for third in the AHL, and 65 points in only 61 games with Hershey.
Potulny didn't get into a game until after Christmas last season, after sustaining a major shoulder injury in the KHL preseason. He had signed with Avangard Omsk, but his KHL contract was voided after the injury, which required surgery. Following his rehab, Potulny re-signed with the Bears, who were already laden with veterans. Potulny's arrival gave Hershey six veterans, one more than the number allowed to dress for a game, and the club was also extremely deep at center, with names like Jeff Taffe and Kris Newbury (ironically, both former Wolf Pack guys), also battling for playing time in the middle.
So it's certainly reasonable to speculate that last year was an aberration for Potulny, and that his true AHL water level is much closer to the nearly point-per-game pace that he cranked out the previous two season. Also, in 2010-11, he had a huge playoff for Binghamton, after being acquired from the Chicago organization at the trade deadline. Potulny led all AHL postseason point-scorers that spring for the Calder Cup-champion Senators, with 26, and tied with Hamilton's Nigel Dawes (yep, another ex-Pack triggerman...small world, eh?) for the league playoff goals lead. He also scored the overtime game-winner for Binghamton in their Game Seven triumph over Manchester in the first round, a victory that capped off a bounce-back from a three-games-to-one deficit in that matchup.
So now, with Potulny in the fold, the Wolf Pack could have a center backbone of him, Mueller and Oscar Lindberg, which is one heck of a top three, even if J.T. Miller leaves the AHL behind. The Rangers have Derek Stepan, Derick Brassard, Dominic Moore and Matthew Lombardi on the roster at the center position as well, so there is bound to be a ton of positive competion at that important spot.