For one night at least, the kids made Alain Vigneault's decisions on who stays and who goes just a little bit tougher.
The three stars, as voted by the media at MSG, of Monday's 6-3 crunching of a split-squad Flyers group were 22, 21 and 19.
"It's a good situation for our team," said Vigneault, who wants to be down to 30 players on Wednesday.
Take Swedish right wing Jesper Fast, who with two goals Monday night and three overall, looks like a different player from last year, stronger on his skates, more confident in his shot. Vigneault last season liked the speed and defensive play of Fast, whom he dubbed Quickie, and his two performances so far appear to give him an advantage over some players without Hartford and NHL experience.
That said, the Duke, Anthony Duclair, a 19-year-old with wheels who had his second multipoint game and threatened to score some more (he lost the puck on one breakaway and Flyer Steve Mason snared a rising shot that he created from the high slot), could get a look-see in the NHL before being returned to his junior club, the Quebec Remparts. "I'm surprising myself, actually," Duclair said.
"He's playing to his strengths, creating real good opportunities for himself and his teammates," Vigneault said. "This is a daily process and he has to continue. He obviously, like a couple of younger guys, has caught our attention."
"I want to stay here as long as I can," said Duclair, whose parents, Wendell and Dominique, were born in Haiti, but there are deep Canadian roots. He began skating at 2 years old and his uncle, Farell Duclair, was a fullback in the Canadian Football League and won the Grey Cup with the Calgary Stampeders in 1998.
Duclair just might stick. He brings a dimension that the Rangers can surely use, given Vigneault's style. But the front office must decide whether it's better for his development to play one more season in junior, rather than be thrown into the NHL world.
And how about Ryan Haggerty, 21, the Stamford, Connecticut, winger who attended RPI. In front of a crowd of family and friends from home, he said he was nervous on the first shift, but then dazzled on two goals, using his speed to cut from the left circle to the net and finish. He was voted first star.
"Going back and watching the video from Chicago [his first game Friday], I learned from my mistakes and what I can capitalize on," said Haggerty, who admitted that he made a conscious effort to be more aggressive, and also had an assist. Haggerty was fourth in the NCAA in goals last year with 28.
Vigneault said Duclair, Haggerty and Kevin Hayes (two assists) will play again Tuesday in Philadelphia, where the Flyers will certainly dress more veterans.
"There's some spots to be won here, and these guys know it. Coach is saying it," said Ryan McDonagh, who noted that the rookies ask them in practice every day what they can do to improve. McDonagh, by the way, had assists on the first two Rangers goals.
By the numbers
Chris Mueller, a righthanded center who scored a power-play goal on a rebound, is also in the mix for a spot . . . The Rangers outshot the Flyers 37-25, and won 59.2 percent of the faceoffs . . . They are 10-for-11 on the penalty-kill through three games and have a power-play goal in each of the three games . . . Dan Boyle also had two assists, and the younger defensemen who played -- Dylan McIlrath and Steven Kampfer, and vet Matt Hunwick -- "had some moments," Vigneault said, but didn't separate themselves from the pack . . . Derek Stepan (broken fibula, four to six weeks), Ryan Malone (hip flexor) and Matthew Lombardi (groin) remain out, although Malone could play later in the week . . . The group of Rangers playing Tuesday will skate in the morning in Philadelphia.