The Rangers’ roster is where dreams come true for young hockey players, a parade of whom have made their NHL debuts over the past two years as the rebuild continues.
Next up: Morgan Barron, the 6-4, 220-pound forward out of Cornell who likely will see his first NHL action when the Rangers visit the Islanders on Saturday night.
The evening would have been an NHL debut two-fer had not defenseman Tarmo Reunanen — called up from AHL Hartford along with Barron on Friday — played in one game as a Ranger on March 15.
Now there is a good chance both will play on Saturday, according to coach David Quinn, when the Rangers try to keep their slim playoff hopes alive.
That is because forward Chris Kreider and defenseman Ryan Lindgren both are injured and listed as day-to-day, joining Brett Howden, who has a broken foot and is out for the season.
Defenseman Jacob Trouba practiced on Friday, but his return from a presumed concussion is uncertain.
Barron, 22, a sixth-round draft pick in 2017, was ECAC Player of the Year in 2019-20, a season cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic when Cornell was ranked No. 1 in the nation.
He eschewed his senior season to sign with the Rangers last summer. After not making the team out of training camp, he had 10 goals and 11 assists in 21 games for the Wolf Pack as their leading scorer.
After his first Rangers practice on Friday, Barron said he "absolutely" believes he is ready for his promotion.
"It’s been a long road," he said, "but I’m confident in my abilities to go out there and contribute."
The road included the decision to leave college, one he said was not a direct result of uncertainty over whether the Ivy League would play in 2020-21, which they did not.
"Things were definitely leaning toward me coming out regardless," Barron said. "I just felt I was ready to take that next step for my game. I’m glad I did. Obviously, I feel bad for those guys at Cornell who didn’t get the season, but I’m happy with my decision."
He said he was disappointed not to make the opening roster but that his experience in Hartford helped him improve.
"I got more and more comfortable and just felt like I had the puck on my stick more and was creating a little bit more," he said.
Quinn said Barron has been playing with more confidence and honed his overall game. He called him "a big body that can skate."
Said Barron, "I think with my size I can hopefully be someone who can go out there and get up and down the ice and be trusted on both sides of the puck and bring a little bit of physicality."
Assuming he gets the nod, Barron will become the latest Ranger to get the traditional solo skate in warmups.
"It’s a lot of fun watching a guy experience his first NHL game," Quinn said. "To me, Morgan’s earned his opportunity."
Alexandar Georgiev will start in goal. He is 7-2 in his career with a 1.70 goals-against average against the Islanders.