In his time with the Canucks, Alain Vigneault liked to employ a very specialized third line. He likes to start his third line in the defensive zone for the majority of their shifts playing against top offensive talent.
In 2010-11, when the Canucks achieved their greatest success, their third line of Manny Malhotra, Raffi Torres and Jannik Hansen all started less than 35% of their shifts in the offensive zone, while still scoring their share of even strength points (Hansen – 28, Torres – 25, Malhotra – 22).
Should Vigneault try to duplicate that style of third line with the Rangers it’s likely that Brian Boyle would be the center that does his heavy lifting. While this would take a minor leap of faith –Boyle’s 2013 season was a trainwreck by most any standards–Boyle has shown that he can handle a similar role to that required by Vigneault. In 2011-12, Boyle started started only 28.8% of his shifts in the offensive zone, while scoring a very respectable 24 even strength points.
As far as who could flank him, I will show absolutely no creativity and suggest that Raffi Torres could be one of his wingers. Torres is a UFA this summer. While Torres, has gotten the attention of the league a couple of times since his stint under Vigneault, my hope is that his price on the free agent market will adequately reflect that. San Jose acquired him at a discounted price at the deadline, as a 3rd round pick was essentially a song for a player with the even strength production of Torres.
As far as the other winger, Carl Hagelin would likely be the best fit to play alongside the two. Hagelin plays a very similar style to Jannik Hansen, whose game is also built on speed. Torres and Hagelin have both played primarily the left wing in the past, however. Other possibilities would be J.T. Miller, provided he shows some progression next season, or Mats Zuccarello.
We’ll soon see how much of an influence Vigneault has on the team’s personnel this summer.