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Maple Leafs Player Preview: Paul Ranger

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The NHL Season is quickly approaching, with that in mind we’re going to take a look at who is (likely) to be on the Leafs roster come October 1 in Montreal. Contract numbers via CapGeek.com; Regular Stats via Hockey-reference.com; Nerd stats via behindthenet.ca. For the rest of our Player Previews go here.

Who:

Paul Ranger, No. 10, defense| 6’3″, 210 LBS | 25-years old.

ToT Approved Nicknames:

None that I’ve heard yet, feel free to share your ideas though

History:

4 NHL seasons, all with Tampa Bay (his last coming in 2010), 270 career games

Contract Status:

1-year deal worth $1-million

Career Stats:

270 GP 18 Goals 74 Assists 92 Points

2012/2013 Stats (AHL):

51 GP 8 Goals 17 Assists 25 Points

You Oughta Know:

Ranger abruptly left hockey in 2010 while in the prime of his career with the Tampa Bay Lightening, citing “personal reasons” for the departure. He has never divulged why he left hockey, and frankly it’s none of our business.

After reading this Bruce Arthur piece on Ranger and his return, it’s hard not to like the guy and be excited for his return to the NHL with the Leafs. He seems genuinely happy to for the opportunity to play NHL hockey again, and that is something that we can all appreciate.

Looking Back:

In his first season of professional hockey in 3 years, Ranger spent the entire year with the Toronto Marlies of the American Hockey League. I attended a handful of Marlies games during the NHL lockout, and can confidently say that Paul Ranger was consistently the best player on the ice whenever I saw him.

In the Bruce Arthur piece mentioned above, Ranger stated that it took him until game 17 to feel like he was “back”, which given the amount of time he took off from the game, is incredibly impressive.

Ranger’s comeback  will be an interesting storyline to follow throughout the Leafs season, Ranger’s transition to the AHL last season went smoothy, but coming back and performing in the NHL is a completely different animal.

What to Expect:

Expectations for Ranger are quite high entering the season, due mainly to a combination of the “best skater not in the NHL” talk that was bandied about as he was a stalwart for the Toronto Marlies last season and the fact that Dave Nonis has publicly stated he thinks Ranger is a top-4 NHL defenseman.

If Ranger is able to step into the lineup and play solid top-4 minutes for the Maple Leafs, they will be receiving one of the best bargains in the NHL with his $1-million salary cap hit. On the other hand if Ranger is overwhelmed with the speed of the NHL game upon his return and ends up as the Leafs 6/7 defenseman, his salary cap hit is still a relative bargain at $1-million. It’s a win/win situation for the Leafs.

After seeing him in person several times last season, and with the high expectations of those around the Leafs who saw Ranger play every day, I fully expect Ranger to be able to step into that top-4 role with the Leafs and thrive.

A large, puck moving defenseman is a rare commodity, and I can see Ranger putting up somewhere around 10 goals and 25 assists from the back-end if he is able to stay healthy for the entire season. If Ranger is able to step up and perform at a high level, the Leafs defense may end up being one of the more formidable units in the league.

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Tags: Paul Ranger Toronto Maple Leafs

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