At this point in the preseason, it's likely that the Rangers know six of their seven defensemen.
Returning from last season on the blueline are Marc Staal, Dan Girardi, Wade Redden, and Michal Rozsival. Add to that mix newcomers Matt Gilroy and most likely Alexei Semenov who has been strong during his tryout with the club.
The only defensemen left in camp? Mike Del Zotto and Bobby Sanguinetti.
Both have gotten long hard looks from the organization and when asked about the two, Head Coach John Tortorella simply said, "He just doesn't know."
One factor that will play heavily into this decision is that Del Zotto is age-eligible for Juniors or the NHL, he cannot play in the AHL. It is the same situation that Jordan Staal of Pittsburgh faced a couple seasons ago. He can play up to 10 (I believe) games in the NHL and then he either must be returned to his Juniors team or stay with the NHL club the rest of the season.
Sanguinetti, can go to Hartford and be called between the two teams without any reservations.
The problem is that while both have shown some strong skills, neither has really stood out to the point of forcing the team to keep them.
During camp, Tortorella has been fairly mum on Sanguinetti, saying he hasn't seen him much.
On Del Zotto, he has said a bit more, but most recently, "he has made a case for himself to stay here."
Not exactly convincing.
Size is an issue with both players and while Sanguinetti seems to have filled out a bit from his draft year, he still lacks some of the width that many NHL defenseman have. Del Zotto is a wider player, but is not as physically mature yet as Sanguinetti.
Skating has been a strong point of both, they can keep up with the pace of the NHL game. However, the ability to see the ice and process plays at that speed is a different story. Neither have looked comfortable nor have they shown the kind of decision making with (and without) the puck required to play night in and night out.
Both would probably benefit with some time in the minors, the problem is that Del Zotto is a man amongst boys in the OHL, but a boy amongst men in the NHL.
My best guess is that Sanguinetti starts the season in Hartford and Del Zotto is returned to Juniors. The Rangers will probably bring in a defensemen via free agency or trade, such as Marc-Andre Bergeron to try and fill that final pairing role.
If not, they could start the season with six defensemen and use Sanguinetti as a callup after he gains a little confidence in Hartford.
Regardless, Del Zotto and Sanguinetti have shown the potential to be prominent NHL-caliber defensemen and that is something that all fans can smile about.