With the last round of cuts a couple of days behind us, a clearer picture of the forward ranks is beginning to come into view, particularly at center - which should come as no surprise. With an expected quartet of Stephen Weiss, Steven Reinprecht, Marty Reasoner, and Shawn Matthias, the Cats appeared set at the position long before camp began; none of the young players in attendance the past few weeks were realistically ready for prime time. Certainly not over any of the four listed above.
According to many observers, that perception of clear water has been muddied by the recent rise in 24 year-old Mike Santorelli's stock. Though his preseason numbers have been less than sensational (3gp, 1g-0a, -2, 2pim), he has distinguished himself with speed, stickhandling skill, and tenacity; characteristics which no doubt prompted Florida assistant general manager Mike Santos to pursue him from Nashville in exchange for a conditional draft pick in August. (Lots more on Santorelli in this post from On Frozen Pond)
With Reinprecht moving to (presumably) left wing, what does that mean for those currently in a gunfight over the very same spot? If Reino pans out - he's previously played wing in Phoenix and Calgary - this could be a rather shrewd move on the part of coach Peter DeBoer in an effort to have his cake and eat it, too.
Then again, we've painfully witnessed what can happen when a guy is shifted from his natural position, but this a different situation, and certainly a different player.
So again, assuming this works out positively over the final two exhibition contests (a home-and-home series vs Tampa Bay), how will the roster bear out at left wing?
Among those at that position who remain in camp: David Booth, Christopher Higgins, Kenndal McArdle, Andrew Peters, and Cory Stillman. Throw in Reinprecht, and two of them will have one-way's to Rochester less than a week from now.
Arguments for keeping three of them are so laughingly obvious as to be ridiculously unimpeachable; take Booth, Higgins, and (barring a very unlikely trade) Stillman off the "demotion" list, and figurative battle ensues between McArdle and Peters - two individuals with wildly differing playing styles. In that McArdle - when healthy - can actually play a skill and speed game, while Peters is relatively one-dimensional (4 goals, 650 penalty minutes in 229 NHL matches), which makes both valuable depending on the call-up circumstances.