After the Rangers selected Will Cuylle in the second round of the 2020 NHL Draft, the Toronto native said during his first media conference that he modeled his game after Tom Wilson.
The notorious Capitals agitator and the Blueshirts have since developed a strained relationship following that fateful night last May 3, one that has dominated the Rangers’ offseason headlines as general manager Chris Drury set out to beef up the lineup.
When asked if he still looks to play the nasty style that Wilson does, Cuylle said, in short, yes.
“Yeah, obviously some stuff has happened,” he said with a grin after Day 4 of the Rangers development camp Monday, referring to Wilson beating on the since-traded Pavel Buchnevich and rag-dolling star Artemi Panarin.
“But obviously his type of game and the style he plays, that’s someone I still try to emulate my game after. Being physical, playing hard and playing simple, not too fancy, nothing flashy, just hard.”
After scoring two goals in the first scrimmage of development camp Sunday, Cuylle registered an assist on Matt Rempe’s goal on Monday. The 19-year-old hasn’t been afraid to hit his fellow prospects or attack the net, using his 6-foot-3, 204-pound frame to his advantage.
Cuylle is fairly far down on the Rangers’ depth chart at left wing, with Panarin, Chris Kreider, Alexis Lafreniere and offseason addition Barclay Goodrow, who signed a six-year deal in late July, also at that position. As far as other prospects, Cuylle is being measured up against the likes of the 23-year-old Tim Gettinger, 2019 second-rounder Karl Henriksson and 2021 No. 16 pick Brennan Othmann.
“Obviously, I want to make the team,” Cuylle said. “You come to camp and you want to make the team. I’m just taking it one day at a time and trying to do my best every day to show the coaches and the management what I can bring.”
Cuylle is coming off his first pro season with the Rangers’ AHL affiliate in Hartford after the Ontario Hockey League was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. He finished last season with two goals, three assists and 35 penalty minutes in 18 games.
In terms of strength and competitiveness, Cuylle said he felt like he fit right into the pace of the AHL. Cuylle added that it was a great experience, considering many other hockey players didn’t get the luxury of playing a season because of the pandemic.
“I feel like it fast-forwarded my development,” he said.
Coming into camp, Cuylle said he worked on his overall speed this offseason, focusing on becoming a more powerful skater. With rookie games against the Flyers prospects scheduled for this Sunday and Monday, Cuylle said he hopes to show his hockey sense and ability to keep up with other physical players.
“I think the coaches and the management know what I bring to the table,” Cuylle said. “Ultimately, at the end of the day, it’s up to them. I just got to show them. I got to make the decision easier for them, whether I’m ready or not, I just got to show up every day.”