Yesterday, Puck Prospectus released it’s Top 100 prospects, and it is nice to see four Rangers on this list, all within the Top 80. The five Rangers within the top 80 shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, as these are generally the top five prospects that we all want to see wearing Rangers blue in the very, very near future. What is very nice to see is that three of these prospects sit in the top 35, something that Rangers fans are not used to.
The highest rated prospect starts at #23, where Evgeny Grachev sits comfortably. Despite his off year in Hartford, the 19 year old LW has some of the highest potential in the Rangers farm system. What many Ranger fans forget is that Artem Anisimov had a rough start to his AHL career, but he came back and averaged a point per game the year after. AA is now one of our favorite rookies with some great potential. It isn’t far fetched to see Grachev follow that same route, assuming he figures out how to play without the puck.
Just two spots below Grachev, Wisconsin center Derek Stepan sits at #25. Stepan was one of the highly touted prospects in the system before the World Juniors. After captaining the US team to Gold while leading the tournament in scoring, his value skyrocketed. Stepan has all the tools to be a top six forward. The 20 year old center will be spending at least one more year at Wisconsin, where his Badgers were the Frozen Four runners-up in this year’s tournament. Stepan will also serve as an assistant captain next season for the Badgers.
Just ten spots behind Stepan, BC center Chris Kreider sits at #35. Kreider, the Rangers much debated first round pick in 2009. Krieder was selected out of high school without playing against quality competition, and he had trouble adjusting to the college game, playing with the BC Golden Eagles, the eventual National Champions. However, that all changed at the World Juniors, where Kreider led the tournament in goals en route to a gold medal. After that tournament, Kreider started lighting the lamp on a much more consistent basis. Aside from the scoring, the most overlooked portion of Kreider’s game is his play away from the puck, and he has the potential to be an elite two-way forward in the NHL.
The next Rangers prospect on this list is Ethan Werek at #67. The Rangers second round pick in 2009, Werek has absolutely lit up the OHL this year, putting up 63 points in 57 games. The 19 year old forward has a lot of potential, and will probably get an invite to Rangers camp in the 2010 preseason before returning to the OHL for one final year. Werek flies a little bit under the radar amongst Ranger fans, but he shouldn’t, the kid has some serious skill.
The final Ranger prospect on this list is Wisconsin defenseman, and captain, Ryan McDonagh. McDonagh, acquired in the Scott Gomez deal, doesn’t put up big offensive numbers, but boy does he hit hard. He is the big, crease clearing defenseman that the Rangers so desperately need. He will spend one more year –his senior year– with the Badgers, then he will turn pro.
The one player that is noticeably missing from this list is defenseman Bobby Sanguinetti. While it may not be surprising to see him missing, it comes as a great disappointment that he has not lived up to his potential. He simply needs to start taking this more seriously. However, despite Sanguinetti’s absence, the fact that the Rangers have five prospects in the top 80, including three in the top 35, makes the future of this organization hard to ignore. Hopefully everything will pan out with these prospects. Hopefully.