Obviously we have no idea yet whether there will be a 2012/13 NHL season starting on time, a training camp or a pre-season. Hey, right now we have no idea whether there will be regular season play at all. Regardless, there are plenty of prospects in the organisation that offer legitimate intrigue. Whether they will be fighting for NHL jobs, making waves with the Connecticut Whale or sent back to junior/college there is still plenty to keep an eye on. A few intrigue me more than others.
With Tim Erixon traded, eternal patient Michael Sauer still hurt and Dylan McIlrath doing his best to provide Sauer with some company in the treatment room the Rangers defensive depth looks shakier – both short and long term – than it had done just six months ago; all this despite an envious top four at the NHL level. Enter Skjei.
Unfortunately for Skjei, the aforementioned issues at the defense position for the Rangers may mean more of a spotlight shining on the Wisconsin prospect than he may have hoped/expected. Thanks to a promising evaluation camp for Team USA this summer, many eyes will be on Skjei to see how he develops within the powerhouse Wisconsin programme.
Skjei is possibly the most important prospect in the entire organisation – assuming you take it for granted that Chris Kreider has ‘graduated’ to the Rangers full time. The Rangers need Skjei to develop well. Not just because he’s a first round pick but because the club need some defensive prospects to step up in the near future. His season will be interesting to follow.
Hrivik effectively came out of nowhere, exploding on to the scene in the AHL playoffs last year. While Hrivik had a solid junior career in the Quebec league no one foresaw his 5 goal 9 point playoff performance for the Whale this past off season. With a NHL contract now in his locker Hrivik will no longer be a surprise as expectancy will be greater this coming season.
Hrivik still has a lot to prove but has solid size and time on his side. The Rangers have Chris Kreider, Carl Hagelin and (depending on which wing he plays) Rick Nash ahead of him at the NHL level so barring a spectacular season Hrivik will need to bide his time. A strong AHL season would do wonders for his future.
One thing to consider (aimed at tempering over enthusiasm toward prospects) – if there is an NHL lockout the potential competition for Hrivik ‘just’ at the AHL level could be intense. Hrivik could see Kreider, Hagelin, JT Miller, Chris Thomas and several others compete for top six ice time at the minor pro level so significant and quick success for Hrivik is far from guaranteed. That said, his initial offerings at the pro level mean many eyes will be on the young Slovak.
Read the passage regarding Marek Hrivik. You’ll notice the words over enthusiasm toward prospects. Ryan Bourque may be a victim of this. Thanks to his surname, his world junior/international career and (despite injuries) a solid major junior career perhaps too much was expected from Bourque too soon.
Bourque still has talent but a) needs to stay healthy, b) needs to hope half the NHL roster doesn’t drop down to the AHL in the event of a lockout and c) find some consistency at the pro level. Bourque has NHL talent however with another year like his 2011/12, Bourque could find himself left behind by several prospects and see his Rangers career over before it gets started.
Bourque needs a good training camp (if there is one) and a strong start to his season – wherever that may be – if he’s to remain a legitimate candidate for the Rangers. With his bloodlines and personality no one would bet against him and he’d be a great storyline should he get off to a fast start. Worth monitoring.
Is there a greater unknown entering the Rangers 2012/13 season than Mikhail Pashnin? He has a legitimate chance to be relevant because the Rangers defensive depth faces several question marks while last year he had already made some noise before heading back to Russia to play for CSKA.
Whether Pashnin comes across to camp remains to be seen but he’s played plenty of hockey in the KHL already so could be better prepared for the pro game in North America as he matures. Depending on Mike Sauer and McIlrath’s respective status’, Pashnin could force his way in to the thoughts of the Rangers staff. Pashnin is expected to be part of the newly reformed Yaroslavl blueline in the upcoming KHL season but if he does find his way across the Atlantic in preparation for the season then, given the Rangers depth issues, he could well be a player to watch.