A lot of credit has to be given to the Rangers franchise for the way they have opened up space at all levels of the franchise for prospects. Room has been made so that prospects can get the maximum amount of ice time to aid their development. The caveat in all of this is that they still need to earn it, and should they not there needs to be alternatives at hand, but no prospect should feel buried on any Ranger depth chart.
The Hartford Wolf Pack have seen key AHL contributors such as Chad Kolarik or Kris Newbury depart in recent times, and players such as Kelsey Tessier or Benn Ferriero – solid AHL players but with no real chance at NHL careers – have also moved on. Even players still considered solid prospects (such as Christian Thomas) have been moved once their development appears to have stalled, replaced by more likely potential such as is assumed with Danny Kristo.
Next season the Pack promise to have a ton of youth up front. Any combination of Marek Hrivik, Danny Kristo, Chris Kreider, JT Miller, Kyle Jean, Jesper Fast, Oscar Lindberg, Ryan Bourque, Josh Nicholls, and Andrew Yogan could comprise the forward lines in the AHL. That is not including more ‘marginal’ players such as Michael Haley, Brandon Segal (if he returns), and Brandon Mashinter, all of whom has NHL experience and brings a combination of offense and physicality at the AHL level.
There appears to be open competition for ice time between the younger players in the franchise at the AHL level. While players such as Kreider and Miller are likely to start camp with the Rangers, there would still be nine to twelve players that could line up for the Whale next season that harbour hopes of carving themselves an NHL career. Opportunities exist for those able to grab them.
Then there are the Rangers themselves (with significant credit going to the departed John Tortorella). Over the past few years they have routinely supplemented the roster with youth such as Carl Hagelin, Derek Stepan, Ryan McDonagh, and even Mats Zuccarello. In addition they have quickly promoted the likes of Kreider, Miller, and traded for younger NHL’ers such as Derick Brassard.
This coming season there appears to be more space. Whether it is due to injuries or management’s instance that opportunities exist for the prospects the Rangers are readying themselves for more youth to be promoted. Successful NHL franchises regularly inject youth on to the roster. The Detroit Red Wings are the model franchise in this regard. Even if players don’t fill a scoring role younger players are regularly relied upon as role players.
The Rangers have set themselves up in a similar style to the Wings from a prospect perspective. In the first instance it starts with the minor league club and the Rangers have set up the Wolf Pack to be a very young hockey club for the foreseeable future. Room for growth, room for successful development. With the Wolf Pack returning to the AHL, they appear to be returning with plenty of talent to choose from. Credit Sather and his staff.