About a year ago, I wrote a post as to why the Hartford Wolf Pack were struggling, and why the Rangers were going to have very few AHL options for call ups. It seems appropriate to update the post for this year, since the Rangers organization is running into the same concern this year. The problem is not poor drafting. In fact it is the polar opposite. The issue is that prospects developed a little too quickly, leaving a gap in the development process.
Believe it or not, quick development can slow the pipeline down temporarily. It’s not a bad problem to have, but it’s a problem nonetheless. Over the past few seasons, we’ve seen three prospects make the jump from the NCAA level to the NHL level with little or no time in the AHL required. It is incredibly rare for that to happen, but Derek Stepan, Ryan McDonagh, and Carl Hagelin all made significant impacts their first year out of college. No one, not even at the upper management level, expected that to happen.
Therein lies the current issue: without those three needing a little more time, the Rangers were left with a barren AHL team last year. One composed of two or three legitimate prospects that needed time and a lot of AHL/NHL tweeners. The problem extends to this year too, however with a different team makeup.
This season the issue is correcting itself. The Rangers have a lot of solid prospects getting their beaks wet at the AHL level: J.T. Miller, Dylan McIlrath, Oscar Lindberg, Danny Kristo, Connor Allen, Jesper Fast, and to a lesser extent Marek Hrivik. This doesn’t include the two most recent prospects to stick with the team in Chris Kreider and Cam Talbot.
It’s pretty common that prospects need time to develop. It usually takes a solid two years in the AHL before a player is ready for the next step. If that were the case, then we would have seen a constant stream of one or two prospects per season making the team. Last year was the first year where we didn’t see a prospect really stick with the team. That wouldn’t have been the case had one of Hagelin, McDonagh, or Stepan not made the leap so quickly and so effectively.
This year we saw Kreider and Talbot make the team. But the other holes on the team can’t be filled by the other prospects because there is no one who is ready at the moment. Perhaps this wouldn’t have been an issue if, say Hagelin took a full two years to develop. Perhaps it wouldn’t have been an issue if McDonagh wasn’t one of the best defensemen in the league at such a young age. Perhaps it’s not a problem if Stepan doesn’t solidify himself as the team’s top center in his sophomore season.
But isn’t this a problem that is good to have? Wouldn’t you rather see these kids maturing and developing quickly?
Too many people have said the issue is poor drafting, which is just an asinine statement. The lockout shortened 2013 season was the first post-lockout season where a prospect didn’t stick with the team. However, the development cycle is getting back to normal after that one quick-development blip on the radar (again: not a bad problem to have, but a problem nonetheless).
We have those six prospects getting significant time in the AHL this year. Most will need another year, but one or two might make the team next season. The 2015-2016 team will see, at a minimum, the addition of Brady Skjei, Boo Nieves, and Steven Fogarty (all NCAA prospects). There are others in the CHL and overseas that could come to the AHL as well. Those that don’t will be over for the 2016-2017 season.
Aside from trading some assets for some NHL-ready prospects (unlikely), the best course of action is to take no action. This is a problem that will correct itself just by allowing the kids time to develop and play in the AHL. In fact, this is a problem that has already started fixing itself. There are six key guys playing in the AHL now. Perhaps one (Miller?) will be ready by the end of the year. Perhaps some by next year. But you can’t rush it. Rushing only sets the kids back.
The lack of a Torey Krug or a Matt Bartkowski in the system is something that plagued the Rangers last year and hurts them this year. But this is a team that, if anything, has developed their key prospects too quickly. With that quick development came a blip on the prospect development cycle. It’s a blip that fixes itself over time. The development cycle is back on track, and we will see these kids ready for more serious cuppa’s next season."Revisiting why few prospects are NHL ready this season",