Archive for Prospects
It has been around two weeks since our beloved New York Rangers were knocked out in 7 games against the Tampa Bay Lightning. For most the loss still stings and is still tormenting us. Not being able to watch the Rangers is rough, but luckily for us it is still early in the off-season. This means there is quite a bit to talk about, such as the 2015 NHL Entry Draft.
For those who have not been following the draft, this draft has been compared to the ’03 entry draft where you could have been blind folded, with names of draft eligible prospects on a dartboard and when you threw a dart you would end up with an NHL All Star (I guess you can say maybe we are lucky we do not have a first so we don’t draft a Hugh Jessimen incarnate). Luckily, the Rangers have a 2nd round pick this year because this round is loaded with talent. I will be briefly discussing some targets I hope the Rangers draft in the 2nd round that I have personally watched.
I will be splitting these targets into 3 tiers with 3 players from each tier; Early 2nd round (31-40), Mid 2nd round (41-50) and Late 2nd round (51-61*) because with so many trade rumors surrounding the Rangers this summer we may as well look at all possibilities.
* Because the Blackhawks lost Kevin Hayes they received an extra pick in the draft as compensation giving the 2nd round 31 picks.
Per @_NYRvana_, Finnish prospect Ahti Oksanen has been invited to Rangers prospect camp in July. Oksanen just finished up his third season with Boston University, putting up a line of 25-13-38 in 40 games. The 6’3, 209-lb forward/defenseman is unique, as he played both positions with BU this season.
Oksanen is versatile in that he can play both forward and defense almost equally well. His style has often been described as that of a rover. Oksanen possesses good size (6’3”, 209 lbs.) and utilizes his strong frame at both ends of the ice. This has been especially evident in his drives to the net and in his ability to protect the puck. He is a strong yet fluid skater with very good foot speed. One of Oksanen’s attributes that scouts have taken particular notice of is his shot; he possesses a hard, lethal shot and can get pucks to the net. Oksanen also possesses an excellent stick. While Oksanen plays with a good amount of grit, he also plays with remarkable discipline.
Oksanen is an undrafted free agent, and the Rangers likely are intrigued by his size and speed. That combination is rare, and any player that possess both is generally looked upon highly. He seems to be a solid undrafted UFA, and it will be interesting to see what comes of his prospect camp invite.
The Hartford Wolf Pack squeezed into the second round of the AHL playoffs Friday night with a come from behind 3-2 victory over Providence. Thanks to the overtime win, Hartford won the series 3-2 after being 2-1 down and having struggled to solve the Bruins’ goaltending almost all series.
Defenseman Tommy Hughes scored the series clinching goal just over four minutes into overtime after Chris Mueller’s second powerplay goal of the game tied it with under a minute to play in the third period. Oscar Lindberg, who had struggled to produce offense all series, came up huge in the series decider as he assisted on all three WolfPack goals. The assists were his first points in a series where each game was decided by one goal. Lindberg also had seven shots on net as he made a real impression on the game.
Apart from Lindberg, who continues to grow into a solid Rangers prospect, other prospects of note included Brady Skjei who put four shots on net and Chris Bourque (who can’t really be counted as a prospect but I digress) who grabbed two assists including on the game winner. McKenzie Skapski was back on the bench for Hartford. The ‘Pack will play Wilkes- Barre/Scranton, the Pens affiliate in the next round. The Baby Pens swept their opening round series against Syracuse.
How the Pack’s progress into the second round influences the Rangers’ decision to call up a forward is yet to be seen and may depend on the scheduling of the AHL’s second round. Here’s a GIF of the OT winner, courtesy of Adam Herman.
Per Larry Brooks, highly touted winger Pavel Buchnevich has signed a one-year contract extension to stay in the KHL for next season. Many fans were counting on Buchnevich not only coming over to North America, but competing for an NHL roster spot next year. With Anthony Duclair gone, Buchnevich is the highest rated prospect in the Rangers system.
Fans will need to wait one more year before they see Buchnevich, who just turned 20 years old last week.
For those of you not on Twitter, at today’s practice, the Rangers hosted college standout goalie (and free agent) Matt O’Connor as he concludes his tour of teams in the running to sign him. Boston University’s starting goalie in the Frozen Four, O’Connor has whittled down his final choice to one of the Rangers, Edmonton, Vancouver and Ottawa and is expected to make a decision as early as next week.
On the face of things the Rangers appear to be a strange option for O’Connor as the Rangers are stacked at his position most notably with an all world goaltender in Henrik Lundqvist not going anywhere anytime soon. This week however, O’Connor announced that the team he signs with doesn’t necessarily have to be offering an immediate NHL gig which gives the Rangers a better chance of signing the goalie. Back in March some media reports had suggested some teams had offered O’Connor an immediate NHL spot, something that the Rangers would probably not be offering even if Cam Talbot departs.
Remember when there was all round angst about the lack of talent behind Henrik Lundqvist? Well as has been discussed countless times this season, it couldn’t be any more different right now. It’s a fair assumption to suggest that the Rangers goaltending situation – from top to bottom in the organisation – has never been better, even for an organisation founded in 1926.
The Rangers come at you with a future Hall of fame, Vezina winning goaltender in Henrik Lundqvist, have a young NHL starting calibre goalie to back him up and have another young prospect already making serious waves in the pro ranks. With that said, let’s forget about the big boys in New York for a moment and have a quick look over the prospects below the NHL level.
We all know what Skapski did in his two NHL appearances. Yes, it was the Buffalo Sabres (ECHL edition) but Skapski came in and went 2-0-0, with a shutout and sported a .978 save percentage. He got better as he got more exposure and at 20, has a ton of time on his side. At the AHL level Skapski continues to play well. In 28 games played he is 15-8-3 with a .914 save percentage and three shutouts for a pretty young but solid WolfPack. What is perhaps most exciting however is how Skapski has taken the quick success at the pro level in his stride.
Re-evaluating drafts is always a difficult endeavor. Hindsight is always 20/20, and people tend to call out the failures in the draft rather than the successes. For the Rangers, the 2009 draft was an interesting one. This draft started to set the tone of the types of players on which the Rangers built their farm system. Chris Kreider, their first round pick, was skilled, big, smart, and fast. He had all the tools, but was a bit of a project pick since he was committed to Boston College and at least three or four years away from turning pro.
This is a bit subjective, but I’d say it takes about five years before you can fairly evaluate a draft. Again, this is all with the benefit of hindsight, but it’s fun nonetheless.
As the New York Rangers continue to struggle for offense and as Martin St Louis remains sidelined, prospect Oscar Lindberg has continued to play well for the Hartford WolfPack at both ends of the rink. Lindberg scored another two points Friday night, including his twentieth goal of the season as the ‘Pack won their Friday night game against Leigh Valley, 3-2.
Lindberg did all his damage on the powerplay last night (take note Rangers special teamers…) and has really developed his offense at the AHL level. He has reached the 20 goal plateau for the first time, scoring two more goals than last year but in 13 games less, while he should pass his career high of 44 points imminently. Like JT Miller, it appears Lindberg is outgrowing the AHL.
Lindberg has played consistently well all season for the Pack. His style and skill set should fit seamlessly in to New York and with the Rangers relying on depth for offense Lindberg should be getting a look given that cap space is available and they have enough transactions available to make a move.
The New York Rangers have signed 2013 third round pick Adam Tambellini to a three-year entry-level contract. Tambellini, currently with the Calgary Hitmen of the WHL, has a line of 45-34-79 in 65 games this season as an overager. With Anthony Duclair now in Arizona, Tambellini is one of the better forward prospects in the system, with a good blend of size and skill.
Tambellini left the University of North Dakota halfway through last season to join the Hitmen. In the NCAA, Tambellini had a line of 2-2-4 in 16 games. In the 31 games with Calgary that season, he had a line of 17-22-39.
Tambellini will join the Hartford Wolf Pack next season, where he will likely need at least a year (probably more) before hopefully pushing for a spot on the NHL roster.
For those of you that have been around for a while, you know that in the beginning, Mike Axisa of River Ave Blues was a bit helper in getting us off the ground here. Naturally, I’m a Yankee fan, and I read RAB daily. Recently, Mike penned a post about prospect fatigue, and how fans and experts alike sometimes get tired of mentioning the same prospect for multiple years in a row. This is not a concept that is unique to baseball.
This same concept, I believe, applies to Dylan McIlrath. Drafted in the first round in 2010, McIlrath was a project pick who would take several years to develop. A huge, punishing defenseman meant to be that big time crease clearer that the Rangers haven’t had since Jeff Beukeboom. Five years later, McIlrath is still developing along his slow timetable.
For the first few years, McIlrath was always ranked somewhat highly in the prospect rankings coming from Hockeys Future, Corey Pronman, or more recently, Adam Herman. But the longer he was in the system, even when he was still in the AHL, he dropped in the rankings. On Hockey Future, McIlrath is ranked as the 5th best defenseman. Pronman had him 9th overall. Herman 8th. McIlrath, up until this year, usually was in the top-five.
So what changed?