Per Corey Pronman (subs. req’d), the Rangers are at the bottom of the NHL in prospect depth, ranking 28th out of 30 NHL clubs. The reason is that, based on Pronman’s criteria, both Chris Kreider and J.T. Miller are considered graduates and no longer count as prospects. The lack of first round picks and the slow development –due to injury– of Dylan McIlrath also factored into this ranking.
The Rangers have announced their 2014 Traverse City Tournament roster. The 23-man roster includes drafted players, undrafted UFAs signed last year, and undrafted invitees getting a look by the organization.
Nathan Burns, Anthony Duclair, Ryan Haggerty, Keegan Iverson, Michael Kantor, Nickolas Latta, Paxton Leroux, Chris McCarthy, Bryan Moore, Richard Nejezchleb, Logan Nelson, Josh Nicholls, Michael St. Croix, Adam Tambellini
Pavel Buchnevich (3rd, 2013) was the lone Ranger to crack Corey Pronman’s Top 100 Prospects list for ESPN (Insiders Only) at #25. Buchnevich didn’t have sexy numbers with the KHL this season, but he had the third-best under-19 season in KHL history. He’s an elite talent that held his own in a league that is very difficult to crack as a teenager.
The Rangers announced yesterday that they have extended their affiliation with the ECHL’s Greenville Road Warriors for another two seasons, through the 2015-2016 season. Greenville has been the Rangers ECHL affiliate since 2010, and serves as their “AA” squad, where Hartford would be their “AAA” squad. Notable Rangers that have made impacts in the NHL after playing in the ECHL are Cam Talbot and Dan Girardi, although Girardi played with the Charlotte Checkers when they were the Rangers’ ECHL affiliate.
It’s never too early to look ahead. With the recent Q & A insight from Hartford’s Bob Crawford to fall back on, it’s worth taking a look at what Rangers forward prospects – if any – can make an impact with the Rangers this coming season.
With the significant turnover seen in New York this summer, it looked as though there were several spots for the taking but the additions of Tanner Glass, Lee Stempniak and Matt Lombardi may have impacted the chances for a rookie or younger player to make their mark. With respect to the likes of Chris Mueller it’s in the Rangers’ best interests for one or more of the younger, higher ceiling ‘bubble players’ to stake a claim for an NHL gig.
JT Miller and Oscar Lindberg
As Bob Crawford suggested, Miller is NHL ready. For him it’s about consistency, seizing an opportunity and having the right approach; something that he has been criticised for in the past. Lindberg is a less obvious situation. It seems that Rangers fans have waited forever for the Swedish pivot to get to New York but with the Rangers committing to Derek Stepan, Derick Brassard and Dom Moore for three of the center spots, Lindberg may be forced to start the year in Hartford. That’s not a disaster if it happens.
Over the course of the summer, we have received a lot of questions about the prospects in Hartford. Unfortunately, we don’t have the ability to watch/cover the Wolf Pack the way others can. So, I reached out to Bob Crawford (@HawkCrawford), and he was kind enough to answer a few questions that had been raised.
Q: Which prospects made the most progress in Hartford last season?
A: Dylan McIlrath certainly made huge progress—really rounded out his game. Ryan Bourque also took a quantum leap, in my opinion, went from being almost purely an energy guy to being a pretty good offensive player. Conor Allen also made a nice adjustment to the pros, as an undrafted college free agent.
Jesper Fast has acclimatised well to North America despite suffering a few injuries over the past couple seasons. Last year, on a struggling WolfPack team, Fast managed to grab 17 goals and 34 points in his first full year in the AHL. Those totals managed to get him a shot with the Rangers which included 3 games in the playoffs and his first NHL point (an assist). Those totals also showed that his relative offensive explosion the year before in the SEL wasn’t a fluke or a hot streak.
What Fast hasn’t yet done is show that his production in Sweden – and in the AHL – can translate to the NHL. Many fans will see Fast’s cup of coffee with the Rangers, his relative lack of production and the arrival of a slew of depth signings at the NHL level and assume Fast is a prospect in danger of being lost in the shuffle.
What the depth signings suggest is that Fast is not yet ready for full time NHL play and that is probably true. That said, the Rangers haven’t rushed fast nor have they needed to and that’s the right way to treat the young winger. What is also yet to be established however, is what kind of player Fast will be at the NHL level. Will he be an offensive producer or another Hagelin type Swede who excels through his skating ability and work rate?
Some quick notes (before I head off to Aruba…yea, be jealous) about the prospects, free agency, and those who left the Rangers.
- Brady Skjei, who by all accounts appears to be NHL ready, will be returning to the University of Minnesota for his junior year. Skjei is a first pairing defenseman with the club, and was instrumental in leading them to the inaugural B1G Championship last season. Skjei wants to win a Frozen Four before turning pro.
- Anton Stralman, who turned down a three-year, $9 million offer from the Rangers mid-year, was disappointed that the Rangers never “really” negotiated with him. That offer was rumored to be increased to four years and $4 million per year. Stralman eventually signed a five-year deal worth $4.5 million per season.
- Mats Zuccarello knows the Rangers are right up against the cap, and will work with the team to settle on a deal. However, he understands that he can’t take a pay cut either.
- Jeff Gorton is on the record saying the Rangers want another forward. I wouldn’t expect this to be a big landing, probably just a journeyman on a “show-me” deal like Benoit Pouliot’s last year.
- Derick Brassard, Chris Kreider, and Mats Zuccarello have all filed for arbitration.
It doesn’t matter if you liked what happened on Tuesday or hated what happened on Tuesday. We are all Ranger fans, and we will all cheer for the team. What we can all agree on, based solely on numbers, is that some of the kids in Hartford are going to need to step up and take a roster spot. When I say numbers, I mean this:
In: Dan Boyle, Tanner Glass, Mike Kostka (AHL: Steve Kampfer, Matt Hunwick, Chris Mueller, Chris Bourque, Cedrick Desjardins)
Out: Anton Stralman, Derek Dorsett, Brad Richards, Brian Boyle, Benoit Pouliot, Raphael Diaz, Justin Falk
Seven NHL players left the Rangers on July 1, and only three came back. The defense was more or less a one-for-one swap, with Boyle replacing Stralman and Kostka replacing Diaz (Falk I consider to be a #8 defenseman at this point). So, barring any trades, the Rangers are pretty much done with the defense. It is also unlikely we see Dylan McIlrath or Conor Allen on Broadway this year. The roster numbers just don’t work.
As for the forwards, one forward came in and four left via free agency. If you assume Glass takes Boyle’s spot on Dominic Moore’s left, that leaves two RW spots open for competition (or a 3LW and 4RW, as Mats Zuccarello can play both sides), and a 2C/3C. There are really only three names that come to mind when it comes to kids on the cusp: J.T. Miller, Jesper Fast, and Oscar Lindberg.
The Rangers went into the 2014 draft with four picks, and wound up making seven selections. They acquired the extra picks by dealing Derek Dorsett to Vancouver and trading down twice in the fourth and fifth rounds. Considering it wasn’t a particularly deep draft, in that there were few impact players, the Rangers made some good selections to not only restock the prospect cupboard, but address organizational needs within the system. It’s worth noting that most of these picks are project picks, and will take around three or four years to develop.
Brandon Halverson (G, Soo Greyhounds, OHL – 2nd round)
Halverson is one of the two picks that intrigue me the most. Goalie was a big position of weakness in the system, and Halverson was the first of two goalies taken by the Rangers. He didn’t get much playing time in OHL last season because he was backup, but he will be main guy this year. At 6’4, Halverson is certainly a big kid. Corey Pronman says he is big, athletic, and an elite puck handler. Vic Carneiro (Director of Player Personnel for the Greyhounds) mentioned he’s like having an extra defenseman, and a very good goalie. Halverson does need to fill out a bit, and will attend the US WJC camp this year. Overconfidence in his puck handling has been an issue, but it should right itself as he plays more.