Well, here we are. The Top 10. I hope you enjoyed the ride, I know I sure did. In case you missed it, here are the previous two entries in this years list (30-21) and (20-11). Without further adieu, your 2014-2015 Top 10…
10. Mike Smith- Arizona Coyotes. Last year’s ranking: 10
- Smith has become more famous for his goal at this point than his puck stopping abilities, but those should absolutely not be overlooked. For a big guy, he moves exceedingly well and has cemented his status as a top-notch positional goaltender over the past few seasons. I mentioned in my first Top 30, that I expected perennial Vezina-caliber campaigns out of Smith, and while he has been slightly off that lofty standard, he has been a rock in the Arizona (Phoenix?) net. His large frame and third defenseman puck-handling skills make him an integral part of the ‘Yotes franchise and remains one of the league’s top tenders.
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Kevin Hayes is the most hyped College Free Agent since Justin Schultz and the Rangers signing him to a contract despite fierce competition around the league is indeed a coup for the club; however immediate expectations will need to be kept in check despite his burgeoning reputation. Particularly from our excitable fan base.
Hayes fills a need for the Rangers, but possibly not in the short term. With Rick Nash, Chris Kreider, Marty St Louis and Mats Zuccarello, the Rangers are very well catered for on the wings in their top six. Go a little deeper and you have the likes of Carl Hagelin and Lee Stempniak who are looking for bigger roles. In short, Hayes will not have it easy breaking into the line-up straight away in a position that will aid his development.
This is without considering whether Hayes is even pro-ready, whether his skating (a minor concern, if you believe the media) is good enough to start in the NHL or whether the Rangers feel he would be better served, short term, with bigger minutes in the AHL to begin his pro-career.
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Photo by Scott A. Schneider/Getty Images
Per Danny Picard, the Rangers got their man, signing BC forward Kevin Hayes to a two-year entry-level contract. Hayes, Chicago’s first round pick in 2010, chose not to sign with Chicago by the August 15 deadline, making him a free agent. Hayes cited that he wanted a chance to play immediately, and it was something Chicago could not offer due to a stacked roster.
The sweepstakes was rumored to be down to five teams on Monday, with the Rangers are among the five finalists for Kevin Hayes, via Picard of WEEI and Mark Divver of The Providence Journal. The Avs, Bruins, Predators, and Panthers were the other rumored teams. After three long days, Hayes chose New York.
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If you’ve been paying attention this offseason, you’ve noticed that several NHL teams have hired advanced stats experts. Though #fancystats still have opposition, you don’t need to look further than the Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings for proof that they offer valuable insight. No longer are these metrics exclusive to a small community of mathematicians, they are now mainstream in hockey.
Last summer I reviewed Rob Vollman’s Hockey Abstract and began to fall deeper into the rabbit hole of advanced stats. Rob was kind enough to give me a copy of Hockey Abstract 2014 – co-written by Tom Awad and Ian Fyffe – again this year, and it was even better than the first edition.
Vollman’s greatest strength is in putting what appear to be complicated formulas, graphs and figures into words that anyone can understand, whether they’re good at math or not. In fact, I’ll readily admit that I glossed over many of the charts in the book, because the real value is in Vollman’s translation. I’m much more concerned with what the numbers mean than how they’re reached, so I enjoyed Vollman’s thought process and conclusions most of all. Read more »
Per Corey Pronman (subs. req’d), Pavel Buchnevich and Anthony Duclair sit atop the Rangers prospect list this year. Although the Rangers are ranked 28th in the league (by Pronman), it’s worth noting this nugget:
Following the graduation of several top prospects, dealing away top picks and the simply fine development of some of their early-round picks, the Rangers’ system is a little light at the moment.
The Rangers are at a point in their system where they’ve seen a lot of talent hit the NHL level, and they have a bit of a gap before the next crop hits. While they don’t have the top-end talent, they certainly have guys that can plug holes:
The Rangers may not have a strong system, but they do have potential plug-in options in case of injury to their veteran roster. Kristo, Lindberg, Fast, Haggerty, Dylan McIlrath and Allen could all reasonably find ways to get into the lineup, although all probably in depth roles.
I didn’t have Danny Kristo in my Top 25 Under 25, but Pronman had him in the top-three prospects. That’s the beauty of prospects.
Tops this year.
Last year, I made a valiant first attempt at creating a New York Rangers version of the Top 25 Under 25. Basically, the NYR blogging community was called out by Oilers’ bloggers for not having one, and I said, “challenge accepted.” It’s something I had fun writing, so I’m going to write it again, updating it for 2014.
The ground rules for this are simple: To qualify for this list, a player must be under 25 years old. It doesn’t matter if this player is in the NHL, AHL, or in any of the leagues around the world. If they are Ranger property and under 25, they were considered. This is my own personal opinion of these players, so if you disagree, feel free to let me know in the comments.
1. Derek Stepan (Last year: 2)
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The best trophy in sports
Three hockey clubs in 47 years. The 2009 Penguins. The 1984 Oilers. The 1968 Canadiens. They are the only three hockey clubs in the Post-Original Six expansion era to win the Stanley Cup the year after they challenged for it and lost. Not exactly favorable odds.
Those three clubs weren’t exactly one hit wonders either. The Canadiens of that era helped brand their organization for a long time as the Yankees of the NHL. The Oilers of the 80s were the last of a dying breed in pro sports — a dynasty. Though they never lived up to their potential, the Crosby-led Penguins were at least expected to challenge for the Cup a few more times following their 2009 victory. They didn’t and now Bylsma and Shero are unemployed.
So will the Rangers defy history and do the unthinkable?
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Loads of armchair GM’s have had one thought on the backburner of their mind since Ryan Callahan was traded last March: who will be the next captain? Instead of instantly naming a new captain, a move which the Lightning made immediately upon the captain-for-captain swap of Callahan for Martin St. Louis, the Rangers simply promoted Dan Girardi to full time alternate. Joining Marc Staal and Brad Richards proudly wearing the ‘A’ on their sweaters was a promotion of sorts for Girardi, who signed an extension during the regular season.
Around now is when I would cite some reliable sources about the most recent news as to who will be leading our beloved Blueshirts through seasons to come, but quite frankly I would rather irresponsibly yap about my opinion and play a few rounds of Devil’s Advocate. We know that Richards can’t be the captain, leaving us with two logical guesses in Staal and Girardi. Many are convinced that Ryan McDonagh is a lock for the role. How about veteran and former captain St. Louis? Or another former captain in Rick Nash? The possibilities are endless.
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At midnight last night, forward Kevin Hayes –Chicago’s first round pick (#24) in 2010– officially became a free agent. Hayes cited Chicago’s depth at forward as the reason why he chose free agency. He wants to play right away, and Chicago appears to be set at forward this year. The Rangers have been linked to Hayes, as they love targeting NCAA graduates without homes. Hayes would be a solid addition to a bottom-of-the-league prospect pool, injecting the Rangers with another high-end skill player who put up 27 goals and 65 points last season with BC.
The problem is that the Rangers are at 49 contracts (including John Moore, not including Ryan Graves). The max number of contracts is 50, and signing Hayes would severely limit the Rangers in trade flexibility during the year. Of course there are ways around this (trading a contract), but it’s easier said than done.
The one major concern I have with Hayes is that he shot 20% this year, his final year with BC, while on a line with Johnny Gaudreau. Gaudreau put up 36-44-80 (!) in just 40 games last year, and seemed to be the catalyst on that line. Hayes’ previous career high before this year was 7-21-28. There’s also this whole “pooping in the stairwell” thing, but he was a drunk college kid, kids do stupid things. It happens.
Hayes could land in New York, and since he’s on an ELC, he is affordable and can fit under the cap. Landing him would be awesome, but I don’t think he comes to New York.
Since social media is a delightful and offensively large part of our lives, I’ve convinced the guys to go to the dark side and join Instagram. The first post is Dave making a dope of himself by donating and accepting his nomination for the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Look out for some fun hockey stuff on there.
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