Starting today here at Blueseatblogs, we are going to look -daily- at a different aspect of the New York Rangers. Today we start with looking at some of the less talked about prospects who may well have a chance at moving up the depth chart in the next season or two.
The Rangers biggest organisational strength, in terms of prospects, is defence which is ironic given the struggles on the back end in NY. Everyone knows of and has their own projections for Ryan McDonagh, Bobby Sanguinetti and Mike Sauer etc. It’s beyond these players where The Rangers potential gets interesting. The Rangers need crease clearers, they need size and they need ‘a presence’. They may already have these elements in the organisation.
Players less heralded or without the focus of the aforementioned players are guys like Sam Klassen and Nigel Williams. Less focus is often a result of lesser status. Sanguinetti and McDonagh were 1st round picks; Sauer came via ‘The Leetch trade’ whereas Klassen was a UFA signing from the WHL and Williams came via a trade after a failed spell in the Colorado Avalanche organisation. However, both have a chance to climb through the Rangers organisation and help address needs.
Let’s start with Nigel Williams. He has a huge frame at 6’4 and 225lbs and the read on him is that he has unusually good hands for a big man, can skate better than anticipated and ‘is physical’. All these things bode well for him in the Rangers system as he addresses multiple needs. He had a tough year in Hartford (especially positionaly) and clearly was amongst those who suffered amid the injuries, constant line changes and ‘form’ of the WolfPack. However his play improved throughout the year and he finished with 20 points and an even +/- rating in 56 games. That rating isn’t bad on a non playoff team. All the reports say Williams needs another full year in the AHL but given his potential this may become an underrated acquisition down the road. Personally I liked it at the time of the deal (Colorado got Brian Fahey) and I remember noticing him during his draft year with Saginaw in the OHL as one to watch – he was touted as a 1st round talent at one stage. Guys like Williams are why the Rangers should be weary of handing out more long term big dollar contracts to defensemen – blocking spots for able prospects.
Sam Klassen. The first thing you need to realise about Klassen is this: -21 (WHL rookie year), +5, +27 and +34. Over 4 years Sam Klassen has become a stabilising force on the back end for the Saskatoon Blades of the WHL. He’s responsible defensively, reports say he hits like a steam train (lord, do the Rangers need a player like that) and he’s not inept offensively as he averaged 25pts/year the past 3 years. The Rangers must have seen something they liked as they signed him to a free agent deal in July 2009. Another player with decent size (6’1, 200lbs) Klassen will get a chance to take his game to Hartford next year. Could he be the next free agent defenseman to force his way onto the Rangers? Im pretty sure no one expected Dan Girardi to make the Rangers when he started in the ECHL. With a need for physicality Klassen can make quick progress if he is able to have a good rookie camp and follow it up with a solid Rangers training camp.
This year was a year of transition at every level in the Rangers franchise, no more so than in Hartford. If Klassen and Williams can help stabilize the back end for the Wolf Pack (whose back line will look completely different next year) they may very well progress up the depth chart and get to New York. Between them they certainly have attributes that The Rangers need.