The Rangers have several highly touted prospects that come with reputation and expectancy. Whether they all make it remains to be seen (we’re looking at you Bobby Sanguinetti…)
What the Rangers can do with – like any other team – are a few unheralded players to make the grade and provide good draft value. Ryan Callahan has quickly emerged as a fan favourite, a two-way threat and a leader all by the age of 25. It’s very easy to forget that Cally was an unheralded 4th round pick who wasn’t necessarily expected to make the impact he has. Callahan may be the very definition of ‘value draft pick’. So who’s next? Here’s a few options currently in the system.
Dale Weise. Weise may have the inside track to become ‘the next Cally’ as Tortorella has publicly expressed a desire to get him into the NHL line up. Weise had an excellent 2nd season in Hartford notching 28 goals and 50 points. A big (6’2. 205lbs) physical player who likes to hit Weise may be the ideal cap solution as well as bottom 6 forward. Weise, despite not getting into a game, finished the year with the Rangers and is well placed to start 10/11 in New York. A 4th round pick, Weise’s career and style has many similarities (despite differences in size) to Callahan’s thus far.
Brodie Dupont. Many people may raise an eyebrow seeing Dupont on this list but the Rangers lacked a few things up front this past season. Scoring obviously, but the Rangers also lacked size, aggression and a presence in front of the net. Dupont can provide all of the above. Drafted 66th overall in ‘05 Dupont’s offence hasn’t kicked on in Hartford yet in a year where his club struggled his totals remained roughly the same which isn’t bad. The 3rd year pro is a big man at 6’2, 210 and with a knack for goals (17 and 18 the past 2 years) Dupont could be a surprise in training camp. Power forwards notoriously take longer to develop and Dupont’s overall package is very enticing.
Corey Potter. There may be a recurring theme in this list of players whose time may have appeared to be expiring as Rangers but… may be presented with a final chance this fall. Potter, like Dupont, falls into this category. Having gotten into a few games with the Rangers Potter has never managed to stick but has an overall game that could really help The Rangers blue line – both literally and financially. Physical without being imposing Potter can play both ends of the ice (averaged over 30 points the last 3 AHL seasons) and has good pro size at 6’3 and 205lbs. Another middle round pick Potter is a free agent and with change expected on D in NY, Potter will likely get a good look at camp. It’s up to him to take his (last) chance – the talent is there.
Dane Byers. Another last chance saloon candidate, Byers had a similar season to Weise offensively despite Hartford missing the playoffs for the first time. Despite missing almost a full season prior to 09/10, Byers returned to pot 25 goals, 52 points and played a physical game that got rewarded with a 5 game call up that included his first NHL/Rangers goal against Minnesota. Another player with size and aggression, the 6’3 2nd round draftee has a chance to stick this coming season. There is some concern players like Weise may have passed him on the depth chart but a line of Byers, Prust and Weise could be a very nice, legitimate 4th line in NY, one with size, aggression and scoring ability – not to mention cap appeal.
Ivan Baranka. Remember him? The chances are Baranka wont be back on this side of the Atlantic anytime soon. With an excellent year for the KHL’s Spartak Moscow behind him however (32 points, 10 goals in 55 games) the Rangers should be looking at him as a serious option. Highly talented, the 25 year old plays physically and has great smarts. Given his production in Spartak, its reasonable to suggest he could make an impact for the Rangers. While he was once highly regarded Baranka’s stock slipped dramatically due to his reluctance to stay in America. Could all that change? Its worth it for The Rangers to find out.
A few names were left off this list on purpose. Firstly, I see Bobby Sanguinetti as prime trade bait but if he stays with the franchise and doesn’t make the Rangers his career is in serious jeopardy. Secondly, Evgeni Grachev. The Rangers often talk about prospects needing to dominate at a level before they move up and this needs to be the case with Grachev. It will be tempting for the Rangers to insert his size and talent into the line up but Grachev would best be served by putting up a 2nd AHL year like Anisimov did. With a sub-par rookie year the talented Grachev shouldn’t be a serious promotion candidate unless he blows away the Rangers brass in camp.
So, out of this group who has the best chance to stick and make an impact? Or will it be someone else? Camp should be very interesting this autumn following the first non playoff season since the lock out. Jobs are up for grabs.