New York Rangers Top 25 Under 25

Ryan McDonagh is going to be the trickiest RFA to sign.
Ryan McDonagh is the Rangers top player under 25 years of age.

Over the past few weeks, the guys over at Copper n Blue (Oilers blog) have put together a voting contest where their fans vote on the best young core in the league. The guys at CNB have annually put together their list of top 25 guys under the age of 25, and many others have taken that idea and ran with it for their own teams. It is a great idea, and CNB took those posts and put together their tournament. The problem was that no Rangers blogger put together a list, leading them to call us a lazy blogging community. Well Mr. Zona and Mr. Reynolds, challenge accepted.

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. Ryan McDonagh

This one is a no-brainer. At 23 years old, McDonagh has already solidified himself as a #1 cornerstone defenseman. Used against top competition on a regular basis, McDonagh is never outmatched, and is the single most trusted defenseman on this team. He is a great skater, great positionally, and has untapped offensive potential. Recently signed to a six-year deal, McDonagh will be in New York for a long, long time.

2. Derek Stepan

Another no-brainer, Stepan emerged as the Rangers top center in the lockout shortened season last year. A career line of 56-84-140 in 212 games, Stepan has moved from third line center to top center over the course of three seasons. A teammate of McDonagh’s at Wisconsin, the Rangers struck gold with the 23-year-old center in the 2008 draft.

Del Zotto
Del Zotto

3, Michael Del Zotto

This is where a lot of people will disagree, but you can’t argue with four professional seasons before hitting 25 years of age. Del Zotto has been up and down, but his ups have been much better than his downs. Even that abysmal sophomore year was canceled out by his outstanding third campaign. Overall, Del Zotto has put up a line of 24-84-110 in 250 games. Defensemen don’t hit their peaks until around age 27, so expect Del Zotto to keep on getting better.

4. John Moore

When the Rangers traded Marian Gaborik, we raved over the fact that this kid was included in the deal. A former first round pick, the 22-year-old had trouble cracking the crowded Columbus Blue Jackets blueline. The Rangers gave him the opportunity to be a consistent player, and Moore added much-needed stability to the blue line. With 99 NHL games under his belt, Moore will only continue to get better.

5. Chris Kreider

Kreider has unlimited potential, but it’s just a matter of putting it all together. Hopefully, a new coaching staff helps. Time with  Brad Richards and Rick Nash will also help.

Kristo (Richard Wolowicz/HHOF-IIHF Images)
Kristo (Richard Wolowicz/HHOF-IIHF Images)

6. Danny Kristo
7. JT Miller
8. Oscar Lindberg
9. Jesper Fast

These four represent the amazing depth the Rangers have in their system. Only Miller –who I project to be a second line center– has some NHL experience. It is all about potential with these guys. Kristo could be a top line winger. Fast could be a second line winger. Lindberg a fantastic third line center. These guys are the next wave of youth to hit the Rangers.

10. Pavel Buchnevich

Buchnevich had first round talent, but fell to the third round in this year’s draft. The kid is already getting top-six minutes and powerplay time in the KHL, a league notorious for giving all the minutes to veterans. He still has two years on his deal with Severstal, but he’s someone to keep an eye on.

11. Marek Hrivik
12. Boo Nieves

13. Dylan McIlrath
14. Brady Skjei

These four are the next tier of youth that the Rangers will be looking at, with Hrivik likely getting a shot this year. Nieves, McIlrath, and Skjei all have great potential, but need some more development time.


15. Connor Allen

The undrafted UFA has already turned heads with his poise and puck movement. That said, he went undrafted for a reason. If he can continue to improve and show he’s a late bloomer, the Rangers could have found their next diamond in the rough.

16. Justin Falk

With 108 NHL games under his belt, Falk is the lowest ranked NHL player on this list. He projects out to be a 6/7 guy on the blue line.


17. Calle Andersson
18. Michael St. Croix
19. Steven Fogarty

Great offensive talent. Need more development. St. Croix’s clock is ticking.

20. Sam Noreau
21. Kyle Jean

Both earned ELCs from the Rangers. Jean struggled after a hot start last year, while Noreau improved mightily in the QMJHL last season.

22. Anthony Duclair
23. Adam Tambellini

The 2013 draftees will need to show that they deserve ELCs before the Rangers go ahead and offer them one after their age-19 seasons.

24. Jason Missiaen
25. Mackenzie Skapski

The only two goalies on the list, Missiaen got the spot ahead of Skapski because he has played relatively well in the AHL. Missiaen won’t pan out to more than a capable AHL starter, and Skapski is off to a tough start with Kootenay in the WHL.

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  • Good list. Hard to argue with much of it, particularly the idea of grouping similar prospects.

    That said, if I was doing a list I’d probably swap Fast and Buchnevich and move Duclair up a few spots to the St Croix group

  • Very nice list and rankings, thank you.

    I am by far an expert on these things, but from what I’ve seen, DuClair could have very big upside projection.

  • Good list. Agree with most but would push MDZ to 5 moving Moore and Kreids up. Moore had a great finish to last season, barely ever caught out of position. MDZ still holding on to upside but needs to put it together and kill the mistakes. Kreids was held back by shortened season and torts coaching style. Flourished in debut playoffs when he just played the game, held back when he learned the torts style.

    • MDZ was the hardest to place on this list. I valued 4 NHL seasons over the potential of Kreider (has struggled) and Moore (couldn’t crack the lineup before NYR). That was the main reason for putting him #3.

      • Production over potential makes too much sense for a lot of people

        DZ has proven to be an NHL quality 4-6 defenseman with above average offense. He’ll never be Brian Leetch, but that’s ok

        A number of guys have more upside than that but they are all question marks

  • Out of all the guys that are ranked on this there are only 4 that are pretty much a part of the core of this team (McDonagh, Stepan, some may disagree with these two but MDZ and Moore also).

    That’s not great. Sure we have our top defenseman up there, as well as one of our top 6 centers (if not our best center) but I’d like to see a shift towards more youth.

    It was only about 3 years ago in which we were truly one of the youngest teams in the NHL. Now that’s beginning to shift , an our team is definitely more balanced. Still though, in a cap world we need our kids to keep coming out of the pipeline and making the team. I’m looking at people like Kreider, Fast, Nieves (I like him a lot), Lindberg, Miller, and Kristo on offense to become integral parts of the team in the coming future. On defense there’s Mcilrath, Skjei, Allen, and Andersson.

    Of those two groups there are no potential super stars in the making (fingers crossed there’s a couple) but at the same time I see a lot of potential core players. Too many good prospects is a great problem to have. Now it’s just down to the kids to do what it takes to make the team.

    • That’s the goal. We’ll definitely see some veterans leave after this season (with or without a Cup). Richards is gone, Boyle is most likely gone. Pouliot and D. Moore are not guaranteed to be Rangers next season. The biggest question for me is whether to keep Girardi. He’s going to be the toughest call.

      Having said that, it’s not like this team is old. The goaltender is the oldest core player and Nash and Callahan are on the right side of 30. Hagelin, Brassard, MZA, and are all in their 20s.

      There will be spots for young players next season, but as always, you want that balance between youth and veterans. Swinging too much in any direction rarely leads to success.

      • I agree that Girardi will be the hardest decision. He plays a tough game and seems to be a part of the leadership here but FA defensemen are valued very highly by the market so will be interesting to see where his price falls

        Richards is a goner Brassard is also a UFA after the season and who knows how much he’ll command

        Zuc, Boyle, Pouliot, D Moore all expire after the season and could move on

        Will be an interesting season and offseason to determine the direction of the team

  • Great article Dave! I agree with all of your rankings until I got to #24. Missiaen, right now, may not perform text book goal tending, but he has a lot of potential. He may be the sleeper on this list.

  • Andrew Yogan is a better skater, fighter than Kreider or Jean and is younger. Fogarty who is 18 months younger than Yogan is just a sophomore in college.

    Yogan scored 16 goals to Kreider’s 12 goals last season at the AHL/EHL level while Kreider was a minus 11 and Yogan was a plus 13.

    Both Yogan & Christian Thomas were + players last year at Hartford and did much better in Hartford

    Kreider is given a REALLY LONG LEASH with Sather, because Sather doesn’t want to kill any trade value Kreider may have. Yogan has looked better in camp.

  • Andrew Yogan is younger than Kreider or Jean and a better fighter-

    Both Yogan and Christian Thomas had better years than Kreider last season scoring wise & WERE MUCH BETTER defensively. Kreider was terrible defensively in Hartford and outscored by both Thomas & Kreider.

    The only reason Kreider gets a free ride, is because he’s another #1 pick of Clark that is not working out and Sather is not trying to drive down Kreider’s value any more than it has already.

  • Pretty much agree with the ratings, although I think Michael St.Croix may be a sleeper here. He is highly skilled and quite resilient to the rigors of the game. While out shadowed with the play of Lindberg and Kristo, I believe he will thrive in Hartford and has huge upside.

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