ForwardsProspectsState of the Rangers

Rise of Duclair and Buchnevich clouds the future of other forward prospects

Speedster Anthony Duclair put up 99 points for the Quebec Remparts last year

Entering training camp last fall, there was an intense battle for the final forward spots between youngsters Chris Kreider, J.T. Miller, Jesper Fast, Oscar Lindberg and Danny Kristo. Fast actually won the job out of camp, but an early injury combined with Kreider’s emergence put an end to the competition.

Miller, Fast, Lindberg and Kristo are all clearly on the fringe, and with a strong second-half, Ryan Bourque joined the fray. Free agent signings Kevin Hayes and Ryan Haggerty are also in the mix for NHL jobs in the near future.

Miller looks all but assured of a spot out of camp this year, but that means there are still as many as five more near-NHL ready forwards knocking on the door.

All six prospects figure to be considered for in-season call-ups at the very least – with the promise of a better opportunity for a full-time gig next fall, as the Rangers created for Miller this September. But the play of two 2013 third-round picks has complicated matters.

There once appeared to be a gap between the aforementioned batch of prospects and the next wave, but Anthony Duclair and Pavel Buchnevich have closed it quickly.

Duclair lit up the Quebec League last season and plays  a speed game that will fit in wonderfully with the Blueshirts, so he’s even getting a look this fall. Duclair has nothing left to prove in juniors, but being ineligible for the American League, he’ll likely spend one more season with Quebec. Next year though, Duclair might jump to the head of the line.

Buchnevich, the reigning KHL Forward of the Week, also looks like he is nearly ready for the NHL. He’s already dominating against grown men in Russia, so he too could be ready to make the jump as soon as next season.

There’s little doubt that both Duclair and Buchnevich have significantly more offensive potential than any of the other forward prospects. So where do they fit in?

Top-six forwards Kreider, Rick Nash and Derick Brassard are all signed to multi-year deals, while upcoming free agents Martin St. Louis, Derek Stepan, Mats Zuccarello and Carl Hagelin will almost surely be re-signed. St. Louis is obviously nearing the end of his career, but the top-six is set regardless.

There’s much more flexibility in the bottom-six, where the team has mostly expiring contracts and the talents of Fast, Lindberg, Kristo, Bourque, Hayes and Haggerty are probably better suited. But clearly this is about to become a numbers game. Obviously there’s a 0% chance that all of those players end up in blue, but Duclair and Buchnevich may well have forced guys like Fast, Kristo and Bourque from the team’s future plans, while Hayes may have done the same to Lindberg.

That’s not to say all or any of this has been decided yet, or that any of the prospects that don’t make the team out of camp will be traded next week (although that is a possibility in the case of Bourque, who must clear waivers to return for Hartford and could be quickly snapped up if re-assigned by New York). But the stunning progress of Duclair and Buchnevich will inevitably have a direct impact on the prospect pipeline pecking order. Don’t be surprised when one or two of those guys are packaged in a trade prior to the deadline in the spring.

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  • >Buchnevich, the reigning KHL Forward of the Week, also looks like he is nearly ready for the NHL, but he has another year remaining on his contract after this season. It may not be possible for him to come to North America next season, but you can bet the Rangers will look for loopholes.

    This is not true. His contract is expiring by the end of this season.

    • So….which is it? All of a sudden we are hearing so much about this guy. Is he eligible a year from now or not? Has anyone contacted Sather or the Rangers for a definitive answer?
      Regards- orange

    • Yeah I thought that Buch was done with his deal after this current season?

      Either way I’m excited for both of them. If even one can become a mainstay in the top 6, then it’ll be worth it. Both would just be icing on the cake.

      Already envisioning a line of Buch n’ Zucc, or Buch with Kreider.

      Hopefully they both continue to develop well this season.

  • Do you feel any of the current prospects that are NHL ready are good enough to get the team to consider trading vets to allow more kids to play. Lets face it, some of the “kids” aren’t kids but older prospects. College, and playing in other leagues.

    If they are NHL ready wouldn’t they be best served playing in the NHL?

    • To let young players develop and figure things out in the NHL is the mindset of a rebuilding team, much harder to justify as a contender

      • So how do you work them into the NHL team- AHL is only a place to learn so much. We have an interesting group of experienced players signed. I kind of view them as a stop-gap solution to be shipped out as the rookies become ready. This could be a year of interchangable parts if it doesn’t disrupt the flow of the team as it works towards the playoffs. Not a bad place to be if it works and I don’t really see a way it doesn’t. Unless the changing rookie pieces #3 line and new wing on #2 line and wingers on the 4th changes don’t learn to develop. Worst case then we have those “retreads” who, hopefully, do what they need to do to keep their jobs.
        I would think this is just how a contender develops their kids. With a strong set of experienced back up plan.

        • Detroit has obviously long been the model example, but you’re right. Let them dominate in the AHL first – which only Miller has to this point – then work them in when they’re clearly ready. My point was it’s hard to justify throwing a kid in that might or might not be ready when you have NHL veterans that still have at least a little left ready to go

        • Some kids weren’t ready last year, so they brought in vets just in case they weren’t ready this year. Plus it’s always nice to have injury call ups.

          • Last year, the Rangers used 20 forwards, 18 of whom began the season with the Rangers. This is typical. You need more than 13-14 guys you would dare suit up.

  • In the ideal world…

    Buchnevich and Duclair are the LT replacements for MSL and the revolving 3rd line forward spot opposite Hagelin

    Hayes and Miller could make Brassard a luxury as Stepan/Miller/Hayes becomes a bigger group down the middle

    Lindberg is the LT D Moore replacement and Fast/Bourque are best fits on the 4th line

    Not sure where/if Kristo’s/Haggerty fit based in the above

    The forward group is strong. The bigger concern is on the back end as Skjei is the only guy on track for a top 4 spot. Mcilrath and Allen/Bodie are 3rd pair ceiling guys

    • Assume that Staal stays healthy and signs at least a 4-5 yr deal, then add Skjei to that, and we have our top 4 set for at least another few years. Plenty of time to draft another solid blue-liner prospect.

          • I can McIlrath replacing Klein as a stay at home 3D with a nasty streak but that’s about his upside right now

            The only thing is the Rangers will always spend close to the cap so having these cheap options are great if you’re going to use the $ for a superstar. Have to guess that at some point a few of these guys get packaged for the either:
            – the mythical top1C or
            – RHD/PP QB (basically the 2002 version of D Boyle) to replace the 2015/16 D Boyle

          • To jump way out of a limb,I’d like to see Yandle in NY. There’s the obvious Maloney/Sather relationship plus the East/West conference split means they wouldn’t play one another as often

            Would take a lot to make that happen and he’s a UFA after next year but provides more offensive punch and with better D than Boyle

            Or Ehrhoff, that would be great

          • W-squared:
            Ehrhoff’s not only staggeringly overpaid, he’s in steep decline.

            I’m lining up with you on Keith Yandle, though; an American puck-moving D man with wheels.

            Though if fellow American John Moore ramps up his play–which I believe he does this season–that obviates the need to part with the prospects/draft choices necessary to secure Yandle.

          • Ehrhoff was the only serviceable D on Buffalo last season, I think he does well in Pitt this year

            J Moore can skate like the wind and has a great shot, but he’s a far cry from Yandle at this point. It’d be great to see that gap narrow this year though I wouldn’t count on it

    • I believe in keeping options open- injuries do happen. We have loads of forward insurance – Defensively we an shift almost every player, with the possible exception of Moore, up a level allowing Allen or Bodie or McIlrath to move to 3 pair. We are in a very good place if these prospects live up to their potential.

  • I have a feeling that those 3 third round picks (Buchnevich, Duclair, Tambelini) that the Rangers wisely grabbed in that draft will be talked about for years to come. Who needs 1st round picks…

  • Klein’s replacement is McIlrath, Staal if he does not sign will be Moore bumping up and Skeij or Allen with Allen having the edge to replace Moore. So the real question will be who replaces Boyle. An intriguing guy is Mantha and finally Bodie. Samuel Noreau is also developing rather well.
    Forwards are a scramble as far as who replaces who but there are certainly players there with upside and exciting possibilities. Lindberg, Hayes, Haggerty. McCarthy, Kristo and the duo of Buchnevich and Duclair. Then there is Tambellini and Fogerty as well.
    I think Fast wins a spot this year along with Miller.
    There are enough players both Veterans and prospects available to think of a possible trade or a blockbuster deal feasible. Question is what do the Rangers trade for?
    If Malone makes it the power forward slot is filled so that leaves a Center or a 1st Round pick.
    We have to look at the Roster to see who are the players that could be traded. I will mention who the locks are; Stepan. Kreider, Brassard, Nash, Miller and Hayes.
    Defense McDonagh, Girardi and Moore.
    Goalie of course is Lundqvuist.

    So that leaves Zuccarello, Hagelin and St Louis. I think St Louis will retire, I hope he is not resigned if he wants to play longer. Then Hagelin, Zuccarello and Moore. Who to keep between Hagelin or Zuccarello will be debated by many with various reasons. Tough choice there. Staal is on here only because of his uncertainty as to will he sign or not, Boyle will be gone in 2 years and finally Klein.

    Also to keep something in mind here is the inevitable expansion draft. So there are changes coming, it is just a matter of who for what? When I look at my theory the main thing that comes to my mind is that the Rangers are a healthy club. As long as we stay on course the Rangers will not struggle like other teams have after riding the wave. The team does have glaring needs and has unproven solutions in place or by a stroke of genious from Sather rectified by a trade and the assets are there for that as well.

  • Why does Borque have to clear waivers? This is disappointing; I’d like to see him develop as a Ranger before risking losing him to another team. I don’t see him clearing waivers, and thought he had a reasonable chance of making the roster on our 4th line.

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