Rangers’ prospect pool shining despite low preseason rankings

In their latest team prospect rankings, Corey Pronman and Hockey’s Future each had the Rangers 28th, while The Hockey News put the Blueshirts dead last. Granted, each of those outlets has its own set of criteria, but the general consensus among the so-called experts was that the Rangers didn’t have much talent on the way.

Many that followed the baby Blueshirts more closely knew the future was actually very bright, and a few months later the rest of the hockey world has taken notice as well.

2013 third-round picks Pavel Buchnevich and Anthony Duclair just finished lighting up the World Junior Championships, while the pair of goalies selected in the 2014 draft, Brandon Halverson and Igor Shesterkin also impressed in the top prospect tournament. That duo, along with 2013 sixth-round pick Mackenzie Skapski have turned what was considered a major organizational weakness into one of the best young groups in the league.

Buchnevich and Duclair continue to look like stars in the making, as does 2010 first-round pick Kevin Hayes, whom the club poached from Chicago in August.

Meanwhile it appears the light bulb may have finally clicked on for J.T. Miller, Jesper Fast has become an NHL regular, 2013 third-rounder Adam Tambellini ranks seventh in the WHL in goal scoring, 2011 third-rounder Steven Fogarty is captaining Notre Dame, 2012 first-rounder Brady Skjei has established himself as one of the best college players in the country, and 2013 fourth-rounder Ryan Graves was just named one of the QMJHL’s three stars of the month.

Indeed, things are looking quite rosy for the Rangers’ prospect pipeline.

Tampa Bay has been generally considered to have the best future core of any team in the league after the Lightning integrated a slew of impact rookies into it’s lineup last year, but are the Rangers really that far behind? Here are each team’s players of note 25 years old or younger:

Rangers: Ryan McDonagh (25), Derek Stepan (24), Chris Kreider (23), Kevin Hayes (22), J.T. Miller (21), Jesper Fast (23), Brady Skjei (20), Anthony Duclair (19), Pavel Buchnevich (19), Ryan Graves (19), Igor Shesterkin (19), Brandon Halverson (18)

Lightning: Alex Killorn (25), Tyler Johnson (24), Victor Hedman (24), Radko Gudas (24), Ondrej Palat (23), Brett Connolly (22), Vladislav Namestnikov (22), Kristers Gudļevskis (22), Nikita Kucherov (21), Cedric Paquette (21), Andrei Vasilevskiy (20), Slater Koekkoek (20), Jonathan Drouin (19), Adam Erne (19), Anthony DeAngelo (19)

Of course, 24-year-old Steve Stamkos is Tampa’s trump card, but considering the Rangers have been choosing near the end of the first round for years as opposed to the top of it, that’s not too shabby.

Of course, player development is a tricky business and even the guys that appear to be well on their way can and will hit stumbling blocks, but for now it’s safe to say there is much more in the cupboard than many prospect gurus believed.

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  • This just proves that drafting is a crap shoot. Look, after the first 5 or 6 picks, the rest of the class is usually about the same, unless the draft is exceptionally deep. Then you get to later rounds, and it becomes a matter of really great scouting, and developing of the draft picks. Bottom line, for years we were horrible drafting, and now as an organization, we have turned things around. Hartford is doing a good job teaching these kids how to play Ranger hockey. The days of Sanguinetti , Jessiman, Brendel, type picks are over, thank goodness for that!!!!!!!

  • Have to give the Rangers’ brass a lot of credit with this. They have generally not had high draft picks (or wasted what they had), but still we have a lot quality young players.

  • The Rangers prospect pool and young core are both stronger than the pundits give them credit for. Certainly not 28th in the league when you consider the fact that 3 rookies have played significant time in the NHL and Miller has also made the jump

    One thing that struck me is the similarities between the prospects (including rookies) and NHL team in terms of positional strengths and weaknesses. The NHL team is anchored by Hank, McD and elite scoring wingers, with the biggest knocks being the lack of an elite center and defensive depth. This is reflected in the prospect pool as well with 3 talented goalies, Duclair/Buch and Skjei being the top prospects. Hayes/Miller/Lindberg are all likely solid NHLers but not elite prospects such as McDavid, Eichel, Mackinnon, Reinhart, etc and beyond Skjei the defensmen don’t seem to have much above 3rd pair ceilings with the potential exception of Graves

    This is not to discount Fast who should be a fixture on the Rangers roster or Tambellini and Fogarty who I believe are solid prospects

    All told, the present and the future both look bright on Broadway

  • I’m always hesitant to rely on WHL scoring totals as a measure of success for prospects. That league is notoriously high scoring. Remember Michael St. Croix?

    Skjei is probably the best defense prospect the Rangers have. Fogarty is under the radar, but should probably be one of those in the running to replace Dom Moore as 4C eventually.

  • It is always important to have 2 or 3 potential NHLers as prospects. We are spoiled by having a management that is not afraid to deal or pay the big star the big money, but as the salary CAP tightens, it provides us with some leverage. It may also make some guys expendable.

    Always good to have options, and our prospects give us that.

  • I laughed when I saw those pundit rankings which are usually quite ridiculous and reflect draft position. Because the Rangers have not been drafting in Round 1, because of trades, the pundits think they are getting garbage. Well, that 2013 draft with Duclair, Buchnevich & Tambellini may go down in history as one phenomenal job by Clark, Gorton and their A-list scouts. Well done!!!

    • I think the biggest issue was lack of perceived high end skill. The rankings certainly whiffed on Duke/Buch, but those really are the only big time skill guys. Everyone else, save for Miller, projects to be bottom-six. Skjei is the only one that projects to be top-four defense too.

  • It’s an amazing time to be a Rangers fan.

    We are now working on our third consecutive wave of productive homegrown talent.

    First there was Staal, Girardi, Tyutin, Hank, Cally and Dubinsky

    Then it was Anisimov, Stepan, Hagelin, McD and Kreider

    And now we have Talbot, Miller, Hayes, Fast and Duclair with Buchnevich and Skjei on the horizon.

    In the almost 30 years I have been watching the Rangers this is unprecedented. Guys at the level of a St. Croix and Ryan Bourque used to be the best the Rangers would have in the system. Long gone are the days of Daniel Goneau and Christian Dube as ‘top prospects’.

    • That’s a big part of success in the NHL: continually developing and rolling out prospects. Need big contributions from guys on ELCs and bridge deals.

      • Yes, it’s how the Red Wings have managed to remain relevant and how the Kings and Blackhawks continue to dominate.

        On the flip side, look at Edmonton, NJ and Toronto, three teams that get almost nothing in terms of production from their farm systems.

        Edmonton is only getting production from their expensive top picks while Toronto and NJ keep going to the expensive and unproductive UFA well to fill out their lineup.

  • Amazed at how you guys gush over the likes of JT Miller and Fast(h). Bland! At best they will turn out to be another Bob Brooke (remember him?). Whole team is bland right now. Some talent, but BLAND. It will never go anywhere in playoffs when space gets tight, hits are harder and men are men. It is essentially why they lost in Cup finals last year. No physical presence or toughness – and don’t jump to conclusions that I am pining for the Broad Street Bullies or give me that tired line that “the game has changed.” Baloney. The game has EVOLVED, but it has NOT changed. All sports have elements of intimidation and physical and mental toughness. Rangers were lacking those last year and remain so this year. Pure talent and coaching got them to Finals last year. Recall that we now know that in the halcyon days of ’93/’94 it was Keenan who pushed Neil Smith to make the trade deadline deals that helped secure the Cup because Keenan spoke from experience and said team was not sturdy/tough enough to make it through playoffs despite all the talent. Please gang, this team and the system below needs to get real and have a balance AND a personality. If I am wrong, someone please identify for me the personality, the DNA of the franchise as it is today…

    • Considering one of your prior comments here stated that McDonagh isn’t big enough to get the job done, I’m pretty much going to ignore this comment.

      You also stated a few times that Lucic isn’t a goon. So yea. There’s that too.

      • Need more proof that the times are changing? Lucic is rumored to be on the trading block.

        Even Boston knows they need more speed and skill in their lineup and less size and menace.

        • Chiarelli shot that down, but Lucic’s scoring is way down this year. He’s being exploited for the terrible skater he is.

          • That team is made up of terrible skaters. The league is transitioning to a speed game and Boston is stuck in the “Big Bad Bruins” era (no doubt perpetuated by president Cam Neely).

            Their drafts have been putrid, they are overextended on too many players, and they have not had an infusion of good young players in a while.

            They are no lock for the playoffs like we all expected.

            Chiarelli and Claude Julien are in the danger zone right now and a playoff-less season could mean a shakeup.

          • Yup. Chiarelli inherited the core of the team that won the Stanley Cup. The one great player he drafted, he traded for peanuts (Seguin).

        • They should have discovered their need to evolve AND change after losing to the faster, more skilled Canadiens in the ECFs last year.

    • rjcy, it absolutely is a different game now.

      Big hits are practically illegal these days.

      The current NHL is about skill, speed and goaltending. The 2011 Boston Bruins will be the last great intimidating team we will ever see.

      Deny it all you want but the game has changed. Defensemen are now praised for their excellent stick checks, mobility and first passes. Forwards are praised for their ability to clog passing lanes, create turnovers and play in transition.

      Guys like Phaneuf, that hunt out big hits, are dinosaurs and are now obsolete. Players like Fast and Miller, players that can read the play and score in transition are not the future of the game they are the here and now.

    • Please explain this comment to me:
      “The game has EVOLVED, but it has NOT changed.”

      How can something evolve but not change? Evolution is change…

      • And that’s only one of the nonsensical, contradictory claims in the post. In addition to, “The game has EVOLVED, but it has NOT changed” (huh?) there’s this:

        “It will never go anywhere in playoffs when space gets tight, hits are harder and men are men. It is essentially why they lost in Cup finals last year.”

        I’ll take never going anywhere in the playoffs if it means making the SCFs!

    • The personality and DNA is that of one of the fastest teams in the NHL. A team that can parlay its defense into offense quickly.

      Its personality and DNA is that of a goaltending strong club providing a backbone for its playoff success.

      Its personality and DNA is that of a core of group of leaders (McD, Stepan, Lundqvist, MSL, Boyle, Girardi, etc.) with an abundance of playoff experience and plenty of success.

      For my money, bland is good. Bland is no-nonsense. Bland is focus. Toronto, Philadelphia, Dallas…you wouldn’t call those teams bland, but then again what would you consider their personality and DNA?

      • I agree on your description of the teams personality and DNA. But speed/skill + great goaltending + veteran leadership does not = bland. Exciting is in the eyes of the beholder and while I think this is a very exciting team when it plays its game (which is often these days) some may disagree. But I don’t see how anyone can reasonably characterize this team as “bland”.

    • While I love a great hit, and physical play, there is no substitute for speed. Just look at Filthadelphia, stuck in a time warp 1973-4 , there management has tried to replicate that team for forty years, and they still suck. Clarke, Hologram, and now Hextall are still thinking that they can play like the Broad Street Bullies, yet look at their record. Enough said!!!!!!!

      Ed Snyder, Jeremy Jacobs, are both dinosaurs, and their teams are a refection of it!

      • Well said Walt!

        To be fair though, I think Hextall understands the problems within his organization, it’s just that Clarke and Holmgren managed to screw that poor pooch so badly that it’s going to take a few years to fix that organization. I’m going to love every second of watching Philly stumble through that mess!

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