There are always cycles in prospect development. An organisation’s pipeline can’t always be flowing with NHL ready prospects and it seems that the Rangers pipeline has hit such a ‘lull’ in terms of readily available NHL forward talent and it may be starting to have an impact.
Up front, the Rangers don’t have much to fall back on (or call up) and the injury up front to Derek Stepan and the illness to Emerson Etem has highlighted the lack of available NHL ready resources. Hence you see Tanner Glass back in New York this week. However this lack of talent isn’t unexpected. The asset stripping trades, lack of early round draft picks and the multiple prospect ‘graduations’ over the recent seasons has left the Rangers system thin on the ground.
Looking at the Wolf Pack’s depth up front this year and it makes grim reading. Unless you get excited by the idea of Travis Oleksuk, the neigh on thirty year old Chad Nehring or the NHL career flatlining Marek Hrivik then there really isn’t much on the way from the ‘Pack in terms of forward talent any time soon. This is the way it’s going to be for a little while folks. The Rangers’ can’t really afford many injuries because there’s little help on the way.
Credit the Rangers for getting some NHL capable forwards (warm bodies?) into the system last summer when they added Jayson Megna, Brian Gibbons and Luke Adams; all players with NHL experience who can be called up in a tight spot, for the short term, but none of those players offer long term potential. Beyond Adam Tambellini (who clearly needs seasoning) and, in a depth capacity, Ryan Bourque, and the Rangers don’t have much right now.
The recent graduations of Oscar Lindberg, J.T. Miller and Jesper Fast have meant the depth at the NHL level has been attended to successfully but with little backing it up – no ‘next wave’ for now. Players such as Ryan Haggerty (moved on for Antti Raanta: bargain alert) and Danny Kristo never worked out.
The Wolf Pack roster isn’t appealing. Beyond the minor pro ranks though and there is Ryan Gropp, Daniel Bernhardt, Robin Kovacs, Aleksi Saarela and even Steven Fogarty that should offer hope but those players are in most cases quite a way off from being close to the Rangers or even from being in Hartford. The next batch of fresh prospect meat (terrible phase for which my bad writing skills can only apologise) may include ‘Boo’ Nieves but things have gone quiet on the Nieves front.
It’s not a time to be critical. This issue that is the lack of NHL quality forward prospects was inevitable at some stage. Call it the price of contention and the cost of proactively trying to contend. The Rangers are relatively young up front and a certain forward in Russia (paging Mr. Buchnevich) offers legitimate excitement but the Rangers will be hoping the 2015 draft class headlined by Ryan Gropp certainly offers more legitimate NHL potential. The Rangers ability to stay in contention over the long term may just depend on it.