The gap in the Rangers prospect system

Pavel Buchnevich
Photo: Andreas Hillergren/AFP/Getty Images)

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.

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    • I wouldn’t hold my breath there. I’ve read stories that the kid may stay home, in the KHL, seems he may not want to play I North America. I certainly hope that the writers are wrong on this prediction???

      Also on this subject, didn’t Adam Graves, and Chris Dreary go there to scout him?? Or was it to convince him that he has a future with this organization, sure hope he comes over, the kid looks real good!!!

      • Ruble was at 30 to the USD 18 months ago, now at 68. Anybody who can go will, even better pay in the A on a two way deal.

        • A good rule of thumb is that the H/W matrix of someone in Eurooe is that the height minus the weight (in metric units)should equal 100. Greater than 100 means they need to gain weight, under might mean lose. The farther away from 100 the greater the issue.

      • Walt, do you have any links for these articles you’ve read? I’ve seen nothing written claiming Buch is not interested in playing in the NHL.

        • sorry, that was a while back, don’t remember??????????

          The kid even stated that he felt he needed to get stronger to play in the NHL, and if I’m not mistaken, this site might even have written articles on this subject !!!!!!!!!

          • Walt, what I’ve heard is that it’s iffy whether he will be wiling or able to come to the States in March. It’s also been speculated that he MIGHT stay in the KHL next season too, simply because there are some who feel he could make more money there as opposed to the NHL entry level deal. But I haven’t read or seen anything that says he will never come. Long range, the NHL is where the big money can be made. And he and his agent know it.

            I expect he will be in camp next Fall.

          • Severstal is an oil company. With oil at 1/5 what it was a year ago, it might be a coin flip if the squad is running next year.

          • Oil (Crude) is about 1/2 what it was a yr ago, not 1/5. Roughly $80/bbl -> $38/bbl.

            As per wiki, “Severstal is a Russian company mainly operating in the steel and mining industry…..”

            It’s UP 44% on the Moscow exchange over the last calendar year.

            Regardless of all of the above, that nonsense has even less to do with Buch’s likelihood of playing for the Rangers next year as all of the rumors discussed above.

            //end rant//

          • You are correct on both points. I assumed they were an oil company because their logo is very similar to the Total oil company.

            But he’s still on a last place team, getting paid in a cratering currency on an expiring contract.

            So you can stay there or you can play for a top flight organization which will pay you better than you can ever get at home that gives you a chance to win.

            His concerns seem more to be about his own development and being able to jump into the NHL direct to start his contract cycle.

  • i am interested to see what Gorton does. At some point the roster will need to be rebuilt. Players like Hayes and Lindberg seem at the moment to have the most potential to be first or second line talent in a couple years. Miller and Kreider are gifted in certain ways but inconsistent. Oddly, the team is relatively youthful though not on defense so much.

  • Respectfully disagree, there’s no issue with a gap in the prospect system, it’s more an issue of personnel choices by AV / front office. Most NHL teams should aim to have 12 everyday players, 1 extra forward who’s at NHL quality and then 2-3 AHL guys who can fill in a few games at the NHL level. The Rangers certainly have that. The issue is just who AV puts in what position, Etem should be in the line-up every day and Stoll should be the 13F with Bourque, Megna and Gibbons those 14-16F players…. So when Stepan gets hurt, Stoll goes in, with Etem sick one of Megna, Bourque or Gibbons gets called up

    The choices to play Stoll over Etem, Glass over pretty much everybody, to keep Girardi over Stralman and it seems like to keep Staal over Yandle (hopefully not the case) are the issues. Not the development of prospects

    From purely a prospect perspective, the goal every year should be to have 1-2 prospects establish themselves at the NHL ranks. The Rangers pass this with flying colors with 10 (arguably 11) coming over the past 6 seasons and 2 more who are on the cusp. All with aggressive draft pick trading

    2010/11: McD, Stepan
    2011/12: Hagelin
    2012/13: none
    2013/14: Kreider, Talbot
    2014/15: Hayes, Miller, Fast (could even include Duclair if so desired)
    2015/16: Lindberg, McIlrath
    Next year there’s Skjei and Buchnevich
    Then host of other guys who aren’t expected to impact the NHL roster until 2017/2018 season

    • I don’t see the stoll over etem he’s been a respectable 4th liner, a spot where you don’t want to bury a prospect. I’ll give you the Girardi over stralman. That one really hurts.

      If I was in nhl 16 gm mode I’d be moving Staal and Boyle if there was a market, calling up skjei for the 3LD. I’d be willing to live with the growing pains of a young 3rd d pairing and rely on the deepest set of forwards that I can remember this team having

      • Stoll is getting smoked this year. He wins face-offs sure, but so does Moore. I’d rather go Etem-Moore-Fast/Stalberg than Moore-Stoll-Fast/Stalberg

        At this point it’s hard to be worse than Staal or G have been this year but I’d guess both are locked on the squad for this year. Though, should the team underachieve, ie. Lose in the 1st round of the playoffs, this spring I can see one of them being moved to “shake up the core”

    • You are missing the point of this article. The Rangers have been solid in brining up one or two guys per year to fill the roster out. We will not be as good over the next 5 years at doing so as compared to the last 5. There is no way around it. The main reason. as Chris pointed out, is due to trading away #1 picks in the MSL and Yandle deals.

      Those moves were made as we are trying to contend for a cup. There will be a bit of a gap before we can restock the pool. 2016-2019 or so…we may find ourselves low on young cost controlled talent.

  • Ahem, Professor Chris:
    Where do you project respective forward prospects Brad Morrison and Keegan Iverson?

    And did we sign winger Cameron Askew, something of an NCAA badass?

    • Yes ,I hear many good things about Cameron Askew. Did we sign him? Matthew Barnaby really likes the kid.

    • Askew is still draft eligible, having a big jump up in production in the Q. Iverson is a bottom 6 winger, gonna watch him tonight and report. Morrison playing well, might not have it to be #2C. Gropp playing great, gets great service from Barzal. He’s starting to go into traffic.

  • I can’t listen any more to people who want to move Staal or Girardi, especially if they offer up Yandle as a replacement. Almost as bad as the morons who bash Nash.

    • Every single possible metric says they’re doing poorly this year. Both are significantly worse than past years. Yes they play a lot of minutes against other good players, but they are not doing well against them. The eye test backs this up, turnovers, missed assignments and a lack of offense at the other end. And both are on the hook for 5+ years at huge cap hits….that’s ugly

      Yandle looks great with the puck, has better stats and is younger / hasn’t had the playoff wear and tear. I’d much rather go forward with him as the 2LD than Staal

      Nash is the best forward on the team period. No issues with him

      • Staal & G are going nowhere fast, yet with expansion and lifting of NTC they’ll be off the books by the start of 17-18. You let Yandle walk, deal Klein after the season and plug McIlrath, Skjei & Graves into the 2016-17 lineup and move Girardi to 3rd pair. Graves might be better suited to top 4 minutes than the other 2 as a shutdown D.

        • Not so sure Alec. Clearing out half your defense carries significant risk. If the Rangers let Yandle go, they will use all that extra cap space to sign someone of significance on the backline.

          I think Graves will need another year.

          • Yes, swapping out have your D has risks and completely juggling your pairings does as well, but this D as constructed is not up to an acceptable standard. Even losing Boyle & Klein doesn’t allow you the cap room to bring in an outsider and sign your eligible RFAs. This is hard cap 101 roster construction.

            Graves could play now as a 6D in a pinch, better to force feed him minutes in Hartford now. He’s a shutdown stay at home D who can chip in from the point.

          • It’s a valid point Alec. But, I really think the decision to keep Yandle will, in some part at least, come down to what they decide to do with Kreider. Yandle is one of the top ten offensive defensemen in the game. He would not be easy to replace. And to expect a Skjei or Graves to fill those big shoes would be asking a lot.

            The one thing we know for sure is that Boyle and his considerable cap hit will be gone. If Yandle goes as well, then I think our now effective PP would take a significant hit, and overall we’d be a much easier team to defend. And if they do let go of Yandle, and on top of that trade Klein, that’s a huge void of experience. In that scenario, they would then have plenty of cap space to sign a FA or make a trade.

            So, assuming he continues to progress, McIlrath replaces Boyle, Skjei or Graves replace Klein, and if Yandle leaves, they will bring in a vet with the cap savings. I don’t see a scenario where they go all with youth with half of the defense when they would then have so much freed up cap space.

          • You can get 80% of Yandle’s points for 1/6th of the price and get 120% of his defensive prowess.

            Again, hard cap 101.

          • That may well be the 101 course, which is what us layman may take. But every GM is a graduate of the Cap PhD program. And in that more sophisticated approach, they know that you get no points for winning the most games with the smallest cap hit. Your job is to construct a roster that can win a Cup. Every Cup team in the hard cap era has done it with a combination of affordable younger players that you’ve developed along with well paid veterans with the experience and track record to get you over the top. And virtually all of them had little in the way of cap space left to show for it at the end.

            Using your logic, why would ANY team want to sign Yandle, who will easily command $6mil over 5-6 years? Shouldn’t they all prefer your “80%” solution? By extension, why did the Rangers sign Stepan? Weren’t their cheaper options available? Maybe they should have passed on Lundqvist a few years back too? Surely Talbot or Raanta could provide at least 80% performance at a fraction of the cost.

            The problem is if you apply this “80%” theory to too many players and positions, you’ll have a nice ledger sheet but not a very good team. Yandle is a 50 point a year player. To suggest a Skjei or Graves can produce 40 of those points in year one of their NHL career is asking a lot. And to further suggest that either, in their rookie year playing the toughest position to learn in the league, would be 20% better defensively at this point is even more of a reach.

            In a hard cap world, contending teams shed salary when they have no choice (see Hags and Talbot this summer) OR when they simply prefer to reinvest their dollars into other players. I have no idea if the Rangers can or will re-sign Yandle. But I can guarantee they will take that savings and improve the team in other ways. They certainly won’t sit on it.

  • The last sentence of the first paragraph says it all………..

    Every cup champion over the last 10 seasons or so, have built their team thru the draft. Now, let’s hope that Gorton will stop the bleeding, and draft kids, develop them, and go full steam ahead.

    I know there are plenty on this site who disagree with me, but there aren’t going to be many more Hayes, Zucc, type players who fall into our lap every year.

    As for Staal, and Girardi, they are signed, so be it, no one will take them off of our hands, so let’s wait to see when expansion happens, we may get lucky and dump both of them, and their cap hit !!!!!!!!!!

    • There’s a time to develop and a time to trade pieces to win. No team wins just through development nor can they win solely by signing FAs. Every SC champion over the last 10 years artfully excels at development as well as making the right trades (usually involving sacrificing some of their future) to get those final pieces to win.

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