Over the past three years, I’ve gone through the Rangers organization and ranked the top 25 players under the age of 25 years old (2013, 2014, 2015 part one, 2015 part two). The ground rules for this list 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.
First, let’s go through the players from last year’s list that no longer qualify and honorable mentions who missed the cut:
Aged out: Chris Kreider, Magnus Hellberg
No longer with the organization: Aleksi Saarela, Ryan Bourque, Petr Zamorsky, Emerson Etem, Keegan Iverson, Ryan Mantha
Honorable mentions: Tyler Nanne, Marek Hrivik, Sergey Zborovskiy, Calle Andersson, Tyler Wall, Gabriel Fontaine
Now let’s go through the top-25 players under the age of 25, starting with #25. I will group some of these players together, as some are so close in skill set that it was tough to rank one higher than the other.
25. Steven Fogarty – Forward, 2011 3rd round pick (Last Year: 24)
Fogarty slides again, this time one spot after his seven spot slide last year. Fogarty is a solid leader, having captained Notre Dame in his senior season, great in the faceoff dot, and an overall solid defensive center. The problem is that the 6’3″, 212 lb center doesn’t score much and doesn’t have much offensive talent that will translate to the higher levels. His NCAA career highs were 10-13-23, all coming in his senior year.
Fogarty is an interesting case. He’s the prototypical fourth line center, one that can kill penalties, take faceoffs, and potentially be successful in a shutdown role. But after four years in the NCAA, Fogarty will need to show he can chip in here and there to really make it to the next level.
The fact that the Rangers landed four players from the 2016 draft on this list really speaks volumes. The Rangers went for talent, even if it meant longer development timelines. That’s where both Reunanen and Gettinger fit in, so it makes sense to lump these two together. Both have talent, but both were held back by either injuries (Reunanen) or misconceptions about size (Gettinger).
Neither player is on the short path to the NHL, but both show some promise. Reunanen put up the same numbers as the fifth overall pick from this year (Olli Juolevi). Gettinger has size and raw skill. Both need to fine tune their skill sets, and are worth keeping an eye on.
22. Ty Ronning – Forward, 2016 7th round pick (LY: NR)
For a seventh round pick, there is a decent amount of hype surrounding Ronning. The 5’9″ winger is supremely talented, and was considered to be a third or fourth round talent. Size and an injury saw him slide this far, but he rebounded and scored 31 goals last year on a terrible Vancouver Giants team in the WHL.
Ronning is fast, goes to the dirty areas, and has some great hands for some quick offense. In a league that is moving towards speed, pressure, and quick strikes, Ronning fits in perfectly. He has to show that despite his size he can hold on to the puck, but some time in the weight room will help that. If he models his training after Martin St. Louis –basically working legs/core strength so that he’s near impossible to knock off the puck– then he could potentially be the biggest steal of the draft.
21. Adam Huska – Goalie, 2015 7th round pick (LY: NR)
Huska is probably the least talked about goaltender in the system right now by no fault of his own. Huska is an after thought for some, as the Rangers have very deep goaltending depth. It’s so deep that Huska is ranked fourth among goalies that quality for this list.
Huska really burst onto the scene last year with his performance in the 2016 World Juniors, stopping 76 of the first 80 shots faced. Slovakia wasn’t a good team, going 1-4-0 despite Huska’s stellar play in the first two games. He followed up his World Juniors performance by being named USHL’s goalie of the year, going 26-9-2 with a 1.87 GAA and a .931 SV%. Huska is committed to UConn next year, where he will likely spend at least two more years.
20. Boo Nieves – Forward, 2012 2nd round pick (LY: 23)
After a relatively down third season with Michigan, Nieves rebounded in a big way in his senior season. His 10-21-31 line and more consistent play earned him a contract to see if he can take it to the next level. Nieves certainly has size and skill, but it’s a matter of scoring touch translating to the next level. He’s likely not going to be a top-six forward with the Rangers, but there’s a chance he can earn a spot as a bottom-six guy. He has a solid two-way game, and the next season in Hartford will be a big one for him.
19. Nicklas Jensen – Forward, acquired via trade for Emerson Etem (LY: NR)
Jensen is an odd case. The former 2011 first round pick is very talented, but didn’t put it together with Vancouver. He was very good with the Hartford Wolf Pack though, putting up 15-10-25 in 41 games. He followed that up with a strong showing at the 2016 IIHF World Championships. The 23-year-old may just yet find a consistent role in the NHL, but he has a major uphill battle ahead of him. He’s likely headed to an injury replacement/14F role with the Rangers this year.
18. Malte Stromwall – Forward, undrafted free agent (LY: NR)
17. Daniel Bernhardt – Forward, 2015 4th round pick (LY: 20)
16. Brad Morrison – Forward, 2015 4th round pick (LY: 19)
Last year Bernhardt and Morrison were grouped together, and this year Stromwall joins them. Stromwall is a lot like the fourth rounders from last year, very talented, a good skater, and good with the puck. Stromwall is the smallest of the trio at 5’10”, which may be why he went undrafted, but he was also Robin Kovacs’ teammate last season, which explains why the Rangers liked him. Bernhardt had a bit of an odd year, transferring from Sweden to the London Knights of the OHL, where he put up 1-8-11 in 29 games. Morrison had a strong year with the Prince Edward Cougars in the WHL, putting up 28-34-62 in 72 games, an improvement on his 23-27-50 the year prior.
All three need some work. Bernhardt needs to get back on track, and Morrison needs to really dominate in his age-19 year in the WHL. Stromwall will be interesting to watch in Hartford, especially if he continues to play with Kovacs.
15. Mackenzkie Skapski – Goalie, 2013 6th round pick (LY: 19)
14. Brandon Halverson – Goalie, 2014 2nd round pick (LY: 18)
This pair of goalies gets grouped together again, but Skapski has a lot to prove this year after a down year last season following hip surgery. Halverson is entering his first pro season. Both need to compete with Magnus Hellberg for a role in the AHL, and one will likely see ECHL time. This is a big year for Skapski, who needs to get back on track and show that his two wins and one shutout in 2015 weren’t aberrations. Halverson needs to show why he was a second round pick after regressing a bit in his final year with the Soo Greyhounds.
That said, both are promising goalies and very young. They also aren’t even the top goalies in the system. The depth at this position is truly wonderful.
13. Sean Day – Defense, 2016 3rd round pick (LY: NR)
Day is yet another high-end talent that slid to the Rangers in the third round. Day is a complete package of skating, skill, talent, size, and IQ. His “compete level” has been questioned at times, but that seems to be a common occurrence with skilled players that slide. It’s something to keep an eye on, but assuming Day puts in the consistent effort expected, he will be something special. His potential has him slotted as a top-four defenseman. He’s the real deal.