Fourth annual New York Rangers Top 25 Under 25 (Part one)

Sean Day

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.

24. Tim Gettinger – Forward, 2016 5th round pick (LY: Not Ranked)
23. Tarmo Reunanen – Defense, 2016 4th round pick (LY: NR)

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.

Ty Ronning

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.

malte stromwall

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.

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  • Wow Dave, you’re really down on Fogarty huh? I see him as our eventual 4th line center. It appears like you think he will never make the NHL at this ranking. I think he does make the Rangers at some point because he would fill a need, but I’m not convinced that he will.

    • He certainly serves a role, and I like him over some of the other fourth line options around the league. My concern is that it all seems to be one-dimensional.

      Then again, Josh Jooris is a bit one-dimensional too. Perhaps Jooris is a stopgap until Fogarty is ready?

      • Exactly my thinking Dave. Jooris was a very valuable low level acquisition that will not be evident because the D corps is worse than last year.

        It’s funny because just getting rid of one anchor would make all the difference in the world. Instead, we lose arguably our best D man so the back end is in for a rough season.

  • I also can see Fogarty making the team, as a matter of fact he may well start the season as our 4th C due to Oscar’s injury!

    The kid I see as making the team, even if it may take another year is Jensen. Why you ask, well he seems to have all the tools, but may well have been in a bad spot in Vancouver, where here he is getting a real shot, and may prove to be good enough for 3rd line duty????????

    Sean Day, what can we say, the guy is super fast, strong as a bull, big, and when interviewed, seems to have resolved some personal issues. This kid may be patroling the blue line for us in a few years !!!!!!!

    Thanks for the write up, interesting stuff my man ……………………………..

    • Fogarty seems like the kind of guy that you can sacrifice developing his complete game in the AHL and just call him up straight to the NHL to play 4C, assuming he is capable of playing as a shutdown center right out of college.

      It makes sense putting him towards the bottom of the list, as he sounds like a classic high floor low ceiling player.

      I like that you cut off at 13 Dave. About 3/4 of the rest of the list is in the NHL. Not bad for a team full of old farts! Although, by my count, you left two players off the list. I’m now really curious to see Part 2

    • Walt. Until we signed Jooris, I like you, thought Fogarty had a shot as a temp 4th line center until Oscar gets back. Not so much now with Jooris in the fold.

      • Jooris is not great from the dot (career 45% FO%), so if Fogarty shows he can win draws, I think Fogarty will make the team as a 4C, Jooris will move to the wing, and Gerbe will be waived so he can be sent down to Hartford.

          • Yes, but when two of your other centers are Hayes or Miller and Stepan (all three are weak at the dot) having a 4C that isn’t strong there either means Mika has to take all the big D zone draws and that is far from ideal.

      • Yea that was my thinking. Also think the signing of Jooris spoke to the team’s feelings on Fogarty, that he needs a year in the AHL. At that point he’s already 24.

  • Thanks as always for giving us some nice info on the prospects. Day is the one I find most intriguing. Also wondering why Ronning was ranked 22? Admittedly I am not to versed in our prospects, but I was pretty excited we got him in the 7th…

    • I like Ronning’s potential. He’s got a long way to go, which is what kept him so low.

      Aside from Day, I didn’t know much about the picks, so I was conservative with my rankings.

  • Everyone has an opinion on prospects and it’s a guessing game. What makes it tough for the Rangers is this. They continue to sign free agent 3rd and 4th line players instead of giving the younger kids a chance. At some point I am hoping they see they need to start going the other way. The few times we did give them a chance look what happened. Fast, Kreider, and Lindberg. Lets hope it happens again.

    • You have to keep in mind that, other than Grabner, all the bottom 6 players the Rangers signed or invited to camp this summer (Jooris, Gerbe, Lapierre) can be removed from the roster with zero Cap consequences. If the Rangers kids are good enough for bottom 6 roles, they can win them. Depth is always important, going into camp and expecting rookies to win roster spots without having a Plan B is a recipe for disaster.

  • Thanks for putting this together. This series is one of those that I look forward to every year. I use it as a “base”, if you will, to set me up for the guys I want to follow this coming season, no matter which league they are in.

    Really appreciably this,

  • IMO, Fogarty has zero chance of playing in the NHL this year as he needs at least two seasons in the AHL to determine if he’s a legit NHLer. That said I would have rated him ahead of some others, especially Bernhardt, who I think amounts to very little in the grand scheme. I would rate Jensen & Nieves higher than you did, especially with the new draftees who all have a ways to go, including Day. I think all three(Fogarty, Jensen, Nieves) are far closer to NHL ready than any of the players drafted last year, who are all 3-4 years away at least.

    • On Day…

      “By now many of you know Day’s story. Here is a brief synopsis. As an early teenager, he was a heralded talent in Ontario. The CHL gave him exceptional status, meaning he could join the OHL as a 15-year-old. He was only the fourth player to ever earn it, with the first three being John Tavares, Aaron Ekblad, and Connor McDavid. Clearly, there was massive hype for Day. OHL legend Brian Kilrea compared him to Paul Coffey. At that point, as one scout explained to me, Day was “done.” Expectations were out of control for Day, who was still just 14 at the time and ill-equipped to deal with all of the pressure. Family issues further compounded the issue. And, thus, the player once named alongside three first overall picks fell to the Rangers in the third round.”

      That sure is some serious potential…. even if he will take some grooming, it seems his ceiling certainly warrants an aggressive ranking, no?

      • I don’t know about everyone else, but to me, Day’s story sounds a lot like Duclair’s story. Immense junior talent, picked up a bad rep in juniors, fell to the Rangers in the third round, became a very good player.

        Day will be a stud and we will laugh at the rest of the league for passing on him, just like we laugh at Montreal for giving up on a certain Minnesota-based NCAA defenseman.

      • Aggressive ranking if you just focus on his great skill set, but for now he has not really lived up to his exceptional status, and that could be because of his family turmoil or it could be because of what goes on between his ears. For me, he gets accorded serious status if he really excels this year with the Steelheads, which is to be determined. I hope he’s not a repeat of Nigel Williams, Remember him? He played his Junior here & that kid had incredible talent. I was ecstatic when he got traded to the Rangers. And then the stories came out on how Nigel was a headcase, arrogant & virtually uncoachable. He was out of hockey toute de suite. There are some red flags with Day so that makes me more cautious in evaluating him. I also remember John Moore, incredible skater too, highly touted & he turned out just average. If Day excels this year, then I’m going to be excited.

        • But Day is a better prospect by orders of magnitude over Nigel Williams or John Moore simply because he is one of only 4 players to ever receive Exceptional Player status from the CHL. I’m not saying that Exceptional Player status makes him a lock for the NHL but you have to admit that he is starting from an extremely advanced position.

          Let’s put it this way, you should be excited that Day is in the organization today, if he has a great season in Missassauga, like you said, we should all be doing cartwheels.

          Also, it’s clear that you and Dave both view prospect lists differently. There are two predominant ways to make lists. One, which seems to be Dave’s way of thinking, is to focus on a player’s ceiling and rate prospects accordingly. The second, is to focus on major league readiness or how close a player is to being an everyday player. That seems to be what you are looking for. Both methods are perfectly viable and widely used.

          I’m curious to see how Hockey’s Future rates Day. He could be a player with a 8.5 D, meaning a potential top pair D but not likely to reach that level.

    • I’m curious, why do you think Fogarty needs 2 full AHL seasons to prove he’s NHL ready? The way I see it, if he can handle the speed and strength of the NHL game, he should be ready to go right away, especially since there is a Steven Fogarty sized hole in the lineup.

      • Same reason I said Graves would need two years. It’s a hell of a jump to the NHL and as Dave indicated, Fogarty’s offence is quite limited at this point. I think with good coaching he has a chance, but he’s not a guy that wowed anyone at Notre Dame, as opposed to a guy like Hagelin who was excellent in his final year at Michigan.

        • Right, but that’s my point. The Rangers are likely willing to sacrifice developing Fogarty’s offense because he fills a need right now, assuming he is strong enough and fast enough to hang in the NHL.

          It’s not like Fogarty would ever be a guy that posts more than 20 points a year anyway. His calling card will be his defensive play and faceoff ability.

    • There’s more to it than how close they are to the NHL for me. It’s potential as well. But again, just my opinion.

      • Exactly, Fogarty is close, but he is, at best, a 4th liner. If it all works out for Fogarty I can see him as a Blair Betts/Greg Campbell type of player.

        The Rangers system isn’t stocked with can’t miss players, but they are stocked with players that have high ceilings, Fogarty is not one of them, so it makes sense that his relative ranking would suffer.

  • Fogarty, just what the Rangers need, another one dimensional fourth line player that can’t put the puck in the net. We have enough of them already.

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