Fifth annual New York Rangers Top 25 under 25 (Part One)

tim gettinger
Gettinger (Photo: Adam Bell, OHL)

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 (201320142015 part one2015 part two 2016 part one, 2016 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: Kevin Hayes, Jesper Fast
No longer with the organization:
Oscar Lindberg, Dylan McIlrath, Mackenzie Skapski, Nicklas Jensen, Brad Morrison
Honorable mentions: Steven Fogarty (LY: 25)

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. Gabriel Fontaine – Forward, 2016 6th round pick (LY: Honorable Mention)
24. Dominik Lakatos – Forward, 2017 6th round pick (LY: Not Ranked)

The Rangers’ sixth round pick in 2016, Fontaine has improved upon his stat line from last year. He put up a line of 23-29-52 in his age-19 season in the QMJHL, which was good for 4th on his team. He will look to improve upon that next year as a potential top-line center.

I put him together with Dominik Lakatos because both are entering their age-20 seasons in their respective leagues. Lakatos impressed as rookie of the year in the Czech Extraliga with 22 points in 41 games. He also put up 13 points in 16 playoff games.

Both kids seem to have a decent amount of skill and potential, but at 20 years old and without contracts, time is running out. They will need to improve in a big way this season. (Update: Fontaine has a contract, Lakatos does not).

23. Tarmo Reunanen – Defense, 2016 4th round pick (LY: 23)

Last year the Rangers had four players from the 2016 draft on this list. Now they have five (Fontaine makes five). Reunanen stays put on this list as he enters his age-19 season in SM-liiga in Finland. He put up nine assists in 42 games in Mestis (Finland’s AHL) last season, and also had a very strong showing at the World Juniors (1-3-4 in 7 games). Despite promise, he stays at #23 because he really needs to stick in SM-liiga. His size works against him, but he’s still a steady defenseman.

22. Calle Sjalin – Defense, 2017 5th round pick (LY: NR)

Sjalin is a project pick at just 17 years old. He appeared to be one of the more reliable defensemen on the U-18 team for Sweden. He’s typical Swede: Smooth skater, good puck mover, and just overall smart on the ice. He has some work to do, but at just 17 years old, that’s expected. As he matures physically, he should tighten up his game.

boo nieves
Photo: Hartford Wolf Pack

21. Boo Nieves – Forward, 2012 2nd round pick (LY: 20)

Nieves moved up three spots last year, only to stay where he is this year. That is more a product of some major progress by the guys behind him last year, but we can’t ignore that Nieves did not have a strong year in Hartford (6-12-18 in 40 games) and is already 23 years old. Many have him penciled in as the 4C this year, and I think that’s premature. He has size, but he’s still missing other aspects of his game to be a legitimate 4C on a team with Stanley Cup aspirations.

20. Malte Stromwall – Forward, undrafted free agent (LY: 18)

I have a lot of difficulty judging Hartford players this year because the team was awful. Stromwall put up just six points last season and had trouble staying in the lineup. With a new coaching staff and hopefully some more emphasis on skill, Stromwall may see his scoring line increase. That said, at 22 years old (23 in a few weeks), it looks like Stromwall is a career AHLer. That said, he’s better than his six points.

19. Brandon Halverson – Goalie, 2014 2nd round pick (LY: 14)

Halverson went from #18 two years ago to #14 last year and now back to #19 this year. This may not be entirely fair to the 21 year old, since he was on a piss-poor Hartford squad last year. But with Mackenzie Skapski gone, this appears to be his Hartford team. He has some competition, but he will be given every opportunity to find his form and show the Rangers why he was a second round pick.

18. Robin Kovacs – Forward, 2015 3rd round pick (LY: 10)

Kovacs had a rough year. He jumped to #10 last season because of his great year in the SHL in 2015-2016, and then immediately had the worst season of his short career last year. Kovacs just couldn’t stick in the top-six in the lineup, and put up 2-10-12 playing fourth line minutes. Hopefully a new coaching staff will utilize him properly. I didn’t want to drop him too far because of the terrible Hartford team (sensing a theme yet?) but his poor year needed to be accounted for.

tyler wall

17. Tyler Wall – Goalie, 2016 6th round pick (LY: NR)

Wall jumps from not ranked to #17 on this list, and is the second of four goalies on this list. Wall had an impressive year with UMass-Lowell this year, putting up a .918 SV% as a freshman, going 26-10-1. He earned the starting role over older players and led his team to the top of the standings in the Hockey East. He’s a kid you’ll want to keep your eyes on.

16. Ryan Gropp – Forward, 2015 2nd round pick (LY: 12)

Gropp is an interesting case. he hasn’t progressed much, and hasn’t shown that he can use his unique skill set of speed/size in an effective manner. But he put up 84 points. That was more than likely a product of being on a line with Matt Barzal. Most scouts seem to think Gropp’s numbers won’t translate to the NHL. I personally think he’s trade bait. Hope I’m wrong.

15. Adam Huska – Goalie, 2015 7th round pick (LY: 21)

Over the past two years, Huska has made major moves on this list. His late draft positioning just shows how much goalies are voodoo in the draft. This kid practically carries the Slovakian World Junior team on his back, putting up stellar performances. He also earned the starting role in UConn with a .916 SV% as a freshman. I put him ahead of Wall because of his strong World Junior play.

14. Tim Gettinger – Forward, 2016 5th round pick (LY: 24)

Gettinger is one of the biggest movers this year, moving all the way from #24 to #13 this year. The 6’6″ forward double his goal total and added 20 points to his numbers this year in his age-18 season in the OHL. Playing top-six minutes suits him well, and he has apparently drawn the attention of Team USA. Gettinger appears to have made the final cut for Team USA for the World Juniors this winter. That is one of the primary reasons why he jumped so high this year.

13. Adam Tambellini – Forward, 2013 3rd round pick (LY: 12)

By most accounts, Tambellini had a good year in Hartford. His 35 points don’t seem like much, but that was third on the club (!!). Have I mentioned how bad that Hartford team was yet? With both Jensen and Hrivik gone, Tambellini is the incumbent leading scorer on the team. This is a huge potential year for him. By most accounts, he still needs to fill out physically, but he certainly has talent. I’m intrigued what he does, probably more than I am with Hartford’s overall play. That said, he needs a good team around him.

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  • AV may prove to be Lakatos intolerant…

    I think that Huska is way too low. The kid sounds like the real deal and has a real good chance to make the NHL.

    Boo at 21 sounds about right which is why I scratch my head as to why Ranger fans think that he should be on the big club’s roster.

    This is a big year for Gropp and Kovacs.

    • Richter,
      I can’t stop laughing at your “…Lakatos intolerant” comment.
      Thank for the morning chuckle……….

    • Boo is our top 10, there is only 1 reason to believe he is not going to be NHLer is his concussion condition, he has size, speed and skill, he doesn’t have luck

          • Wow, a goal from 5 years ago when he was the biggest kid on the ice.

            That and $5 gets you a cup of coffee in the NHL.

          • He wasn’t the biggest kid, and how this related to the actual goal? dude spliced through 2 big russian defs with move, then had time to but on a bally the goalkeeper…. Vasilevsky? The #1 in Tampa and then just moved puck around him, I guess you can do it easy anytime…..

          • What part of 5 years ago don’t you get? He’s done nothing of note since then.

          • He has done a lot, particularly if you take in account he lost his student junior year and part of the senior with concussion, was extremely good during last year Travers City tournament, I watched all the games, then again 2 heavy concussions in Packs which bounded him with only 40 games out of 78 with 18 pts (some around of those 40 games I wouldn’t take in consideration, since he was trying to rehub after concussion

          • If you watched all the Traverse City games, you should’ve noticed that he missed 50 minutes of the last one because he had, you guessed it, another concussion.

          • In addition, I don’t see how Boo missed many games if any as the regular season limit is 34 games and Boo played that many in 4 consecutive seasons.

          • I’m with Reena on this one….

            If he can’t even stay healthy during a tournament for kids, and if the AHL has been consistently turning his brain into mush….

            … Then why the optimism? I mean, he could be the most talented kid in the world & apparently, it wouldn’t even matter…

            Some guys are just not built to take hits to the head.

            Unfortunately, Boo appears to be one of them….

          • I saw a guy lose a faceoff in the offensive zone, then moments later, turn the puck over when trying to clear it out of his own end. That’s not good 4th line play.

      • I hope Boo gets well but he stinks and if he’s here playing then I will say that that would be a very bad sign for the Rangers.

  • I am normally not too picky about these types of ratings, because it is really all just a crapshoot, but how is Huska so low? Some experts in the Ranger community think that he might actually be the future starter, even over Shestyorkin. Just seeing Tambellini ahead of him is a disaster IMO, given that Adam is essentially a longshot to make the NHL at this point.

    • I had a really hard time gauging Hartford performances this year. That team was terrible on the ice and in the locker room.

      As for Huska, his ranking is less about #15 and more about who numbers 1-12 were.

      Also – these aren’t prospect rankings, so guys like Buch, Miller, Skjei, and ZBad make the cut.

      • I don’t blame you, Dave, for struggling with analyzing anything to do with Hartford. What a tire fire that was.

        From what I have read from many of the popular prospect evaluators, essentially Tambellini is basically Charmin soft out there, because he is so ridiculously skinny. Obviously you mentioned him needing to grow (well done there), but at what point do you say it just isn’t happening, given that he is already 22 years old? Obviously we all want Adam (or any prospect) to explode this year, but seems like a career AHLer at this point. Hope I am wrong.

    • If(and it’s a big one) Tambellini shows up to camp weighing 200lbs, he’s got a shot. Even then, it’s a bit underweight. 205-207 would be optimal.

      • And for a great example of how being underweight affects the game of even skilled players, look no further than Pavel Buchnevich.

        I’ll give myself a thumbs down so the crew who complains, but can’t come up with a counterpoint doesn’t have to.

  • Gotta admit: it’s tough to keep reading when you have a factual error in the second graph: Gabriel Fontaine signed an ELC last spring and is considered a dark horse to make the fourth line in New York. He’s not going back to the Q and at worst, will play ECHL. The other kid? He was drafted less than two months ago. The only guys the team has signed from the 2017 draft is their first rounders.

    And I understand why you’d omit Nick Jensen –his future is in doubt. But he is still Ranger property, will remain under 25 for most of next season, and by some accounts, is hoping to return to the team next season. By your own rules, he should be included.

    Also, I have to agree some other posters: if you’re ranking Huska and Wall that low, you’ve kind of glossed over what they have each done in the NCAA.

    I like these articles because we’re in the dog days of summer. And I have to hand it to any fan who takes the time to put the effort into a piece about prospects. But don’t bely your work by doing sloppy fact checking.

    • Oh wow, I’m so sorry I made a minor mistake on Gabriel Fontaine. I apologize so much for ruining your reading experience on a minor error on something that has already been fixed.

      And since you’re busy talking about factual errors. You must have missed that Jensen signed in the KHL. If you’re going to call me out on errors, make sure you have your facts straight.

    • Do you email Larry Brooks too? Because he gets paid for his writing and makes errors all the time.

      You should consider the effort it takes to put this blog together and the amount of time that Dave and the other writers put in for our enjoyment.

      If you want to “discuss” an opposing thought then no one will complain. But putting forth an “attack” on something that is volunteer work is completely out of line. I think an apology to Dave is in order.

      Otherwise, don’t efn read the articles.

  • this will be an interesting season for sure let’s see if Shattenkirk can help the ranger power play and see if Mika will have a bounce back year

  • I really don’t understand why some of you don’t seem to appreciate what these guys do on this site. They give us fans something to read and enjoy because of our love of the Rangers and the great sport of hockey. This criticizing of every little detail is ridicules. They work hard putting this all together and devote their free time to this. Come on people lets appreciate what they do and not get all over them for a few little mishaps. THANKS GUYS FOR THIS SITE IT GETS ME THROUGH A BORING SUMMER!

    • It’s not that no appreciates this site, it’s just that Dave is a hypocrite and a tad too hostile sometimes. He gets on poster for not knowing their facts, but then gets on posters who get on him for not knowing his facts. Can’t win with this guy.

      • I am always open to criticism if presented properly. Phil’s comment was a dickhead comment. The same mistake was brought up by Ric, and he presented it as what it clearly was: an oversight.

        The moral of the story: If you’re a dick to me, I’ll be a dick to you. If you’re a normal human being, then I won’t be a dick.

  • Let’s hope that the top half of this list are players that can make a difference to the big club, because many of these, seem destined towards mediocrity.

    As far as the bickering goes, guys/gals, grow up. I doubt anyone here is perfect.

  • Don’t understand why Hrivik and Jensen were let go or not resigned , both seemed capable of making the rangers, especially after moving JT Miller to center. Sometimes I get feeling we plan things after the fact.

    • Jensen was qualified for expansion purposes. His biggest problem was without getting minutes, he didn’t care enough about his own end to stick around(in Hartford, they were using him like Sam Gagner on the point on the PP.) He’ll kill it at Jokerit and the Rangers retain his rights, but I doubt we’ll ever see him in a blueshirt again.

      With Hrivik I think it was just an issue of that he was blocked from above and blocking prospects from below. A big part of being a GM is knowing when to cut your losses on prospects with the 50 man roster.

    • I wondered the same thing. A pitiful Hartford team could use both of these guys, really, and Jensen especially seems to have decent enough upside to keep around. With that said, perhaps Jensen simply wanted to be a starter or at least have a real chance at being a starter in a bigger league than AHL, and they wouldn’t give him that comfort. Perhaps both were looking at the Rangers’ NHL roster and didn’t see an opening for themselves this season at all. Neither tore it up in their chances last season, but neither were just completely atrocious, either, but maybe they got the feeling from the front office that they didn’t have much of a chance at NHL call-ups this year. For a team willing to start Tanner Glass in an NHL playoff game, decisions like not retaining Hrivik and Jensen seem odd…but it may have even been more about the players’ preferences for themselves than the team, as well.

      • They didn’t win with them, lets seeif they can win without them. Both also would have to clear waivers

  • Gropp finally stopped being a perimeter player and started going to the rough part of town. That’s when his point totals took off(Barzal didn’t hurt by providing service.)

    But Gropp is another guy who needs to bulk up. Average NHL player is 6’1″, 202 lbs. (in metrics, 185cm, 91kg; compared to a draft year where it’s more like 185cm, 85kg.) 6kg is 13 lbs, so from draft to being NHL ready you need to add that much weight(Patrick Kane a notable exception.)

    Every inch above average should add another 6-7lbs. Gropp was 20lbs below that last year.

      • It is, but it isn’t.

        He he just played like a homeless man’s Mike Gartner, he would’ve been doing what he had the year before. But his 2nd half turn around was as much about not being primary focus of the D(thanks to Barzal) and his willingness to go to the net, creating space for others. Note that it was his assists that jumped compared to goal totals.

        If he had Barzal the whole season he would’ve smashed through 100pts easy.

        • So I guess the jury is out on Gropp and that this season in Hartford will really show where he is at this point.

          • I thought Gropp showed a lot of skill and poise last year in training camp. Frankly I would rank him much higher and it would be a mistake to trade him before he has a opportunity to prove himself at a professional level.

          • What camp was that? Didn’t really play in TC after GM 1, was literally the 1st person sent back from camp.

            I think he really stepped up later last year, but if he can’t put on weight, he has no shot.

        • Not in the games I watched in the regular season or in the playoffs. There was a 2-3 week window after Barzal came back where they didn’t but January on, Gropp/Hanzal/Kolesar were joined at the hip and pretty much unstoppable until they got to the Memorial Cup.

          Where do you get your info from, smoke signals? Games of telephone?

        • I think that might have been true the first half of the season but the 2nd half I think they played on the same line.

  • Dave you mention that Hartford was bad on the ice and in the locker room. I’ve heard it before but the locker room stuff gets me. Can you elaborate on what was inside? players v players, coaches v players, coaches v coaches….upper management? I know the roster was not effective, but was that JG or something else?

  • very well written

    no thumbs up, cause IMO Nieves and Gropp are way underrated.

    They will exceed Stromwall, Tambellini etc
    book it

    otherwise, very good

  • Can’t wait for Timmy Gettinger! Bug sokid tough bky who can handle the luck well shoot passing and scoring!

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