So while the Rangers themselves are on a somewhat upward trajectory, elsewhere in Rangerland things are not looking so promising. Purely statistically, several Rangers prospects at the AHL level are off to tough starts. Let’s take a look at a few names that the Rangers could really do with developing to NHL level.
The biggest cause for concern thus far has to be Gropp. It’s perhaps slightly harsh to judge Gropp so early in his rookie campaign, but the former second round pick is off to a bad start in Hartford. One goal in nine games, barely registering a single shot/game; it’s fair to expect better from a guy drafted 41st overall. Concerns were there straight away, that the Rangers reached for him at the draft and his first foray into the pro game doesn’t suggest otherwise. The 2015 draft is looking like a huge disaster for the Rangers (think Robin Kovacs, Daniel Bernhardt, trading Aleksi Saarela for two months of Eric Staal) so the Rangers really do need goalie Adam Huska to save that draft year.
The blueline prospects
Many thought that 23 year old Russian Alexei Bereglazov would crack the Rangers roster to begin the seaon but he’s been in the AHL and has not turned heads thus far. Bereglazov isn’t the only Wolfpack blueliner struggling however. Ryan Graves, another player the Rangers have high hopes for, is a -8 (whatever that stat is worth these days…) in just 12 games. With Vince Pedrie (-5 and played in only 5 games) and Brandon Crawley (1 point, -5 in 10) also barely demanding attention it’s been a tough start for a collection of Rangers blueline prospects. Thinking mid term, the Rangers really need two of their Wolfpack blueliners to make it at/to the NHL level.
Speaking of needing a prospect to make it, it’s fair to expect DeAngelo (clearly an NHL talent, and someone that should be getting regular ice time with the Rangers) to be dominating for Hartford if he’s going to be forced to endure more seasoning at the AHL level this year. So far, it hasn’t happened for him. DeAngelo hasn’t got into his stride offensively and hasn’t been a difference maker for a Wolfpack team that has ruined a solid start to their year and who were in the midst of 0-3 and 3-6-0-1 runs, entering Sunday.
So, is anyone doing well?
Encouragingly, Filip Chytil has started to life in the AHL strongly. With 9 points in 8 games, Chytil has been one of the few bright spots for the Wolfpack offensively and is proving at his age, he can handle the rigours of the North American pro game. The Rangers will no doubt be watching Chytil’s play very carefully, given that they still have several games to review him at the NHL level (should he be called up) and given that they have really struggled to get four competent centers playing consistently in NY.
Somewhat the forgotten prospect, Adam Tambellini, in what is a huge season for his hopes of developing into an NHL calibre player, has started well with 5 goals to open his season. He’ll need to show a better all round game this season to stay relevant but a better supporting cast than last year will no doubt help Tambellini. His start is at the very least, noteworthy.
Defenseman, Neal Pionk has adapted fairly well to the pro game and is one of the better performing defensemen for Hartford. Pionk has generated some offense and reports are that his game has been fine, despite the team’s overall downward trajectory. Pionk is another guy that the Rangers would love to see make a quick development.
Another guy trying to force his way into Rangers reckoning is Vinni Lettieri. The surprise package from the Rangers preseason, Lettieri has had a good start to the AHL season, not just putting up points but playing well and carrying his confident play into the regular season. Lettieri can’t be far away from getting a look from the Rangers if they don’t address their center problem externally.
This is just a few of the younger players on the Wolfpack this season and as you can see, purely from a statistical point of view (and without delving too deeply into media reports and highlights) it’s a mixed bag one month in.
Prospects such as John Gilmour, Steve Fogarty and Gabriel Fontaine have barely deserved a mention this season so far, but as for all the players mentioned above, the one saving grace is that it’s still early days. Hartford need to be better this year (it can’t be much worse than last year) and the Rangers really need the team to improve for the sake of their prospect pipeline.