And so the top ten is upon us. I’m sure you are all able to guess who fills out the top ten at this point, since they haven’t been mentioned yet. Or you can guess just based on the past few drafts and some current roster players. Either way, this is a loaded top ten, perhaps one of the best in the league. Three of the guys who were in the 10-6 range were in the top five last year, and they fell because of guys the club added!
As a refresher, 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.
Aged Out (3): Jacob Trouba, Boo Nieves, Brady Skjei
No longer with the Rangers (5): Neal Pionk, Michael Lindqvist, Patrik Virta, Brandon Halverson, Dominik Lakatos
Honorable Mentions (6): Ty Ronning, Tim Gettinger, Ville Meskanen, Vinni Lettieri, Ryan Lindgren, Olof Lindbom
Prior Rankings: 25-20, 19-15, 14-11
10. Lias Andersson – Forward, 2017 first round pick (LY: 5)
I’m sure a lot of people are going to be frustrated with me because Lias is a whole **checks notes** two spots ahead of Brett Howden. There’s logic here, but it’s two spots folks, move on.
Back to an actual analysis, Andersson’s detractors hate that he was the 7th overall pick in 2017 and was hyped to be an immediate 3C that year. He wasn’t, and those were unfair expectations from all of us, including Jeff Gorton and Gordie Clark. Andersson clearly needed time to grow and adjust to the North American league. His first stint last year was rough, but he was noticeably better on his second call up, specifically defensively. David Quinn wanted him to work on his three zone game, and he did just that. The kid is 20 years old, and it is expected –and probable– that he will take a significant step forward this season.
9. Tony DeAngelo – Defense, trade from Arizona (LY:13)
DeAngelo was one of the biggest question marks heading into last season. He didn’t endear himself to the new head coach early on, and he barely cracked the roster, let alone the lineup until injuries forced David Quinn to play him regularly. The message got through to DeAngelo, and he quickly became the best defenseman on the roster. No hyperbole, he was the best defenseman on the roster. He assumed the powerplay QB role, and he was also the best defensemen in the league with zone entries. He finished with a line of 4-26-30 in 61 games. He won’t be the 1RD thanks to Jacob Trouba, but as the PP1 QB with a loaded lineup, he should take another major step forward this year. If he keeps his head on straight.
8. Nils Lundkvist – Defense, 2018 first round pick (LY: 8)
What a pick Lundkvist is turning out to be. The 19 year old out of Sweden –when in doubt, pick a Swede– had a solid season in the SHL last year, putting up a line of 3-7-10 in 41 games. He is a great skater and someone who should transition to the NHL very quickly once he comes overseas. He’s the complete package of steady defense, solid passing, great hockey IQ, and decent offense. He’s not going to wow you like K’Andre Miller, but he’s just overall solid. He flies under the radar because of Miller and Fox, but don’t sleep on this kid. He’s top-four potential.
7. Adam Fox – Defense, trade from Carolina (LY: NR)
The trade that sent what will essentially be a pair of second round picks to Carolina kick started the acceleration of the rebuild in earnest. Fox was going to be a Ranger, and it was just a matter of when. Let’s be clear – the Rangers were likely not going to get an Adam Fox with either of the second rounders given up. The 21 year old is expected to make the jump right to the NHL from Harvard, leaving after his junior season and a 9-39-48 line in 33 games. This kid has all the offensive tools to succeed in the NHL, and with Trouba and DeAngelo in the lineup, will be able to be eased in as the 3RD. He has the tools to be a top-four defenseman.
6. Pavel Buchnevich – Forward, 2013 3rd round pick (LY: 1)
Amazing how Buchnevich can put up 21 goals in just 64 games last season and still slide five spots. Buchnevich didn’t slide because of his play, let that be known. He slid because of who is in front of him. Buch is already a middle-six winger based on raw numbers, and should he stay healthy for a full season is poised to have a breakout season in his age-24 year. He sees the ice well, he has great offensive instincts, and he has a deceptive shot. Thirty goals is within reach for him, but he admittedly does need PP1 time for that to happen. Buch was the first Russian to pave the way for others on this list, and his final stint on this list has him slotted to be a leader for these new kids coming up. He may be outside the top five, but this kid is very good right now, and should get better.