We are at the top five of this year’s New York Rangers Top 25 Under 25, and boy is it one hell of a top five. When a current 20 goal scorer in Pavel Buchnevich and the top scoring defenseman in Tony DeAngelo from last season don’t crack the top five, then you know it’s a great list. And that doesn’t even account for the potential top-four defenseman Adam Fox and a pair of first round picks in Lias Andersson and Nils Lundkvist.
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, 10-6
5. Igor Shesterkin – Goalie, 2014 4th round pick (LY: 4)
The heir apparent, Shesterkin finally came over from Russia and will likely start his North American career in the AHL this season. Shesterkin owned the KHL last season, putting up a whopping .953 SV%, a 1.11 GAA, a 24-4-0 record and 10 shutouts. That’s just crazy for a 23 year old. There’s a reason why he’s been untouchable in trades. All this is before he gets to work with Benoit Allaire, the goalie whisperer. Now a grain of salt, as former Rangers goalie Magnus Hellberg also put up stellar numbers. Regardless, the Czar is likely to replace the King in the near future.
4. K’Andre Miller – Defense, 2018 1st round pick (LY: 7)
Miller absolutely crushed the Big-10 last season, his freshman year at Wisconsin. A physical specimen, Miller put up 5-17-22 in 26 games. This kid can skate like the wind, has great offensive and defensive instincts, and has tremendous vision on the ice. He’s far and away the best defense prospect in the system. I don’t know what else to say about Miller that you all don’t already know. I’d imagine the Rangers do everything in their power to get him over as soon as possible.
3. Vitali Kravtsov – Forward, 2018 1st round pick (LY: 3)
Kravtsov has actually flown under the radar a bit since Kakkomania hit. He has top line potential, but is more likely to be “only” a top-six forward. This is another tremendously skilled player who sees the ice well and excelled in the KHL as a teenager. He put up 8-13-21 in 50 games, which is impressive considering the best player on the team aside from him is…Ryan Stoa? Kravtsov might not crack the roster out of camp –I’m tempering expectations here– but it’s expected he plays a significant amount of time with the Rangers before the season is over. This kid would be the real deal if Kakko wasn’t the realer deal. If that makes any sense.
2. Filip Chytil – Forward, 2017 1st round pick (LY: 2)
I had a tough time figuring out how to rank Kravtsov and Chytil. In the end, I chose to go with what I’ve already seen from Chytil at the NHL level, even in flashes of brilliance, over a still somewhat raw Kravtsov. Chytil put up 11-12-23 in 75 games with the Rangers last year. He had his struggles, but he had periods of utter domination. He’s slated to be the 2C this season, and better forward depth likely means a better chance for Chytil to meet that potential. He’s got middle-six/top line potential as well, like Kravtsov.
1. Kaapo Kakko – Forward, 2019 1st round pick (LY: NR)
Kakko is the real deal and a bonafide top line winger. There isn’t much else I can add from his scouting report back in April. Although it would be nice if we kept expectations on Planet Earth. He’s not Connor McDavid, but he’s still a top line winger. His presence dropped everyone back a spot, and he hasn’t even played a game at the NHL level yet. That’s how good he is/supposed to be.