8th Annual NY Rangers Top 25 Under 25: Honorable Mentions

A little delayed, the 2020 NY Rangers Top 25 Under 25 is upon us. 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.

For the first six editions, this was broken down into two posts. Last year was the first year the list had to be broken down into groups of five. The Rangers had added so many talented players under 25 years of age that it was the only logical thing to do. This year we will be doing the same. But first things first, let’s review who no longer qualifies for this list.

Aged Out (1): Pavel Buchnevich
No longer with the Rangers (5): Sean Day, Joey Keane, Lias Andersson, Vinni Lettieri, Ville Meskanen
2019 Rankings: Honorable mentions, 25-2019-1514-1110-6, 5-1

That’s it – just one player aged out from last year’s rankings. Only one top-ten (Andersson) is no longer with the organization. What a time to be a Rangers fan. That makes this year’s honorable mentions list much longer than past years. Most players are here by no fault of their own, they just got passed on the depth charts.


1. Brett Howden – Forward, trade with Tampa Bay (LY: 12)

Howden is the biggest slide in this year’s rankings. Over two years, he’s gone from #9 to honorable mention. Howden had a great start to his rookie season, but fell off a cliff after. David Quinn says he likes his pace, but he has really struggled without the puck. His metrics have been downright bad. He’s still young, but he needs to figure it out.

2. Leevi Aaltonen – Forward, 2019 5th round pick (LY: 22)

Aaltonen is a very talented forward currently playing in Liiga in Finland. He’s a tremendous skaters, one of the best in his draft class. He’s very well rounded, and that should translate to the North American game.

3. Evan Vierling – Forward, 2020 5th round pick (LY: NR)

In any other year, Vierling and Berard likely would have cracked the top 25. However not this year. Again, that’s how deep this system is. Vierling is a highly skilled three zone player. This bis a big season for him if the OHL ever gets going. Look for him to get big minutes with Barrie. You want to see him have a strong age-19 season.

4. Brett Berard – Forward, 2020 2020 5th round pick (LY: NR)

Berard is small but skilled. He, like Vierling, is another guy to watch once his NCAA season in Providence gets started. He’s probably going to spend at least three years in the NCAAs, so he’s a ways away from turning pro.


1. Libor Hajek – Defense, trade with Tampa Bay (LY: 13)

It’s amazing what a year can do. Hajek had a strong debut two seasons ago and was penciled into the lineup as a third pairing defenseman. What followed after was a disaster. Hajek was put on the top pair with Jacob Trouba, a role he was definitely not able to take. Even when he was moved down the lineup, he struggled. The reality of the situation is that Hajek should have been in the AHL. He and Howden have a long way to go.


1. Adam Huska – Goalie, 2015 7th round pick (LY: 23)

Over the course of two seasons, Huska has fallen from #15 to honorable mention. Some of this is by no fault of his own, as the Rangers are absolutely loaded with potential in the system. That said, he had a very weak season last year. Hartford was a disaster, but his 3.03 GAA and .894 SV% was a far cry from his UConn numbers. Tyler Wall has already passed him, and Lindbom and Garand are likely to pass him on the depth chart if he doesn’t have a strong year.

2. Olof Lindbom – 2018 2nd round pick (LY: HM)

Lindbom stays an honorable mention for now. But he has a long way to go before he’s back in the rankings. His 2019-2020 season was a little rough, but he’s off to a strong start in the Allsvenskan this season. Lindbom likely doesn’t have a long future with the Rangers, but hopefully he turns into something tangible.

3. Dylan Garand – Goalie, 2020 4th round pick (LY: NR)

Garand is a goalie to watch if the WHL gets a season this year. The Rangers were big on the Kamloops goalie, and he put up a strong 2019-2020 season. His .921 SV% in a notoriously high scoring league is something to take note of. Garand might shoot up the NY Rangers Top 25 Under 25 rankings in the coming seasons.

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  • Howden, only because the others haven’t played an NHL game yet.

    Gee, I wonder who will be #1. 🙂

  • Talk about a snake bitten organization, it appears that the Sen’s first pick
    Tim Stützle, will require surgery:

    “In consultation with doctors in Germany and with our own medical staff, it has been determined that Tim requires a surgical procedure to stabilize a fracture,” said Senators general manager Pierre Dorion. “The procedure is scheduled to take place in Germany later this week and has an expected recovery time of six to eight weeks. Our medical staff will remain in regular contact with Tim and his doctors as he begins his recovery through to the point that he is medically cleared.”

    To make matters worse, read this:

    Potential cap crunch could keep Kravtsov in KHL
    Vince Mercogliano of Lohud dove a little deeper into why the Rangers will have to go with a player like Kevin Rooney in the lineup instead of Kravtsov. That’s because the Rangers will likely exceed the $6.1125 bonus allotment the addition of Alexis Lafreniere to the lineup and quite possibly, K’Andre Miller. That means as much as $4-6 million over the cap ceiling.

    Hence the danger in also adding Kravtsov and a player like Morgan Barron to the roster. Both have performance bonuses that will drive the number higher and so it would be wiser to have a Kevin Rooney and his $700,000 salary with no bonuses in a 12th or 13th forward spot.

    This is terrible news for us because if this is the case, we will have trouble signing all our RFA’s. I see ADA playing hard ball, and he may well be a cap casualty. That would be terrible for all concerned. I just hate the thought of any of this happening!!!!!!!!

    • While we all hope the “kids” get a chance to play, the CAP is a real dilemma for every team. The only way to get more kids on the team is to NOT sign AD or Strome, or we look to move a guy like Buch or D.Smith.

      I really think Strome will be moved for a future pick and Chytil moves up to 2C.

    • This is the very issue I have with the cap. If the league is going to keep the cap, the CBA, must be renegotiated to also cap salaries and term. Salaries and terms must be higher than international salaries, so players will still want to play in the NHL. but not so high that the teams are handcuffed to play their youth. Maybe eliminating the bonuses from the cap would also be helpful. I am not pretending to be someone in the know of such a complicated issue, but I know that it hurts teams ability to compete.

    • “Potential cap crunch could keep Kravtsov in KHL”

      One of those gloom and doom scenarios. I find it hyperbolic and somewhat unrealistic to expect everyone will hit their bonuses — aside from Lafreniere.

      …. BUT hey, we have to create a “buzz” with our articles.

      • tanto, I have long held this view but sadly I had not researched the rules properly. Here is the actual rule as I understand it.

        Any bonus above $6.1125M must be counted against this year’s cap. To enforce this, during the season, all bonuses that are literally possible are counted. So while we may not expect Kravtsov to achieve a $2M bonus for some league-wide achievement, if he is on the roster, the Rangers must count that $2M against the cap until such time as it becomes impossible (not sure what impossible means – when did Marc Staal winning the 2020 Norris become impossible, legally I fear when the finalists were named). Note below – Kravtsov actually doesn’t have such a bonus in his contract.

        Hence while I expect – as you do – that the actual bonuses will be under $6M, I am sure the achievable bonuses will be well over it and he Rangers must live with that number.

        For the record, the combined potential bonuses for Lafreniere, Kakko, and Shesterkin are over $8.4M. Kravtsov only has $850K in potential bonuses, but because the Rangers are over the limit, that amount is added to his salary for cap purposes this year.

        The shrewdest move may be to keep Kakko in Hartford, but that certainly won’t happen. (cap hit – $3.5M)

        • I know Ray, but that assumes the total between Georgiev, Lemieux, Strome and ADA exceeds $14M (I’m not sure it will). It also assumes the Rangers will carry 23 players as things stand now.

          • I agree $14M is likely high and the Rangers will carry 13 forwards, not 14. But injuries often force a team to a 23rd, 24th, even a 25th player for short stretches.

        • This is wrong.

          CBA 50.5(h)
          Teams are allowed to be over the ceiling by $6.11mm in order to pay out bonuses above the averaged value of those bonuses. *If* they go over that, *then* that money is subtracted is taken away from *next* year’s payroll. Start banking at $2mm and you’re good to go.

          • I put a 21 man roster together with ADA on $5mm, Strome on $4mm, Georgiev on $3mm and Lemieux on $1.5mm
            Panarin Ziba Buch
            Kreider Strome Kakko
            Laffy Chytil Goat
            Lemieux Howden Kravtsov

            Smith Trouba
            Johnson Fox
            Lindgren ADA

            Shestyorkin Georgiev.

            $5.8mm under the cap, with the bonus allowance, could start the season with no overage issues. As the season goes on and you bank cap space, that $5.8mm would almost turn into $12mm, so the club could take on $7mm in salary at the trade deadline and still not have an overage.

          • Right … they can easily play around with the cap space —- this is why teams have capologists. This is really a non-issue.

    • I, personally would want Krav playing the whole season in the KHL anyway. Keep him in a single league for a whole season. If/when he does come over AFTER the KHL season is over, his pro-rated cap hit would be peanuts.

      To Tanto’s point, it’s unlikely every player hits all of their bonuses, so while it’s prudent to plan for it, small exceptions can be made to call up deserving ELC players.

    • Walt – you’re right about Vince’s deep dive and the tight cap. A real eye opener. The Staal trade looks like a real life saver right now and the importance of buying out the King is more apparent as well. Never understood the importance of the performance bonuses until now. This flat cap is no joke. The salary arbitration results will be crucial. Hopefully the arbitrators, and players, take into consideration the “new normal”.

    • I’ve already written about this: if they have $2mm in cap space to start the season and bank it, they’ll have more than $12mm ($6mm in banked money, $6.11mm in bonus cushion) available.

      Much ado about nothing.

  • The right move was to sign Wennberg for a season and to move Strome for any 2nd or third round pick. Wennberg has scored 59 points before and has a good defensive game. I also think that playing with Panarin will do for him as much as it did for Strome who also put up an abysmal amount of points with the Oilers. Kid lost his offensive confidence playing for a lunatic coach who wants every player on the ice to play goal and be a human zambonie.

    • I would think that the GM has made multiple inquiries on moving and acquiring players. Remember, as we saw with the Canes, teams do not always agree on the terms of the proposed deals.

  • If Vierling puts on some muscle and shoots more often, could be both a good addition and affordable contract.

    • I have no idea why the team keeps on drafting players like Day, Andersson, Stromwall and Vierling, then wonder why things go wrong while never analyzing the problem.

      I hope Vierling breaks the streak, but I’m not counting it.

  • Calle Sjalin should be in there, has a better shot of going farther than Reunanen: Sjalin is 1st pair in the SHL while the latter is 2nd pair in the Mestis.

  • Aaltonen isn’t really progressing. 4th liner his D+2 year on a team that really doesn’t have a bunch of NHL prospects loaned out to them.

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