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.
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.