Prospects

8th Annual NY Rangers Top 25 Under 25: Numbers 5-1

Today we continue with the 8th Annual NY Rangers Top 25 Under 25.  To recap, 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.

Reviewing who we’ve covered already:

No longer with the Rangers (5): Sean DayJoey KeaneLias Andersson, Vinni Lettieri, Ville Meskanen
2020 RankingsHonorable mentions25-2120-1615-11, 10-6
2019 Rankings: Honorable mentions, 25-2019-1514-1110-65-1

5. K’Andre Miller – Defense, 2018 1st round pick (LY: 7)

The reality of rankings 5 (K’Andre Miller), 6 (Tony DeAngelo), and 7 (Nils Lundkvist) is that you can rank them in any order and it’s fine. In the older days of the Top 25 Under 25, I would have grouped all three together as one ranking/summary. Consider them a tie for #5.

Miller is a true gift of size, skill, and skating. He has all the tools to be a top pairing defenseman in the league with the proper grooming. Expect Miller to spend a full season in Hartford, as the Rangers aren’t going to rush him. Like most kids, he’s going to need to adjust to the speed of the next level.

It is worth noting that Miller’s point totals were down in his Sophomore year, and there are some concerns about aspects of his defensive play, like positioning. even with those concerns, he still has a ceiling of a top pairing defenseman.

4. Kaapo Kakko – Forward, 2019 1st round pick (LY: 1)

Kaapo Kakko had a bit of a rough rookie season with the Rangers. The general consensus is that fatigue played a role. There are some adjustments he needs to make, as some of his game needs to be fine tuned for the North American game.

In the playoffs this year, Kakko looked much improved and showed great progress. It’s expected that he’s going to take a major step forward next season and get some better linemates. He’s the #2 forward in the system, no questions asked.

3. Igor Shesterkin – Goalie, 2014 4th round pick (LY: 5)

What a year for Igor Shesterkin, He went from rookie year in the AHL to the heir to Henrik Lundqvist over the course of 75% of a season. The part about Shesterkin that impresses is that he slows the game down and his movements are smooth. There’s very little desperation. Like Lundqvist, Shesterkin’s movements are short and steady, getting his chest in front of shots as much as possible.

Shesterkin only has 12 games of NHL experience, but there’s no reason to believe he won’t be able to make the full leap. He was the heir apparent before Benoit Allaire got his hands on him, and now with those two synced up, the potential seems limitless.

Shesterkin turns 25 in December.

2. Adam Fox – Defense, trade from Carolina (LY: 7)

You should not be surprised to see Adam Fox as the #2. Fox was by far the Rangers best all around defenseman last year and was snubbed as a Calder finalist. He is just great all around, and still managed to look good with that disaster team defense from early last season.

Fox already excels in all three zones at the NHL level. He’s a tremendous puck mover, skater, and has great hockey IQ and instincts. There are few defensive deficiencies or holes in his game. Fox is going to be in the top five until he ages out.

1. Alexis Lafreniere – Forward, 2020 1st round pick (LY: NR)

The obvious #1 for this year’s NY Rangers Top 25 Under 25. He is the single most skilled player the Rangers have ever drafted. He will have some growing pains, and he’s not Connor McDavid. But Alexis Lafreniere is a game changer for the Rangers. What else is there to day?

Expect him to be on this list for seven more years.

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  • Thanks David for these rankings and all you do for us.

    I’m (we’re) hoping that Kakko has a Svetch-like 2nd year. He was one of the very few “bright” spots in the Canes’ series. Kakko seemed like a born again player. Good to see.

    Adam Fox absolutely got snubbed in the Calder voting. Maybe he should not have been the winner, but 4th in the voting? Typical NY bias (against). Just a tremendous player and a steal of a trade (though he did force his way to the Rangers).

    Really, all in all, a much better prospect pool than 2 years ago. The Rangers, with some skill and some luck, have really built a nice stable of young players. Now the potential needs to translate actual production on the ice.

    The next 3-5 years are going to be fun to watch. Hopefully we will get to be there, at MSG, to see it.

    • Re Fox and Calder: I think it would have been a travesty to have the three finalists all be defensemen. So which of the two defensemen would you have put Fox ahead of?

      And wrong or right, I don’t think there is a bias against NY. In sports, there has always been a pro NY,LA bias in the media. Big markets are where the money is.

      • I’m going to answer you both (Raymond and Eugene), because it’s the same answer: there are 2 sides of the ice. Fox had 42 pts compared to 50ish for the other 2.

        But, Fox was a +22. and while +/- is not a great stat, on the Rangers, where the team D was awful, overall, that shows the defending that Fox displayed on that side of the ice.

        This part does not get nearly as much consideration, especially with the other 2 being “name” and hyped players.

        So, in answer to your questions, I would put Fox ahead of Hughes.

        • JFTR, I would also have put Fox ahead of Hughes, but Hughes did have flashier numbers and that is why he was chosen, not because of any bias. By +/-, Fox was far above Hughes – and the scoring differential was almost entirely due to the power play scoring of Hughes. And to be honest, Fox’s shortcoming there was more due to DeAngelo’s success.

  • Alexis kinda reminds me of a young version of that Bruins guy….

    not the rat-nosed one course… the other one.. the one that bails out the rat all the time…… might be French Canadian too… hmmmph…..

  • We should be very careful putting K’Andre in the top 5. His last year in Wisconsin was not great. He may have lots of potential, but he also may be a work in progress for a few years.

    • Between Miller and Lundkvist I think Lundkvist will be the better NHL player. He’s already doing well in a pro league.

    • Everybody had a bad year in Wisconsin, Miller was specifically told not to worry about O, just focus on his own end(so point totals should be expected to drop).

      • And he was last year so bad in his own end…. I saw couple of games of badgers and dude is missing in action. Yes he is skating, he is physical, and he has good hands…. but either I was lucky to see bad games or it’s trend, he is so need work on his own end

        • He plays for the cameras and the scouts. Turns it off in regular season games.

          Like many young players, can rise to the occasion, but forgets that he needs to give 100% every shift.

          • I don’t think it was about giving 100%, he was making visible mistakes, his game requires tune up from game point of view, I saw behavior like one ended up with Laf goal on US team multiple times.

          • With Miller it’s still a question of learning the position …. Wisconsin was almost 9 months ago, listen to what DQ said about the kid a few months ago, he wasn’t JUST talking about his physical attributes — which are undeniable. It’s not like DQ lavishes praise too easily.

            Like Reen said, the whole Wisconsin team was flat out bad last season. I wouldn’t read too too much into his season.

    • Caution is warranted, but let’s not also forget that he didn’t play D for most of his time in organized hockey. And D is the hardest position to learn.

  • LaFren is a very feisty player and I’m sure the opposition are going to test his mettle………The kid is the real deal and I hope that I don’t have to wait several years to see him as this virus thing is not going away anytime soon…

      • Even if the FDA fast tracks a vaccine, it will take time for approval and distribution.

        I doubt that we get to go to a game this coming season.

          • Yep, very, very true.

            And I can guarantee you, that I will not be taking whatever vaccine they throw out there, unless I am risking death, after contracting the virus.

  • Hard to argue with the top 5 much, though I’d probably put Tony DeAngelo at #5 by himself and Lundqvist and then Miller, but those are minor quibbles really. Adam Fox deserves the #2 spot at least for now due to a rather spectacular rookie season.

    K’Andre Miller is still mostly potential. He is still work in progress who has terrific physical attributes and skills. He needs to hone them and put things all together. I’d expect him to stay in the AHL a while.

    Lets see what happens with Vitali Kravtsov. He might just sneak up a few notches over the coming season.

    • In the top 10, only Fox, Shesterkin and DeAngelo are proven quality players. How the other seven end up is largely speculation at this point and Dave is just taking his best shot. I suspect the absolute ceiling for Kravtsov is above the midpoint for each of the other six though below the ceiling for Lafreniere and Kakko.

  • Only one objection. Why is a man likely to be the greatest goaltender who ever played the game 3rd on any list? He is already better than Lundqvist in his prime. The Rangers would be bonkers to trade him for Connor McDavid. So why is he below a guy who is no Connor McDavid?

    I was surprised to see Fox ahead of Kakko, but my hunch is that you are right there. However, please remember that Fox was sheltered from major defensive responsibility. He certainly looks like he can handle that responsibility when it comes but Quinn hasn’t thrown him in the deep water yet.

    • The Rangers would be bonkers to trade Igor straight up for 23 year-old Connor McDavid who already has three 100 point seasons and even had 97 in the shortened 2019-2020 season? Ray, bonkers? Really?

      I love Igor too, but to say that the Rangers would be crazy to trade him for McDavid is hyperbolic.

      • There is not a trace of hyperbole in my comment. I may be flat out wrong, but I am not being hyperbolic. Obviously injury can derail any career (here McDavid has a worse track record than Shesty I think), but Shesterkin has established a very clear path.

        At his present level, he is clearly better than Henrik Lundqvist ever was. Unlike Hank, he is a complete hockey player – more in the mold of Martin Brodeur. He contributes to the offense, he makes playing defense easy. He shuts down offenses quietly, not with spectacular saves. Whereas Lundqvist strove to keep the puck out of the net, Shesty strives to control the game.

        Connor McDavid, OTOH, pales in comparison to the primes of Gretzky, Messier, Lemieux, Crosby. Shesty is a better goalie than McDavid is a center.

        Now you may argue that centers are more important than goalies – and you may be right – but I’ll take the best tender in the game over someone who can’t even consistently win the Hart trophy. McDavid will not win as many Cups as Shesterkin.

        • Shesty has a long long long way to go before I would ever even remotely think of declaring him likely the best tender ever. I agree that he’s potentially better than Hank in the sense of being a more “complete” goalie, but the kid is going to have to show us all that he can stand tall under the extreme pressure of the playoffs (something even Hank at times had trouble with …), that he can play 50-55+ games, that he’s durable, etc. There are a few other young goalies out there (some Russian as well) that will give him a good run for his money.

          All that said, I would have slotted him in at #2 … just ahead of Foxy — because I want to also see how Foxy responds to the pressure of being the Top RD and going up against the BEST every night.

          Face it though, we’re blessed with a good Top 10 … if staggered correctly we’ll be a true SC contender for the next 5-10 years. Hopefully we don’t revert to the trading of 1st round picks every year — you have to keep them, they’re gold in this cap world.

          • But most of those reservations also apply to Lafreniere.

            Young players do disappoint sometimes. Nail Yakupov was a relative washout despite being a #1 pick. Looking at the last ten #2 picks, I noticed one player (can’t recall the name) whose career was derailed by some kind of injury or health issue. I don’t think Rick Nash will make it to the HOF and I think that would be a surprise to those viewing the start of his career.

            Yes, we don’t know what Shesterkin will achieve ultimately. But we do know he was unbelievably good in the KHL. We do know that, had he stayed there, he might have won the Calder Cup in Hartford with what we found out was actually a bad team. And we do know that his twelve game NHL start is the best ever, again with what was not particularly a good team.

            Injury is a danger for everyone of course, but otherwise I think Shesterkin will be fine. I don’t think playing 55 games is a big deal, nor do I give much credence to stress. The big problem for goalies IMO is giving up a few bad goals, second guessing themselves, and over-correcting their positioning and movement. History suggests that this is not a problem for goalies coached by Benoit Allaire. It was never a long term problem for the very emotional Lundqvist. It was not a problem for Cam Talbot in NY (and certainly has been at times since he left Allaire). Nor Raanta nor Georgiev. And it makes sense because this is really the goalie coach’s biggest job, not to create goalies but to keep good goalies playing well. It is indeed ironic that, while Allaire gets tons of praise here, he gets essentially no credit for Lundqvist’s consistency – which was by design his primary responsibility.

    • “Only one objection. Why is a man likely to be the greatest goaltender who ever played the game 3rd on any list?”

      Raymond, do I even have to say anything about this? The greatest goalie to ever play for the Rangers is now a Washington Capital. And Henrik will not be giving up that title, ever.

      But “greatest goalie to ever play the game?” (You can’t see me shaking my head).

      Game 7 for the Cup, I pick one of 2 goalies: Patrick Roy, Henrik Lundqvist. I would consider Hasek but I feel like his “talent” is more luck than skill. And Broduer is a byproduct of the Devs’ D men and team system.

      • If hockey continues to be played and the Rangers endure, there is almost no chance that Lundqvist will remain the greatest Ranger of all time. It is not if, but when. Of course, under normal circumstances, the two of us would likely be gone before that happens.

        For greatest of all time to date, I would ignore Game 7s — less data in fact than we already for Shesty. I would go with Jacques Plante actually. Interestingly, both Lundqvist and Roy were laughable when handling the puck – both putting extra pressure on their teammates. A player like Brodeur or Shesterkin simply makes the whole team better.

        I agree that Lundqvist had a better career than Giacomin for example, but I think he and Vanbiesbrouck were comparable. I am treating Hank’s career as if if it were over – as Cap fans will soon wish it was.

        But I stand by my assertions. Virtually no one has started their NHL career as Shesty has – and he has the pedigree to indicate that he has been good, not lucky.

        • Raymond, I like you a lot, but it is clear that we cannot debate about things related to Lundqvist.

          Henrik is a top 5 (easily) Ranger of all time, regardless of position, IMO. You putting him on par with VBK is laughable.

          • To be clear, I was considering the Bieser’s entire career. His pinnacle was actually taking an expansion team to the Cup Finals, more impressive than any single thing Hank did in the NHL. Currently, I agree Hank is the top Ranger goalie of the last 55 years and almost surely he is above Worsley as well. I can’t speak to the guys who played before we were born.

            Incidentally, the HOF is quite unfair to the goalies in the high scoring era in which Vanbiesbrouck and Richter played. Very few made the Hall whereas it was common in the 60s and 70s. I wonder what lies in store for the current crop.

          • VBK was a very good goalie, no question, but he was not in Hank’s class.

            To me, Henrik and Luongo were by far and away the 2 best goalies, in the years that they played. Which is basically the same era.

            They are both HOF goalies. Which is why I think that AV’s regular season record is tainted, having 2 HOF goalies lead more than 2/3rds of his wins, between Vancouver and New York.

          • I gave this topic serious thought and would rate goalies by nine criteria: (1) reading the game (2) anticipating shots (3) seeing through traffic (4) positioning (5) agility and reaction in blocking shots (6) controlling rebounds (7) avoiding mistakes (8) handling the puck (9) emotionally leading the team.

            If we simply look at (2),(4),(5),(7) as a group, you can make a very good case that Hank was the greatest NHL goalie of all time when he was at top of his game – with of course some decline in recent years. And there is no reason to believe he will ever be matched. Concerning (9), he was great for Sweden and for his first decade as a Ranger. This was critical in beatin Pittsburgh in 2014 and likely has a lot to do with his Game 7 record. Whether he has been an asset or a liability these last five years is a subject for debate which does not affect the overall assessment.

            Concerning (6), he is about an average NHL goalie I think (a pretty high bar actually) at controlling rebounds, but he is nowhere near as good as Shesterkin, which is one of the reasons why I believe Shesty will surpass him despite being inferior on (5) and some others.

            On (1) and (8), Lundqvist was never particularly good and Shesterkin excels as did Brodeur. We disagree on the importance of this, but this does provide a pathway for hank to be exceeded.

            Finally, item (3). By any standards, this one is very important. I really don’t know how good Lundqvist was or is, but I do know something. The Rangers configured their team to compensate for a weakness here – be it real or imagined. They played an inferior defense in order to give Hank better visibility. The statistical perception of this was that Hank excelled at (3) and the Ranger defense sucked – when it could better be said that the defense chose to suck in order to create the appearance that Hank excelled.

            To be fair to Hank – and I rarely am – I think Vigneault erred badly in his treatment of Hank and the defense. I think that is AV had stood up to Hank and made him work harder to see through screens, Hank’s numbers would have been a little less impressive – except for that extra Cup win or two. And I believe that AV feels the same way.

            The bottom line though Tony is we really only have two substantive disagreements. I believe puck handling is way more important than you do in assessing a goalie. And the issue of configuring the Ranger defense so that Hank had better visibility. On the last subject, neither of us is particularly rational. You give him credit he doesn’t deserve and I give him resentment he doesn’t deserve. [To be honest, I blame Hank for what i feel is unfair criticism directed at numerous good Ranger defensemen.]

  • Kandre Miller in top 5…. gmmmmmmmmmm… yak, dude is turnover machine and very very very very very….. raw …. and Lundkvist and Chytil are bellow….. Every man to his taste

  • Willing to proof-read for you for free (I used to copy edit professionally when I was young).

    Great list. Miss you on the podcast.

  • Not sure how you can rank Lafreniere ahead of players who have proven they can play in the NHL. I get that he looks to be the real deal, but in my opinion he hasn’t proven a thing yet in the NHL therefore he should not be rank ahead of those players who have! You can say he’s our #1 prospect but that’s all. Sorry but I’m old school, a player needs to prove he can play with the big boys first.

    • I think you have to go with the odds here, he was the clear cut best player in an incredibly deep draft. Yes, there are some #1s that don’t measure up to their “status”, but not many and not true “consensus” #1 picks — there’s a reason many pundits out there have him scoring circa 60 points next year. He’s not Kakko or Hughes, he was arguably the 1st pick in last year’s draft as well despite not being eligible.

    • Dave’s list by design weighs current ability, ceiling, and likelihood of reaching that ceiling.

      Compare Lafreniere with DeAngelo. DeAngelo is likely a better player now, but look into the future. DeAngelo is probably about as good as he will ever be and it seems rather unlikely that he will ever win a Norris Trophy or enter the Hall of Fame. OTOH, history suggests perhaps that Lafreniere has (I’m guessing) a 40% shot at the Hall of Fame. That makes him a far more exciting asset to have in the organization.

      Sure, the low end estimate for Lafreniere is likely below TDA, but the ceiling is clearly higher — and the likelihood of getting close to that ceiling is pretty good.

      I’ve disagreed with Dave here about Ryan Lindgren, but I think this is a good example of what he is doing. He ranked Lindgren below Reuanen, Jones, Robertson, Lundqvist, Miller, five unproven defensemen. I think Dave would readily admit that it is utterly implausible that every one of these five will some day be better than Lindgren is now. But his ranking is based on the idea that each has a significant chance to be decidedly better than Lindgren.

      [Incidentally, our disagreement is about how good Lindgren actually is, something unrelated to the issue at hand.]

  • Thank you Dave, I do not agree with a lot of things you write but I do appreciate the time and effort that you put into it for us.

    I love that Laf has a lot of dog in him…but the Rangers have to be very careful with him. Messier was top 5 ever when it came having ability and being able to throw knuckles…but Neil Smith was wise enough to know that Mess wasn’t the one we needed to do that kind of lifting…the addition of Graves was so critical to those teams success.

    Schneider and Cuylle were avery necessary steps in helping with that process and more grit along with all the talent we collected will make us contenders for the cup.

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