Welcome to the first of a three-part series on the New York Rangers prospect rankings. In this series, I will rank my top ten Rangers prospects while providing some context on each player’s development thus far and what their NHL timeline looks like.
My take on the current pool is that the Rangers are well-situated on the wings and have a quality goaltending prospect, but the defensive group has lost a lot of strength due to graduations, and as everyone knows they are lacking center prospects. I think when you consider where the Rangers are in their competitive cycle, this is a fine prospect group and likely slots them at around #20 league-wide.
As I have said before, while I do follow prospects really closely I am far from an expert. If you disagree with anything in my New York Rangers prospect rankings or have anything to add, please feel free to add your insights!
Just missed the cut:
Jaroslav Chmelar, RW, Providence College (NCAA)
Jaroslav Chmelar was a surprisingly productive player at the World Juniors and had a decent freshmen season at Providence. He’s a big forward who competes and skates well, and could be on a fourth line NHL trajectory if things break right.
Drew Fortescue, LHD, Boston College (NCAA)
Drew Fortescue is a strong player in transition, which I regard as the most important part of the game. He will have a chance to play for one of the most exciting teams in the NCAA next season. and we could be looking at a #6 defenseman if everything breaks right.
Kalle Vaisanen, RW, TPS (Liiga)
Kalle Vaisanen has a similar outlook to Chmelar, although he needs to shift into a more prominent role at the professional level in Finland.
Hugo Ollas, G, Merrimack (NCAA)
Hugo Ollas started the season really well, fumbled it a little bit, and then put on a dominant display at the Hockey East tournament, shutting out BC and taking BU to overtime. Goalie projections are difficult to predict.
10. Ryder Korczak, RHC, Hartford Wolfpack (AHL)
Ryder Korczak had an interesting season from a development perspective. He was one of the older players to be first-year eligible in 2021, which meant he only needed one more season in the WHL before he could satisfy the NHL-CHL Agreement terms to play in the AHL (4 seasons of CHL play). Korczak started the season with the Wolf Pack, but he struggled during his five game stint and was sent back to Moose Jaw.
Korczak finished the season 13th in the WHL in points per game, which is somewhat impressive even given his age, due to how strong the league was this season. Korczak was older that almost everyone in the league, but he doesn’t turn 21 until September so I don’t think him playing in the league was a huge anomaly.
Korczak lacks the projectable profile McConnell-Barker does, but if he makes it he likely has the higher upside due to his ability to transition the puck, make plays in the offensive zone, and run powerplays. He is also a very strong player in the faceoff dot, which is certainly a positive trait for Rangers fans.
Development Path/Timeline: Korczak will want to immediately prove that he can keep up with the pace of the pro level, and produce some points. He is not that close to contending for a roster spot at this point in time, and will likely need to spend the entirety of his ELC in the AHL. The hope for fans should be that he can become a very productive player at the AHL level, and hone a skill that will project to an NHL role because right now I don’t think he has one. The most likely outcome is that he is a AAAA player.
9. Bryce McConnell-Barker, LHC, Soo Greyhounds (OHL)
Bryce McConnell-Barker was widely regarded as an excellent value pick by the Rangers in 2022. The well-rounded center was on a deep Soo team, and many expected him to take a step forward in 22/23 thanks to an expanded role and an excellent shot.
BMB lacks the footspeed to play higher in an NHL lineup, but the rest of his toolkit is well-rounded and points to him potentially being a good bottom-six forward. He took a step forward production-wise last season, scoring 30 goals and posting 77 points on a really poor Soo team.
Development Path/Timeline: The hope this season will be that McConnell-Barker can push 90/95 points in a leading role and secure a spot on Team Canada’s bottom-six as a shut-down center. He is likely three seasons away from seriously pushing for a spot in the NHL, perhaps even longer. But I expect that towards the end of his ELC he will push to make an impact in the NHL. At the very least, I expect McConnell-Barker to be a very good AHL player for the Wolf Pack.
8. Matthew Robertson, LHD, Hartford Wolfpack
Matthew Robertson is a player who many fans thought would be a big club regular already, but a congested left side has made it difficult for him thus far. The book on Robertson is well-known at this point. He is a big defenseman who can skate well and projects as a bottom-pairing defenseman at the next level.
Robertson did take a step forward last season, doubling his point total in fewer games. I don’t think there will be much offense to Robertson’s game at the NHL level, so if he is going to take the step soon he will need to show more progression defensively at the AHL level. Zac Jones is essentially a lock to make the Rangers as he is no longer being waiver exempt, so that will thrust Robertson into a more significant role.
Development Path/Timeline: Robertson will start the season in the AHL this year, but he will look to establish himself as the first defenseman to be called up when there are injuries; he will likely compete with Mac Hollowell for that role. Robertson’s ELC ends after this season, so the Rangers will be hoping that he can progress significantly this season so he can play in NHL next season.
Stay tuned for Parts 2 and 3 of the 2023 New York Rangers prospect rankings, coming soon!