With an underwhelming start to the 2023 NY Rangers Top 25 Under 25, it’s time to start getting to kids that have at least some hype to them, even if it’s not much. There is significant turnover on this year’s list, with a whopping 7 (!) players from last year either aging out or no longer with the Rangers. That means the bottom part of this list is a little shaky, with some players moving up in rankings solely because players aged out.
The ground rules for this list are simple. To qualify, 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.
As a reminder, my personal rankings take into account kids playing in men’s leagues, so you may see a player or two on here that may not have a sexy stat line, but is a kid playing against grown men. That matters a lot, especially if they hold their own. The reverse is true as well, as big stat lines as an overager in the CHL or getting cut from Hartford last year negatively impacts rankings as well.
Aged Out (2): Adam Fox, Ryan Lindgren
No longer with the Rangers (5): Nils Lundkvist, Vitali Kravtsov, Hunter Skinner, Lauri Pajuniemi, Jayden Grubbe
2023 Rankings: Honorable mentions, 25-21
2022 Rankings: Honorable mentions, 25-21, 20-16, 15-11, 10-6, 5-1
20. Karl Henriksson – Center, 2019 2nd round pick (LY: 22)
Karl Henriksson moves from 22 to 20 this year solely due to the large turnover on this list this year. When the Rangers took Henriksson, there was hope he would develop into a middle-six center, but now it looks more like he will peak as a 4C defensive specialist. Think Oscar Lindberg, but that does appear to be his ceiling right now. Lindberg had a much stronger AHL debut season than Henriksson’s 7-10-17 stat line.
Henriksson didn’t drop to the 21-25 range for two reasons: 1) There was no one to move ahead of him, and 2) It’s unknown how much of his progression –or perceived lack thereof– was due to the disaster Hartford was for most of last season. Chris Drury’s revitalization of the Wolf Pack should help Henriksson, and perhaps he is the 4C of the future. But he will need to take some steps forward.
19. Brody Lamb – RW, 2021 4th round pick (LY: 18)
I was very high on Brody Lamb when the Rangers drafted him in 2021. He had a ridiculous draft year out of high school and was set to be in the USHL for a season before jumping to the NCAAs. Lamb had a solid 2021-2022 season with Green Bay in the USHL, rebounding from a slow start to a 19-22-41 stat line over 62 games.
However his freshman year with Minnesota in the Big-10 was less than stellar, putting up just 4 goals and 8 points in 39 games. Part of that may have been ice time driven, and it’s expected Lamb will begin to get more TOI and produce more. Logan Cooley and Matthew Knies will be in the NHL this year, but Jimmy Snuggerud will be back. Two other forwards that finished ahead of Lamb will be gone as well.
This is a big year for Lamb. There are top-six minutes up for grabs, and it’s expected that Lamb will be competing for those minutes. He’s very talented, but underweight right now. He will need to come to his sophomore year stronger so that he can continue his development. Lamb is as high ceiling as they come.
18. Kalle Vaisanen – RW, 2021 4th round pick (LY: 21)
Kalle Vaisanen moves up mostly because Lamb and Henriksson moved down, but that’s fine. Vaisanen stuck with TPS in Liiga last year, playing 47 games in the men’s league and only a handful in the U20 league. He’s not a big time producer in Liiga, nor did he put up big numbers with Finland’s World Juniors team. He did, however, put up 6-1-7 in 10 games in other international tournaments.
I like Vaisanen, but there’s going to be a longer development curve here. I’d like to see him take a bigger next step. He, like Lamb, has a high ceiling. Both are project picks. Both are a long way’s away from having an NHL impact, if they do. But I love the ceiling, and for Vaisanen, I love that he’s spent two years in Liiga as a teenager.
17. Hugo Ollas – Goalie, 2020 7th round pick (LY: NR)
Something about the Rangers and 7th round pick goalies out of Sweden seems to click. After coming to North America and playing with Merrimack College in the 2021-2022 season, Ollas has put together back to back solid years. His .920 SV% in 21-22 and .915 SV% in 22-23 are solid, especially with Ollas earning 5 shutouts last season before losing to BU in the Hockey East Finals.
That said, goalies are voodoo. It’s so hard to project how they develop, even with solid SV% numbers. At 6’7″ and 238 lbs, Ollas is huge and doesn’t really need to move much to cover the net. He’s technically sound, and outside of Dylan Garand, the Rangers don’t have many solid goalie prospects. I’d expect Ollas to get an ELC after this coming season.
16. Drew Fortescue – D, 2023 3rd round pick (LY: NR)
When the Rangers took Drew Fortescue in the 3rd round, it was met with mixed reviews. Fortescue had Rangers connections with Gabe Perreault and Dan Muse, so this was a natural fit. Fortescue isn’t a scorer, not by a long shot. But he’s just solid in all three zones, is a good puck mover, and does a lot of the little things that don’t show up on the score sheet.
I’d prefer to see bigger offensive numbers, but we’ve learned from Ryan Lindgren that lacking big numbers doesn’t mean he won’t pan out. Lindgren becoming a top pairing defenseman was the exception to the rule, but Fortescue projects to a bottom pair defenseman as a floor. That’s nice to have. He’s not the high ceiling prospect many love, but players like Fortescue are needed for roster balance.