Adam Sykora slovakia rangers

We are finally starting to get to players that might have an NHL future in this year’s NY Rangers Top 25 Under 25. Numbers 25-16 were a bit underwhelming, but numbers 15-11 had a bunch of guys that should (hopefully) see NHL minutes. We now hit the top-10 with a pair of current NHLers, a top tier goalie, and two skaters that should make it in the near future.

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, 20-16, 15-11
2022 Rankings: Honorable mentions, 25-21, 20-16, 15-11, 10-6, 5-1

10. Dylan Garand – Goalie, 2020 4th round pick (LY: 15)

Reminder that goalies are voodoo. There is no rhyme or reason as to draft position and future NHL success, which is why we so often see late round picks in net, instead of those first rounders like Al Montoya.

Dylan Garand was a nice hit by the Rangers in the 4th round in the 2020 NHL Draft. Garand turned pro last season after four strong seasons with Kamloops. Garand had a bit of a rough start to his pro career, and his full season numbers reflect it with a .894 SV%. That is not reflective, however, of his talent level.

When Hartford finally figured things out and started addressing actual team needs, the Pack made a run. At the center of that run was Garand, putting up a whopping .935 SV% in 8 playoff games. The knock on Garand is his size, since he’s smaller than most NHL goalies. However he more than makes up for it with technical skill, reads, and quick yet subtle movements. He’s rarely out of position, and looks bigger in net than he actually is.

Garand will give the Rangers an interesting conundrum in the coming seasons. Do they keep Igor Shesterkin at a likely $8 million cap hit in two seasons? Or do they go with the cheaper Garand? This is two years away, but it’s something to think about.

T-8. Will Cuylle – Forward, 2020 2nd round pick (LY: 12)

When the Rangers drafted Will Cuylle after trading former 7th overall pick Lias Andersson, there were flashbacks of Ryan Gropp and Carl Hagelin. While the trades and picks were similar, Cuylle was not propped up by better linemates in Juniors, unlike Gropp. Cuylle has been a breath of fresh air for a team that seems to love drafting size over skill since Cuylle actually has both.

In his first pro season, and no that 2020 blip doesn’t count, Cuylle put up a solid 25-20-45 line in 69 games with the Wolf Pack. This was tops on the team in goals and second in points. The 6’3, 211 lb winger got a cuppa in the NHL as well, looking strong yet raw in 4 NHL games.

Cuylle is expected to break camp with the Rangers, and it will be interesting to see where he lands. Could he be part of a sheltered third scoring line with Filip Chytil and Blake Wheeler? Could he be part of a shutdown fourth line with Nick Bonino and Barclay Goodrow? Both?

Like Zac Jones, Cuylle is the next man up from the Rangers farm system. He will get looks ahead of Brennan Othmann right now, but Cuylle’s ceiling isn’t nearly as high.

The Rangers hit on this pick.

T-8. Adam Sykora – Forward, 2022 2nd round pick (LY: 16)

I couldn’t decide if I should put Cuylle ahead of Adam Sykora or behind him, so let’s call it a draw, shall we? It’s a cop out, but if I admit it, then it’s ok. Right?

Sykora is another strong 2nd round pick by the Rangers, but he’s a few years away from making an NHL impact. Sykora is another easy prospect to love, as he’s a feisty scoring winger that gets under the opposition’s skin. He and Brett Berard have a lot in common, but Sykora has the higher offensive ceiling.

People will point to his size –5’10”, 172 lbs– as a reason to discount his status as a top-10 prospect for the Rangers. However he’s already playing pro hockey against grown men, and has been doing so since he turned 17 years old. In two years in the Slovak Extraliga (92 games), he’s put up a combined 19-23-42, including a 50% point increase from his age-17 season to his age-18 season.

Let that sink in. He did this as a 17 year old and an 18 year old. His strength will improve, as will the rest of his skill set.

Sykora will likely be in Slovakia again after camp this season so as not to burn a year on his ELC. His ELC clock will likely start with the 2024-2025 season as a 20 year old. He projects to be a middle-six forward, but could be an even better surprise.

7. Braden Schneider – Defense, 2020 1st round pick (LY: 8)

Braden Schneider is an interesting kid. With 1.5 NHL seasons under his belt, he’s been a pretty solid offensive contributor as a third pairing defenseman. He’s been jumping into plays and showcasing his offensive skills. His 5-13-18 line last year, despite a rotating cavalry of mostly bad partners is pretty impressive. There’s a strong case that Schneider would have an even better offensive line if he had a full season with an actual NHL defenseman for an entire season.

But here’s the thing. Schneider was never known as an offensive defenseman prospect. He was the big hitter, defense first type player. And defense is where he’s struggled in the NHL. Most of this is likely due to way too much time with Libor Hajek and Ben Harpur, which will be resolved this year when he plays with Jones and Erik Gustafsson.

Schneider seems to be a Jacob Trouba-lite, so to speak. More structure will help, as will a clearly defined approach to zone exits. People seem to be down on Schneider because he hasn’t really been consistent in his own end, and that’s a valid criticism. Entering his second full season, it’s expected Schneider will make strides in all three zones.

Either way, he’s an NHL defenseman. Hard to argue against that.

6. Brennan Othmann – Forward, 2021 1st round pick (LY: 6)

Brennan Othmann is the most hyped NY Rangers prospect at the moment. A year removed from a 50-goal season in the OHL with Flint in the 2021-2022 season (age-18 season), Othmann will join Hartford this season as a much needed offensive injection into the lineup. Othmann will probably see top of the lineup minutes assuming Cuylle breaks camp with the Rangers.

Othmann is another pest, but a highly skilled pest at that. You’ve seen the highlight reels of Othmann’s quick release and lethal shot. He’s always in the right place at the right time, creating his own luck. He reads the game well, which is how he’s always in the right place at the right time.

But Othmann is still somewhat raw. He needs some developmental time in the AHL playing in all situations, something he will get this season. There’s no reason for the Rangers to rush him this season, so unless there are numerous injuries, I wouldn’t expect him to get big NHL minutes.

Othmann projects to be a top-six forward, but he will need a bit of time to get there.

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