A look at the New York Rangers top 10 prospects heading into the 2015-16 season.
The Rangers have a window of opportunity to take a run at a Stanley Cup. To achieve this stature they have had to sacrifice draft picks and prospects in an attempt to push the team over the top. Giving up two first round picks to acquire Martin St. Louis who just retired may have long term consequences as the prospect pool for the Rangers is one of the shallowest in the NHL. There are some difficult times coming for the Rangers, times that will be easier to endure if they are successful in winning a Championship.
1. Pavel Buchnevich: Right Wing – 6’1” / 176 lbs
Drafted: 75th overall in the third round of the 2013 draft by the New York Rangers
Buchnevich had a strong second year playing in the KHL as a 19 year old, scoring an impressive 30 points in 48 games. He was also a key member of Team Russia at the WJC scoring six points in seven games. The Rangers failed in their attempts to sign him and bring him to North America, as he choose to return to the KHL for another season. When he eventually comes he should fit in a top six scoring role.
solid on his skates .. employs a good skating stride backed by a powerful first step, which he uses to break away and create his own chances .. shifty and quick hands in close .. displays a scoring touch, complemented by his excellent speed, making him difficult to contain .. skilled at holding onto the puck – and has the requisite vision to see and hit the open man .. intensity subsides and he can float around at times .. he needs to add mass to reach his top-six NHL potential. – McKeens Hockey
2. Brady Skjei: Defence – 6’3” / 200 lbs
Drafted: 28th overall in the first round of the 2012 draft by the New York Rangers
Skjei was the last player the Rangers selected in the first round at the draft three years ago. After playing in 33 games in his final season at Minnesota, Skjei turned pro and played eight games in Hartford. Skjei has not played over 40 games in a season over the last five years and will need at least a full season of adjustment and development in the AHL next year, but he is their top defensive prospect.
Skjei is a very good skater. He possesses excellent edgework and agility for a big man. He has very good mobility, balance, and makes quick pivots. Skjei has above average speed and can use it to join the rush, though he really picks his spots with this. His backwards skating isn’t quite at the same level as his forwards movement, though it is still above average. He is good defending against the rush as a result. – Last Word on Sports
3. Oscar Lindberg: Centre – 6’1” / 195 lbs
Drafted: 57th overall in the second round of the 2010 draft by Phoenix
Acquired: Trade phoenix in 2011
Lindberg had a successful sophomore season in the AHL scoring 28 goals and 28 assists for 56 points in 75 games. His play improved as the season wore on and he produced another 16 points in 15 playoff games. His performance has propelled him up the prospect depth charts on Broadway, but the competition is pretty thin. Lindberg needs to make the Rangers line up as he will need to clear waivers to play in the AHL. The Rangers have a deep NHL roster and a bleak AHL roster, it’s quite a dilemma for the Rangers as they may not be able to fit him on the NHL roster and they cannot afford to lose him off the AHL roster.
Lindberg plays a sound two-way game. He reads the play well, and anticipates plays. He is very strong positionally and cuts down passing and shooting lanes. Lindberg is not afraid to put his body on the line to block shots. He is good in the face-off circle, and effective at killing penalties. – Last Word On Sports
4. Adam Tambellini: Centre – 6’2” / 169 lbs
Drafted: 65th overall in the third round of the 2013 draft by the New York Rangers
Tambellini left college to join Calgary in the WHL and had no trouble finding the score sheet. Last year was his first full season with the Hitmen and he scored 86 points in 71 games. He raised his game in the playoffs scoring 13 goals and 13 assists in only 16 games. Now 20 years old he will make his pro debut in Hartford, he has the skill to compete at the pro level, but needs to bulk up his slight frame.
rangy center/winger with good size .. packs a heavy wristshot and explosive release .. an incongruent skater .. shows solid footwork in certain sequences – and generates impressive top speed .. choppy stride and skating technique on crossovers however which limits his startup and acceleration .. operates off the right half wall on the power play – curling into the lane .. not as forceful in traffic away from the puck .. gets lazy occasionally on defensive-zone entries .. needs to keep his feet moving .. plays an advanced, poised game with the puck on his blade .. able to make comfortable transitions while working through traffic .. top-six potential. – McKeens Hockey
5. Igor Shesterkin: Goalie – 6’1” / 187 lbs
Drafted: Drafted 118th overall in the fourth round of the 2014 draft by the New York Rangers
Shesterkin saw limited action in the KHL but was a standout for Russia at the WJC posting a 3-1 record with a 1.98 GAA winning the Silver Medal. With Henrik Lundqvist as the incumbent on Broadway, the Rangers can take their time with Shesterkin who is the heir apparent. He remains unsigned and should see more action in the KHL this season.
he’s calm and confident in goal, and he does an excellent job at tracking the puck. He has the potential to be a No. 1 goaltender in the NHL. — Rich Brown, Rangers Amateur scout
6. Ryan Graves: Defence – 6’4” / 220 lbs
Drafted: 110th overall in the fourth round of the 2013 draft by the New York Rangers
Graves had a successful fourth season in the QMJHL scoring a career high 39 points and leading his team to the Memorial Cup where he was named a tournament all-star. He will join Hartford in the AHL this season and make the transition to the pro level. The massive defensive defenceman could be a diamond in the rough.
Blessed with tremendous size, Ryan Graves is a strong defensive defenceman. He is very mobile, and uses decent speed, good edgework and strong pivots to get himself into good positions to block shots, and cut down passing lanes in the defensive zone. He’s also been willing to fight when necessary and has done well in this department the past two years. I would like to see a bit more of a mean streak along the boards and a few more big hit from him though given that size. – Last Word On Sports
7. Ryan Gropp: Left Wing – 6’2” / 187 lbs
Drafted: 41st overall in the second round of the 2015 draft by the New York Rangers
Gropp may be a few years away but has good size and is proving to be a reliable sniper, scoring 30 goals for Seattle in the WHL. He has top six potential with size, skill and skating ability, but will need to refine his consistency and intensity.
A potential elite-level power forward, he has all of the technical tools, as well as the natural size that lets him bulldoze his way to the front of the net, to be a constantly dangerous scoring threat. He is a tremendous blend of work ethic and tenacity (digging in deep; never giving up on the play), hockey-IQ (creative and responsible mind for the game), and skill (skating, hands, patience, and vision). – My NHL Draft
8. Ryan Mantha: Defence – 6’5” / 225 lbs
Drafted: 104th overall in the fourth round of the 2014 draft by the New York Rangers
Mantha joined the OHL after several years in the USHL and found success, scoring 25 points including ten goals and was a plus -21 with 45 penalty minutes. Mantha will return to Niagara for another season and if he continues to develop, could be signed to his entry level contract and see some time at the end of the season in Hartford. He could end up being a physical, shut down bottom pairing, or a middle pairing all-around defenceman.
Beyond his impressive frame, Mantha is adept at beginning the transition game as he makes a good first pass to clear the zone. He is also relatively mobile, more notable in light of his size. Considering the ease with which he acclimated to the OHL, expect a big jump up for him this season. – Hockey Prospectus
9. Robin Kovacs: Right Wing – 6’0” / 172 lbs
Drafted: 62nd overall in the third round of the 2015 draft by the New York Rangers
The 18 year old Swede has a year experience playing against men with AIK producing 28 points in 52 games. Eventually he may land a top six role, but he is a few years away and needs to add strength and bulk for the NHL.
A speedy winger that likes to agitate opponents and then strike quickly. Possesses great stickhandling ability and creativity, and is potent on the power play and penalty kill, as he recognizes scoring chances and is quick to act. Loves to play a puck-possession game and can pick his spot like no other when ripping his shots. All-in-all, an all-around winger that players hate to play against due to his skill level and the effectiveness of his agitation. – Elite Prospects
10. Dylan McIlrath: Defence – 6’5” / 220 lbs
Drafted: tenth overall in the first round of the 2010 draft by the New York Rangers
McIlrath is beginning to be written off as a bust after being selected tenth overall ahead of players such as Vladimir Tarasenko and Cam Fowler. After three years in the AHL his ELC expired and was re-signed to a one-way contract. He will make a serious push to wrestle a roster spot away from Raphael Diaz or Kevin Klein or would be the first player called up for injury relief.
He has become more reliable by playing a more even game this season. He still has an edge to his game and he always keeps the opponent aware of his physical presence. He exudes character and is a great team player. – Kevin Maxwell, The Rangers Director of Professional Scouting,
Recent Roster Graduations:
Jesper Fast, Kevin Hayes, J.T. Miller
Brandon Halverson, MacKenzie Skapski, Aleksi Saarela
Players under 25 years old and with less than 25 career NHL games played qualify as a prospect for purpose of this list.
Written by Peter Harling, who can be found on twitter @pharling