The New York Rangers have one of the worst prospect pools in the NHL. This is because the Rangers have been chasing Stanley Cup runs for the past few seasons and as a result have been quick to part with first round and second round picks to supplement that with trades.
The Rangers have not had a first round pick since the 2012 draft when they selected defenseman Brady Skjei. The Rangers have not had a second round pick in either the 2016, 2013 and 2011 drafts. They have not had one player who they drafted from 2014 to 2016 to play a NHL game. Three players the Rangers drafted in 2013 to play at least one NHL game are Anthony Duclair with 140 (now with Arizona), Pavel Buchnevich with 24 and Mackenzie Skapski with two.
The Rangers have mortgaged the future and failed to produce a Stanley Cup. The team helped add some youth by signing Jimmy Vesey last summer and have hired more amateur scouts to help replenish the cupboard, but have to stop trading away top draft picks and start rebuilding via the draft.
Top 10 New York Rangers Prospects
1. Pavel Buchnevich, Right Wing/Left Wing
2015-16: Severstal/SKA (KHL)
Drafted: 75th overall in the third round of the 2013 draft by New York Rangers
Pavel Buchnevich is in his first season in North America. Buchnevich played three games in the AHL and been with the Rangers the rest of the time. He is a speedy winger with a scoring touch and has made a quick adjustment.
The 21-year-old brings the two most sought after elements the Rangers desire – youth and speed. He missed some games early in the season with a back injury. Buchnevich will be a big part of the Rangers present and future.
2. Brady Skjei, Defence
2015-16: Hartford (AHL)
Drafted: 28th overall in the first round of the 2012 draft by New York Rangers
Skjei has really developed in a short time. After turning pro last year and cutting his teeth in the AHL primarily. He then suited up for USA at the World Championship, playing ten games and not looking out of place.
He has made the Rangers full time this season and has been one of the Rangers top defencemen producing 25 points and a plus -11 after 55 games played. He will be one of their top-four defencemen for the Blue Shirts for the foreseeable future.
3. Ryan Graves, Defence
2015-16: Hartford (AHL)
Drafted: 110th overall in the fourth round of the 2013 draft by New York Rangers
Graves had an impressive rookie pro season last year in Hartford and was named to the All-Star game as a rookie. He won the hardest shot competition with a 103.4 mph blast. In his second pro season he continues to impress and has increased his offensive production.
With the Rangers aging defence core on the decline and salary cap pressure, it is almost time for Graves to make his NHL debut. Graves was originally thought to be a more defensive defenceman but with his heavy shot, offensive upside combined with his solid defensive game and hulking size, he projects as a potential top four pairing all-around defender. A potential great value prospect from the fourth round.
4. Igor Shesterkin, Goaltender
2015-16: SKA (VHL)
Drafted: 118th overall in the fourth round of the 2014 draft by New York Rangers
After a strong season in the VHL last year, Shesterkin was signed to a three year contract with St. Petersburg of the KHL. It will keep him out of the NHL until 2020 at the earliest, if he ever comes over.
His upside is nothing short of the Rangers top goalie prospect. He is excelling in his first full season in the KHL with a 1.64 GAA and is the third ranked goalie in the KHL. It is unclear if his contract has a buyout clause or not, but he has the potential to replace Lundqvist as the Rangers starter eventually.
5. Ryan Gropp, Left Wing
2015-16: Seattle (WHL)
Drafted: 41st overall in the second round of the 2015 draft by New York Rangers
Gropp plays a power forward style game, using his size and his speed to drive to the net with authority. In his fourth and final season of junior hockey, he is scoring at over a point per game pace again and will turn pro next year. It will be a key development stage for Gropp as he has little left to learn or prove in junior.
He has size, skating and skill but will need to adjust to the faster pace of pro hockey. if he can, he should translate to a top-six power forward.
6. Brandon Halverson, Goaltender
2015-16: Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)
Drafted: 59th overall in the second round of the 2014 draft by New York Rangers
After a strong junior career Halverson is in his first pro season. He began in the ECHL and quickly played his way into the AHL where he is splitting starts with Magnus Hellberg. Hartford is a struggling team but Halverson has been one of the team’s top performers as a rookie.
His status on the depth chart was evident when both Lundqvist and Hellberg were injured which lead to Halverson getting his first NHL call up in January where he served as the backup for a home game against the Ottawa Senators. Halverson still requires development time in the AHL but is trending in the right direction.
7. Nicklas Jensen, Right Wing/Left Wing
2015-16: Utica/Hartford (AHL)
Drafted: 29th overall in the first round of the 2011 draft by Vancouver
Jensen seemed to be a bust prospect with the Canucks as he was floundering in the AHL with Utica until the Rangers traded Emerson Etem to acquire the speedster. As soon as he was assigned to Hartford his game rebounded and he began finding the score sheet.
This season he has continued to improve his play and was named to the AHL All-Star game. Jensen has been recalled to the Rangers where he played in seven games in the NHL. His speed and skill suit the direction the Rangers seem to be going and this reclamation project seems to be panning out.
8. Adam Tambellini, Center/Left Wing
2015-16: Hartford (AHL)
Drafted: 65th overall in the third round of the 2015 draft by New York Rangers
Tambellini had a good rookie season in the AHL on a poor team last year. His game has improved in his second year, scoring at almost double the rate he scored as a rookie.
He is seeing time in all situations and has positional versatility. Tambellini is playing his way into a NHL call up position, and has moved his way up the rankings.
9. Cristoval Nieves, Center/Left Wing
2015-16: Michigan (Big 10)
Drafted: 59th overall in the second round of the 2012 NHL draft by New York Rangers
Nieves played out his four years with Michigan and quickly signed his ELC and suited up for eight AHL games at the end of last season where he produced five points. In his first full pro season his transition has gone well as he leads Hartford in rookie scoring.
His strong play In the AHL earned him a NHL call up where he played in his NHL debut against the Vancouver Canucks but was held pointless. At 23-years-old, he is pretty well seasoned and has shown to be adjusted to the pro game already. If he is to make the NHL, it could happen sooner than later.
10. Sean Day, Defence
2015-16: Mississauga (OHL)
Drafted: 81st overall in the third round of the 2016 draft by New York Rangers
One of the most polarizing prospects from the ’16 draft is Day. The OHL exceptional status recipient is blessed with great size and excellent skating ability. He has offensive upside and can run a power play and create transition offence.
How did he fall to the third round is the question and his compete level, inconsistent play and defensive intensity is the answer. Day was traded to the Windsor Spitfires who will host the Memorial Cup and it will provide Day an opportunity to either establish himself as a boom or bust prospect.