NY Sports Day
Leslie Treff

Treff: Rangers Top 20 Prospects- 2019 Edition

Neil Miller/NYSD

Happy holiday season to all! Although it has not been a pleasant last month for the Rangers, it is a time of riches for the players in the Ranger organization’s pipeline. I still stick with what I said a few days ago (https://www.nysportsday.com/2018/12/24/treff-recounting-the-rangers-woes-since-thanksgiving/) that there is a strong need in the future for the Blueshirts to draft very gritty talented players, but there are more high end talent players in the system than there have been since I have been covering the team.

There have been some years where I struggled to find 20 Rangers’ prospects that I thought had a real chance to make the NHL—this year, when I first put the list together, there were 31 such prospects. As you may guess, it made the players harder and harder to order as I went down the list. And for number 20, I placed the two NCAA goalies as a tie—both will have pro careers, most likely as journeymen NHLers or minor league net minders.

Some of you may disagree with my list from the top on down. So, let me tell you how I went about putting the list together. To start, I used the NHL’s list of all the players in the Rangers’ system. Then I eliminated anyone over 26 and/or had played more than 49 NHL games as of December 28, 2018. Then, I took into consideration a player’s age, how long they had been playing pro (if they were at all), how they were doing (both statistically and in the eyes of several of the scouts I talked to this season), how they looked in development and training camp, where they were drafted, how their league stats translated to NHL stats (see Rob Vollman’s translation factors:  https://twitter.com/hockeyabstract/status/984181939857862656?lang=en), and then I slipped in my own personal biases (if anyone tells you they do not include this last thing, you might want to call into question their veracity).  

I welcome feedback (follow me and message me on @HFNYRangers—but try not to be too harsh, it’s New Year’s after all!).

  1. Igor Shestyorkin, G
  2. Vitali Kravtsov, RW
  3. Filip Chytil, C/W
  4. Brett Howden, C
  5. K’Andre Miller, LD
  6. Lias Anderson, C
  7. Nils Lundkvist, RD
  8. Alexandar Georgiev, G
  9. Ryan Lindgren, LD
  10. Ville Meskanen, RW
  11. Nico Gross, LD
  12. Morgan Barron, C
  13. Libor Hajek, LD
  14. Joey Keane, RD
  15. Olof Lindbom, G
  16. Tim Gettinger, LW
  17. Jacob Ragnarsson, LD
  18. Yegor Rykov, LD
  19. Boo Nieves, C
  20. Tie Adam Huska, G
  1. Tie Tyler Wall, G

 

Goaltending

There are five goaltenders in the top twenty—that’s two to three too many. With Henrik Lundqvist in net for at least two more years and Shestyorkin the number one prospect in the system, it means that, if the Russian comes to play in North America, that the other netminders will either be competing for a spot in Hartford or be traded (or walk) away. The Rangers should know for sure whether he is coming or not by this next summer. In the meantime, Georgiev is under contract through the 2019-20 season. All of the Rangers other netminders who are currently under contract (none are in the top 20) have their contracts expire this coming summer. Tyler Wall, who is having a comeback junior season at UMass-Lowell, and Adam Huska, who is doing not as well between the pipes for a somewhat beleagured  Connecticut Huskies, both may decide to turn pro after this season. And Olof Lindbom, the team’s second round pick last summer, has sidelined for most of the season with an injury. With goaltending being so difficult to predict, having five prospects in the system is a luxury.

Defense  

There are eight blueliners on the list—and only two are right shots. This isn’t because there were fewer good right shot defensemen—it is because there are so few of them in the system.  It is something that the Rangers will need to rectify as they start rebuilding the defense. As anyone who is watching the World Juniors can see, K’Andre Miller has a very high ceiling. He is still working on the defensive end of his game, but he has the size, puck distribution skills, and the physicality to be imposing in the NHL. On the other hand, he is several years away from being NHL-ready. The defensemen that are currently in the system that are closest to NHL-ready are Ryan Lindgren and Libor Hajek, but neither is quite there yet. However, expect Lindgren and Hajek to compete for NHL spots next season. The top RD is Nils Lundkvist, the Rangers’ third first round selection this past summer. Lundkvist is playing well in Sweden (and thus far in the U20 WJCs), but he is not expected to come to North America until the fall of 2020.

Forwards

The Rangers have three potential first line forwards within their system. Filip Chytil and Brett Howden are already with the team, and Vitali Kravtsov could be in New York as soon as this spring. In my opinion, Lias Andersson’s potential may be more of a two-way player (playing on the second to third line), but his ceiling will be determined by how much he can improve his skating. Ville Meskanen’s upside is still in question, he may in fact be a top nine player, but almost all of the other forwards on the list appear to be bottom six players in the NHL. One player whose upside may surprise all of us, however, is Morgan Barron, the sophomore at Cornell. Barron has excellent size and hockey smarts, but the question when he was drafted in the 6th round in 2017 was, could he produce at the NCAA level? It turns out, he can skate, he can take faceoffs, he can hit, as well as see the ice incredibly well.  And he can put up numbers too. Expect Barron to stay in school at least one more season and maybe two (he’s at Cornell after all), but Barron could wind up being a top nine power forward.   

Overall

This list is infinitely better than it was even three years ago. Plus, there were at least a half dozen honorable mentions—players who have some or quite a bit of upside, but just had more minuses that players named above. The system looks much better, but there still are needs—both right shot defenseman, as well as forwards that have skill and are nasty.

As I said in my article earlier in the week, if there is a somewhat toned down Tom Wilson out there, let’s hope that Gordie and his scouts can find him and bring him to Broadway.


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