Here at NY Sportsday, we do a top prospects list for the Rangers once a year. Although we usually wait until after the entry draft, this is an odd year in so many ways, including the fact that the 2020 draft will not be held until October. We did not want to wait until then to give you our new list, particularly since the Rangers just won the Draft Lottery for the number one pick.
We are putting this list together assuming that the presumptive number-one pick, Alexis Lafreniere, is the selection that the Rangers will make in October (if they make a different pick, I promise to redo the ordering quickly post-draft). Placing the prospects in order this time was no easy task. I have been doing this for more than 16 seasons, and although there were years when it was hard to find 20 players in the system that were even close to sure to make the NHL, no less be worthy of mention as a top prospect, this is not one of them. The Rangers have so much talent, that it will be shocking if they cannot convert it to a Stanley Cup over the next 2–5 years.
It is an impressive list, which is why no one should be unhappy when ex-Rangers, traded away to get these picks, do well in this year’s playoffs. The team had to give up some of their present to load up for the future, which they have. As you can see below, I still use the same grading system I always have, which ranks players both on their talent potential on a theoretical scale of one through ten (five and up are NHL caliber) and on the chances of reaching their potential to be A through D. I tend to take a player down a letter if they are in Europe and not given an indication that they will be coming to North America in the near future. Also, be advised that I have never given a player a 10—that ranking is basically reserved for Wayne Gretzky. Generational players, like Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid, are considered 9.5s.
As far as the inclusion criteria, a player must be under 26 (when the article is written) and have played less than 50 NHL games (30 games, if a goaltender) to be eligible to be a prospect on this list (wouldn’t it have been interesting to figure out where—if anywhere—to put Lias Andersson?). Enough of all that, let’s get to the rankings.
- Igor Shesterkin, G, New York Rangers (NHL), 9.0C
Age 24; Acquired: 4th Round, 118th overall, 2014
Twelve games into his NHL career, Shesterkin has already established himself as the Rangers’ number one goaltender. He is calm between the pipes, very athletic, with excellent lateral movement; plus, Shesterkin already plays the puck with the best in the league. He has the capability of being a perennial all-star; perhaps even being a generational netminder.
- Alexis Lafrenière, LW, Rimouski Oceanic (QMJHL), 8.5C
Age 18; Presumptive First Overall Pick, 2020
Perhaps this is presumptuous of us, but this is where Lafrenière will be ranked if the Rangers select him with their first overall pick in the 2020 draft (in case, you have not heard, New York won the pick in the Draft Lottery that was held earlier this week). Lafrenière is without question the best forward available in the draft, with incredible vision, excellent decisionmaking, and high end skill. His potential is to be at least a first-line player, and perhaps a perennial NHL all-star.
- K’Andre Miller, LD, University of Wisconsin (NCAA), 8.0C
Age: 20; Acquired: 1st Round, 22nd overall, 2018
Signed to an entry-level contract on March 14th of this year, Miller is expected to become the centerpiece of the Rangers defense over the next few years. With his big frame, his ability to move the puck, and his willingness to play a physical game, Miller has the potential to be one half of the future Rangers’ top pairing. Expected to play a two-way game (Miller is a converted forward), he is expected to be a part of the Rangers’ roster to start the 2020-21 season.
- Vitali Kravtsov, RW, Hartford Wolf Pack (AHL)/Traktor Chelyabinsk(KHL)/Chelmet Chelyabinsk (VHL), 8.5 D
Age: 20; Acquired: 1st Round, 9th overall, 2018
Just the fact that Kravtsov played for three teams this past season, none of which were the Rangers, indicates that there may be a little bit of a challenge with this player. Call it youth, call it difficulty in adjusting to North America, but Kravtsov struggled this past season—not only here, but also in Europe. Watching Kravtsov play, it is easy to see his skills with the puck and his superb vision, but his head was not where it needed to be to be an effective player this past season. After a lackluster pre-season with the Rangers, it got worse when he was sent down to Hartford. He left for Europe as soon as his contract allowed. Kravtsov did return from Europe for the Rangers’ recent qualifying series, but he was not called upon to play for New York. What his status will be when play starts again in November or December is anyone’s guess. Although there is no question that Kravtsov has the physical ability to be a first line forward in the NHL, the question is his head/maturity level. Given his talent and where he was drafted, the Rangers will give him every chance to show that he is ready to maximize his incredible potential.
- Nils Lundkvist, RD, Lulea, 7.5C
Age: 20; 1st Round, 28th overall, 2018
The fact that Lundkvist signed a one-year extension with Lulea in June should not deter Rangers’ fans excitement about this offensive defenseman’s potential with the Blueshirts. The most offensively productive defenseman in the SHL this past season, Lundkvist has excellent top speed and acceleration, sees the ice very well, and handles the puck brilliantly. Expected to quarterback the first or second power play in New York, Lundkvist has the potential to be a first or second pairing defenseman.
- Matthew Robertson, LD, Edmonton Oil Kings, 7.0C
Age: 19; Acquired: 2nd Round, 49th overall, 2019
Expected to play one more season in the WHL, Robertson is projected to be a two-way defenseman, with first to second pairing potential. He is an excellent skater for his size, who plays very well in his own zone. Robertson has improved his outlet passes and gotten more physical, using his size and speed to retrieve pucks. Projected to have second pairing potential, Robertson is expected to spend the 2020-21 season in the WHL.
- Morgan Barron, LC, Cornell University, 7.0C
Age: 21; Acquired: 6th Round, 174th overall, 2017
Perhaps the best late round selection in a very long time, Barron signed with the Rangers last month after three years at Cornell. A natural center, he can take face offs, has a big body, and is hard on the puck. Expected to be more of a playmaker than a scorer at the NHL level, Barron has good hockey smarts and is an excellent two-way player. He might have been converted to a wing if the Rangers did not need centers so badly, Barron projects to be a second or third line center for the Blueshirts.
- Libor Hajek, LD, New York Rangers, 7.0C
Age: 22; Acquired: Trade with Tampa Bay, 2/26/18
Part of a deadline acquisition from the Lightning as part of the trade that sent McDonagh and Miller to Tampa Bay at the start of the rebuild, Hajek is a former 2016 second round pick. He is estimated to be more of a defensive defenseman with some offensive upside, with the Rangers hoping to develop more of that offensive upside. The Rangers saw him as a seventh defenseman this summer in the qualifiers, but was never used. Hajek does have second pairing potential, but he still has work to do in all areas of his game.
- Julian Gauthier, RW, New York Rangers, 7.0C
Age: 22; Acquired: Trade with the Carolina Hurricanes, 2/28/20
Gauthier arrived in New York right before this year’s trade deadline. A 2016 first round selection of the Canes, prior to the trade, Gauthier had spent most of the last three seasons in the AHL. A big body, who just coming into his own this season, the Rangers quickly promoted him to the NHL. Since then, he has shown speed and ability to protect the puck, but very little offensive production. There is no question that Gauthier has the potential to be a top six power forward, but it is just as likely that he winds up on the third or fourth line of the Rangers offense.
- Zach Jones, LD, UMass (Amherst), 7.0C
Age: 19; Acquired: 3rd 68th overall, 2019
On the smaller side, Jones is very hard working, with very good hockey sense. A good puck handler, he was named a member of the Hockey East all-rookie team this past season and also played D for the United States in the U20 World Juniors. He will need to work on his skating to make it to the NHL, but Jones is a sleeper top prospect in this organization.
- Karl Henriksson, LC, Frolunda, 7.0C
Age: 19; Acquired: 2nd Round, 58th overall, 2019
A small, high intensity, forward, Henriksson will likely play with the big boys in the SHL this coming season (his scoring was at close to a 2 ppg rate in juniors in 2019-20). He will need to continue developing his strength to become an NHLer, but Henriksson has time–his contract with Frolunda is not over until the summer of 2022.
- Tarmo Reunanen, LD, Lukko (Liiga), 6.5C
Age: 22; Acquired: 4th Round, 98th overall, 2016
Reunanen almost made the Rangers roster last season as the seventh defenseman, but he agreed to go back to Europe for the 2019-20 season. More offensively oriented when he was drafted, Reunanen has taken the time to learn the defensive game, with which he has made great strides. He is signed to the Rangers, who loaned him to Luuko last season, and he was hoping to come to North America for the coming season, but COVID-19 will possibly delay his playing here. Expected to be a two-way defenseman when he gets to the NHL, Reunanen is an excellent skater with good hockey sense.
- Hunter Skinner, RD, London (OHL), 6.5C
Age: 19; Acquired: 4th Round, 112th overall, 2019
Skinner was bound for college (Western Michigan) before he was drafted last summer. Post-draft, he decided to play for London (who had selected him in the fifth round of the priority draft in 2017), where he thrived. An excellent passer, who does not mind getting his nose dirty, Skinner has very good size as well as hockey sense. His upside is as a second to third pairing blueliner.
- Jakob Ragnarsson, LD, Timra (Allsvenskan), 6.5C
Age: 20; Acquired: 3rd Round, 70th overall, 2018
A defensive defenseman who can move the puck, Ragnarsson is a good skater with almost no offensive upside. He is not tall, nor big, but he has excellent hockey smarts. With second to third pairing blueline potential, Ragnarsson (who was born in California and is unsigned) will likely be thinking of coming to North America in 2021-22.
- Olof Lindbom, G, Mora (Allsvenskan), 6.5D
Age: 20; Acquired: 2nd Round 39th overall, 2018
It was a surprise that the goaltending rich Rangers should select a netminder in the second round, but Lindbom has a very good all-around game. Unfortunately, he did not have a very good season overall playing against men, but Lindbom will continue working under the guidance of Johan Hedberg next season and there is hope that he will be ready to come to North America in the fall of 2021. Lindbom has the potential to be a journeyman goaltender in the NHL (with some chance of becoming a number one).
- Tyler Wall, G, UMass—Lowell, 6.5D
Age: 22; Acquired: 6th Round, 174th overall, 2016
With decent size and good skills, the Rangers thought that they got a steal when they drafted Wall in the 6th Round, and it turns out, they did. At the time of the draft, Wall was playing for a good junior team in Ontario, and had been brilliant, but the competition was not much. That changed in the Hockey East, but for the next four years, Wall continued to be very impressive. Wall would have become a free agent had he not signed a contract this summer, but the Rangers were able to lock him in this May (for the maximum allowable). Wall does everything well, but does not have the potential of Shesterkin, so his chances of being a number one (even with further development) are slim. He is expected to compete for number one goaltending duties in Hartford though this coming season.
- Tim Gettinger, LW, Hartford Wolf Pack (AHL), 6.0C
Age: 22; Acquired: 5th Round, 141st overall, 2016
Gettinger is the tallest player in the Rangers’ organization. At 6’6” without skates, and 220 lbs, he is an imposing figure. Already with two cups of coffee in the NHL, Gettinger is not likely to create much, but can be a reliable energy player on the third and fourth like as his upside.
- Lauri Pajuniemi, RW, TPS (Liiga), 6.5D
Age: 20; Acquired: 5th Round, 132nd overall, 2018
Pajuniemi, who is unsigned, has been to the MSG Training Center at every opportunity since he was drafted. He took a big leap forward toward getting a Rangers ELC this past season, when he put up nearly a point a game with TPS. With an excellent shot, as well as good skating and passing ability, he will need to continue refining his two-way game to make it in the NHL. Pajunuemi is a potential bottom nine forward who has another year on his contract in Europe.
- Adam Huska, G, Hartford Wolf Pack (AHL), 6.0D
Age: 23; Acquired: 7th Round, 184th overall, 2015
The Rangers had selected two netminders in 2014 and felt that they did not want to pick another, but when Huska dropped to the Seventh Round, they just could not resist. Huska was just too good to leave on the board. Huska was excellent when playing for the University of Connecticut, but has not done as well in the pro ranks in his first two seasons. With some netminders, it does take time, but Huska spent part of the season in Maine, and in February, veteran J-F Berube was traded for, and he shared the number one position in Hartford until the season was suspended. Although Huska was called to Rangers reopening camp, he was not taken to the Toronto bubble.
- Simon Kjellberg, LD, RPI (NCAA), 6.0D
Age: 20; Acquired: 6th Round, 163rd overall, 2018
A good-sized defensive defenseman, Kjellberg played in Europe in anonymity until the Rangers drafted him in the late rounds of the 2018 draft and suggested that he come to North America. The son of Patrik Kjellberg, former NHL winger and current Rangers’ European scout, Simon played well in the USHL during 2018-19 and has continued his development at RPI during this past season.