The New York Rangers currently have only four prospects playing major junior hockey. This is the lowest number of prospects assigned to the CHL in recent memory and reflects both a switch in drafting tendencies, as well as the fact the Rangers had a combined nine draft picks in 2012 and 2013.
Mackenzie Skapski, G, Kootenay Ice
Acquired: 6th Round (170th overall) in 2013
Now in his third season as a member of the Ice, Skapski was drafted by the Rangers based upon an excellent 2012-13 campaign. During that season, the Ice were a .500 team during the regular season, with top prospect Sam Reinhart leading the scoring, and Skapski posting seven shutouts.
This year, Reinhart is once again the scoring leader on the team and Kootenay is still about a .500 team. Although not on pace for as many shutouts, Skapski is still posting almost exactly the same numbers as he did last season – a 2.81 goals against average and a .910 save percentage.
What the Rangers really like about Skapski is his workhorse mentality. He carried the Ice on his back to the WHL playoffs last year and he is still doing so during the 2013-14 season. Skapski's numbers over the next few weeks will probably take a dive, as Reinhart participates in the World Juniors, and could really dip during 2014-15 if Reinhart does not continue to play junior hockey past his 2014 NHL Draft selection.
Although there are few goalies in the system, Skapski will have to work extremely hard to earn an entry-level contract from the Rangers.
Troy Donnay, D, Erie Otters
Acquired: Free agent signing in 2013
Donnay, at 6'7 and 185 lbs, was invited to Rangers Development Camp last summer and impressed the New York brass with his size and toughness. Signed to an entry-level contract over the summer, Donnay was less impressive in Traverse City in September and did not do much in the main camp. However, he has size and grit, which the Rangers sorely need at the NHL level.
Now 19 years old and in his fourth year in the OHL, Donnay is a project on what is an excellent junior team. Working on his skating and positioning will be a priority for the right-handed defenseman over the next year, and although he will be eligible for professional hockey next season, it is still possible he spends an overage year in the OHL prior to turning pro.
Anthony Duclair, LW, Quebec Remparts
Acquired: 3rd round (80th overall) in 2013
Duclair had an excellent rookie season with the Remparts in 2011-12, and much was expected of him during his draft year. However, he turned in a lackluster performance, and his stock dropped going into the 2013 NHL Draft.
There was never a question about his tools however, as he is a talented goal-scorer and a speedy, creative winger. According to many scouts, focus was an issue for Duclair. The Rangers however, liked Duclair-both his set of tools and his attitude.
Eager to impress, Duclair took his summer meetings with the ranger seriously and began a new diet and high-end fitness regimen. It is paying off this season, as Duclair is now a top-10 scorer in the Q. Earlier this month, he was named QMJHL Player of the Week, and he was chosen in November to represent the league in the Subway Super Series against Russia.
He currently plays in all situations for the Remparts and has 29 goals and 22 assists through 35 games.
Ryan Graves, D, Charlottetown Islanders
Acquired: 4th round (110th overall) in 2013
Ryan Graves is a big, tough defenseman (6'4, 225), who is in his third season as a member of the PEI Rocket/Charlottetown Islanders organization. Big and strong, Graves can fight and also just be tough to play against. Recently, he has started to pick up the offensive side of his game, posting six points through nine games in December.
The 18-year-old was selected to participate in the Subway Super Series against Russia last month and has begun to garner interest as a diamond in the rough. Somewhat of a late-bloomer, expect Graves to spend at least one more season in the Q before turning pro. But at this point, absent serious injury, it is likely that Graves will be signed to an entry-level contract prior to the expiration of the Rangers' rights to him in June 2015.
Brady Skjei is the only Rangers' prospect that will participate in the 2014 World Junior Championships in Sweden. Skjei, with his booming shot, has gotten more ice time and responsibilities thus far in the season at the University of Minnesota and responded well, posting five points in 16 collegiate games.
Defenseman Samuel Noreau, who has spent his rookie professional 2013-14 season with the ECHL Greenville Road Warriors, could still be returned to the QMJHL for an overage year. The Rangers are considering doing exactly that, as Noreau is struggling at this level and seems to have lost confidence.