New York Rangers have small, talented group of prospects in NCAA and Europe

By Leslie Treff

Steven Fogarty - New York Rangers

Photo: Forward Steven Fogarty is one of three New York Rangers prospects who played the 2013-14 season in the NCAA. Fogarty was selected by the Rangers in the third round of the 2011 NHL Draft. (courtesy of Fred Kfoury/Icon SMI)

The New York Rangers had three prospects playing in the NCAA during the 2013-14 season, as well as three skating in Europe.

In addition, Adam Tambellini began the season in the NCAA, but left for the WHL mid-season. Brady Skjei, a defenseman, is the best collegiate prospect in the system and Pavel Buchnevich is the best in Europe. However, neither is expected to play professional hockey in North America next season.

The Rangers have regularly drafted college-bound and European players over the last five years. New York has also continued to choose Europeans with late round picks-a pattern that has produced Carl Hagelin and Jesper Fast.

NCAA

Brady Skjei, D, Minnesota Golden Gophers (Big-Ten)
Drafted 1st round, 28th overall, 2012

When he was drafted, Skjei was expected to be a mostly a defensive blueliner with a booming shot. What has happened over the last year, however, is that he has grown into much more of a two-way defenseman. Now the top NCAA prospect in the system, the Rangers have started comparing Skjei to former blue line collegian, Ryan McDonagh.

With six goals and eight assists in 40 games this season with the Golden Gophers, Skjei has become more of an offensive threat than was thought in the past. With good hockey smarts, excellent skating abilities, and his excellent shot, Skjei is likely to become a second pairing blueliner in the NHL. He is expected to spend one more season at the University of Minnesota.

Cristoval Nieves, C, Michigan Wolverines (Big-Ten)
Drafted 2nd round, 59th overall, 2012

With an excellent freshman season, where Cristoval "Boo" Nieves was an honorable mention on the CCHA All-Rookie team, a lot was expected for his sophomore 2013-14 campaign. Although he had a decent year, Nieves did not move forward in the way that was hoped for by the Rangers. With three goals and 19 assists during this season, the center continued to show good vision and passing abilities, but he went on extensive scoring droughts. The Rangers are watching and hoping that Nieves will find the net more often this coming season. It is expected that Nieves will be given another two seasons of amateur hockey to develop prior to beginning his professional career.

Steven Fogarty, C, Notre Dame Fighting Irish (Hockey East)
Drafted 3rd round, 72nd overall, 2011

A finalist for the coveted Minnesota Mr. Hockey award in 2010, there was no question that Steven Fogarty had offensive talents and size, but he was far from a complete player. After a year in the BCHL on a strong Penticton team, Fogarty had a solid, but not spectacular, freshman 2012-13 season with the Fighting Irish. There were higher expectations this season, and while he became more a more solid two-way forward (his positioning, use of his big body, and decision-making improved), Fogarty's offensive production did not rise, as he posted three goals and eight assists in 33 games. Like Nieves, Fogarty will need two more years of development prior to beginning his professional hockey career.

Europe

Pavel Buchnevich, LW, Severstal Cherepovets (KHL)
Drafted 3rd Round, 75th overall, 2013

One of the best snipers available in last summer's draft, the Rangers were able to snag Pavel Buchnevich in the third round. Playing against men this season in the KHL, Buchnevich recorded seven goals and 11 assists in 40 games. A solid performance in the U20 WJCs was expected and, although Buchnevich's offensive prowess was obvious (two goals, five assists in seven games), he took several selfish penalties and had some defensive lapses. Overall, though the Rangers were more than satisfied with the young Russian's season. He is signed for one more season with his KHL team, and will likely sign to play in North America once that contract is over.

Calle Andersson, D, Malmo (Allsvenskan)
Drafted 4th round, 119th overall, 2012

Calle Andersson is one of the few offensive defenseman in the entire Rangers' organization. He thinks the game very well and has excellent hands, and the Rangers were hoping when they drafted Andersson that he would develop best in Sweden. He played most of the 2013-14 season with Malmo of Sweden's Allsvenskan league, posting two goals and 10 assists in 43 regular season games. Andersson still needs to work on his intensity on the ice however. The Rangers will offer Andersson an entry-level contract, and he is expected to come to North America to play next fall.

Thomas Spelling, LW/RW, Sonderjyske (Denmark)
Drafted 5th round, 142nd overall, 2012

Drafted at age 19, Spelling had just completed his third season playing against men in Denmark. Signed to the Rogle system in Sweden for the 2012-13 season, the Rangers were anxious to see how he would do at this higher level of hockey. Playing with the U20 team, Spelling had a good season, however, he was not successful in his short stint in the SHL. Spelling chose to return to Denmark this season, where he posted 51 points in 40 regular season games. The Rangers, however, felt the decision was not the best for his development. In addition, Spelling did not perform well in the Traverse City Rookie Tournament last fall. He is not expected to be offered a contract prior to the Rangers rights expire this June.

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