There have been very few changes in hockey operations personnel within the New York Rangers organization for the 2014-15 season. After going to the Stanley Cup finals last spring, the Rangers have been trying to tweak the NHL team to put it over the top, rather than making wholesale changes within the organization.
About to begin his third year of professional hockey, the 21-year-old Miller should become an NHL roster player for the Rangers this season. Drafted out of the US National Development Team in 2011, Miller had the opportunity to play just one year of junior hockey prior to turning pro. That provided him with two solid seasons of AHL play, including the 2013-14 season, when he was a dominant offensive force on the Hartford Wolf Pack.
Now stronger, with more confidence to make plays and go to the net, Miller is more ready for the NHL than in 2013-14, when he was called up and demoted several times. He should play a top nine role in New York this season.
Ryan Haggerty, RW, Hartford Wolf Pack (AHL)
Haggerty was signed as a free agent on March 12th, 2014, after being ranked fourth in the NCAA in goals for RPI during the 2013-14 season. A big body, who can skate and has a sniper’s release, Haggerty has been very impressive in Traverse City and the pre-season this fall. Although he was not expected to compete for an NHL roster spot this fall, Haggerty’s name is being bandied about as a potential bottom six forward in New York. He will start the 2014-15 season in the AHL, but could be called up if injuries strike the Rangers forwards.
Jesper Fast, RW, Hartford Wolf Pack (AHL)
Fast appeared in 11 games with the Rangers last season, but did not show his offensive upside while in an NHL uniform. In 48 games with Hartford, he recorded 17 goals and 17 assists, and showed why the Rangers have high hopes for him to make a large offensive contribution going forward. An outstanding skater, who can create plays and finish, Fast is due to break out offensively this season.
Unsigned for 2015-16
Danny Kristo, RW, Hartford Wolf Pack (AHL)
Re-signed for one year after his first professional 2013-14 season, Kristo was acquired by the Rangers in a 2013 trade with the Montreal Canadiens. A high scoring winger in college, Kristo has a very high offensive upside, but has yet to perform to the full extent of his abilities. At 24, he is an older prospect, who may wind up being a late developer. After he completed his entry-level contract at the end of last season, Kristo signed a one year deal in August of 2014. This season, Kristo needs to prove that he can be a consistent high end contributor at the AHL level or he is in danger of not being re-signed for the 2015-16 season.
Marek Hrivik, LW, Hartford Wolf Pack (AHL)
Signed as an undrafted free agent out of the QMJHL in May, 2012, Hrivik lost most of his first professional season to injuries. A high skill offensive prospect with good size, Hrivik was somewhat disappointing in his first full season with Hartford. However, he has shown some of his offensive upside in camp and pre-season games and is expected to contribute much more offensive in Hartford this season.
Top Junior Prospect
Anthony Duclair, LW, Quebec Remparts (QMJHL)
Selected by the Rangers in the third round of the 2013 Draft, Duclair was coming off a disappointing sophomore major junior season. However, last season, he posted 99 points (50 goals, 49 assists) in 59 games with the Remparts. Duclair was ranked third in the league in goals, sixth in the QMJHL in points, seventh in power play goals, and tied for seventh in game winners. Duclair has continued to show his outstanding skills this summer and into the pre-season. A big season is expected of Duclair in 2014-15.
A third round selection in 2013, Tambellini decided to leave the University of North Dakota last January to play CHL hockey. After joining the WHL’s Calgary Hitmen, Tambellini scored 39 points (17 goals, 22 assists) in 31 games. Now in what will likely be his final major junior season, Tambellini needs to put up big numbers. Lanky, with excellent hockey sense and good vision, Tambellini has offensive upside. It is time for him to show that he can dominate at this level.
Top Amateur Prospect
Brady Skjei, D, Minnesota Golden Gophers (Big Ten)
Skjei is developing extremely well at the University of Minnesota. With an excellent heavy shot, Skjei has excellent gap control and puck distribution skills. When he was drafted in the first round in 2012, Skjei was expected to become a stay-at-home defenseman. However, he has shown more offensive upside since becoming a Golden Gopher. Thought by some to be NHL-ready this season, Skjei is the Rangers’ top defensive prospect in the system.
Bounce Back Prospect
Cristoval Nieves, C, Michigan Wolverines (Big Ten)
Nieves had a very impressive season with Michigan as a freshman in 2012-13. A playmaking center, who is not afraid to go to the net, Nieves was one of the best rookie forwards in the country. His sophomore season was somewhat of a disappointment however, as he was playing on a weaker Michigan squad. Nieves will hope to put that behind him for 2014-15, as he has improved his overall game and is looking to have a bounce back season.
Top European Prospect
Pavel Buchnevich, RW, Severstal Cherepovets (KHL)
An elite offensive prospect, Buchnevich has begun to show why he was such a hot prospect going into the 2014 NHL Draft. The Rangers have been willing to wait for him to complete his contract in Russia and he is expected to play in North America next year. This has been a breakout season for the young Russian, where the 19-year-old currently has 12 points in 15 KHL games.
Igor Shestyorkin, G, SKA-St. Petersburg (MHL)
A Rangers 2014 fourth round selection, Shestyorkin has shown excellent skills in net over the last 12 months. With strong lateral movement and a good glove, the athletic netminder is on the cusp of being a top European goaltender.