New York Rangers prospects lacking depth due to graduation, trades

By David Hahn
Photo: Brandon Halverson had his best season yet with the Soo Greyhounds, posting a .913 save percentage through his league-leading 40 wins.

Photo: Brandon Halverson had his best season yet with the Soo Greyhounds, posting a .913 save percentage through his league-leading 40 wins. (Courtesy of Terry Wilson/OHL Images)

 

 

The New York Rangers prospect pool took some big hits throughout the course of the season, with J.T. Miller, Kevin Hayes, and Jesper Fast all graduating to the NHL. In addition, prized prospect Anthony Duclair was dealt to the Arizona Coyotes in the Keith Yandle trade.

To a point, the Rangers have drafted well and the success of the aforementioned players is a nice feather in the cap of their scouting staff. Despite the setbacks, there are still a few high-level prospects who appear close to the NHL and a wide variety of defenseman within the system. The Rangers are clearly lacking in forward depth, possessing more organizational players than guys currently prepared to make an impact at the next level.

1. (2) Pavel Buchnevich, C/W, 7.5 C
Drafted 3rd round, 75th overall, 2013

Heading into the season, one of the only questions in regards to Pavel Buchnevich was whether or not the “Russian Factor” would play a part in his decision to eventually come to North America. This year, Buchnevich has taken major strides forward with Severstal, becoming a stronger, more versatile player, earning more icetime as the season progressed. Buchnevich scored 13 goals and 17 assists in the KHL this season, averaging more than 15 minutes of icetime per game. He carried that momentum into the World Junior Championships with Russia, posting six points in seven games. He will likely make the transition next season, where his ability to create plays will be key within the Rangers system.

2. (1) Brady Skjei, D, 7.5 C
Drafted 1st round, 28th overall, 2012

The New York Rangers were not shy with their intentions to sign Skjei during the Rangers prospect development camp. Instead, he opted to return to the University of Minnesota following a successful sophomore campaign. There, Skjei has looked very much like an NHL defenseman, displaying his poise, intelligence, and simple, controlled style of play. Skjei is the type of defenseman winning teams are constantly looking for, and his defensive acumen will fit in well within the Rangers system. Skjei joined the Hartford Wolf Pack after agreeing to entry-level terms at the end of his NCAA season.

3. (3) Brandon Halverson, G, 7.5 C
Drafted 2nd round, 59th overall, 2014

This season has been a bit of a roller coaster for Brandon Halverson, enduring tough stretches where he was fighting the puck, followed by multiple winning streaks. That said, he is highly touted thanks in part to his ability to use his sizeable 6’4” frame to guide rebounds into safe areas. The Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds bolstered their roster at the trade deadline, but opted to give the reigns to Halverson. He rewarded that decision with a flawless 8-0-0 record with a 2.05 goals-against average and a .920 save percentage through two rounds of the OHL playoffs.

4. (9) Oscar Lindberg, C/LW, 6.5 B
Acquired via trade 2011

Coming off a season adjusting to life on and off the ice in North America, Oscar Lindberg has been a workhorse for Hartford. Where Lindberg excels is where most prospects are not recognized, such as in the faceoff circle and on the penalty kill. He is shooting more this season, however, resulting in 28 goals for the Wolfpack. In a mostly “under the radar” season, Lindberg has quietly found his game and appears ready for action in the NHL, albeit in a sheltered capacity.

5. (7) Dylan McIlrath, D, 6.5 B
Drafted 1st round, 10th overall, 2010

One player who has deservedly been the ire of Rangers fans’ disappointment is towering defender Dylan McIlrath. The NHL game is trending towards fast, puck possession players, and McIlrath needs to make adjustments to his game in order to compete. He hasn’t looked terribly out of place in Hartford, playing big minutes and improving his skating. He will be waiver-eligible next year, playing in a system loaded with older, quality NHL-ready prospects, and it will take quite a surge for McIlrath to have success with the Rangers.

6. (8) Conor Allen, D, 7.0 C
Signed as a free-agent 2013

Like Danny Kristo, the clock is ticking for Conor Allen. Last year, Allen appeared ready for a chance at playing in the NHL, but the Rangers’ deep blueline corps made it understandably difficult for Allen to emerge with the Rangers. In Hartford, Allen leveled off a bit but still managed another 30 point season. He earned a brief stint with the Rangers in November, when injury and suspensions mounted. Allen performed reasonably well, and will again be on the fringe moving forward.

7. (11) Igor Shestyorkin, G, 7.5 D
Drafted 4th round, 118th overall, 2014

Drafted two rounds after Halverson, Igor Shestyorkin was a surprising selection for the Rangers. Also surprising was his rise to prominence this season. Shestyorkin supplanted Russian starter Ilya Sorokin (NYI) at the WJC’s this season with .938 save percentage, shortly after starring in the Subway Super Series with a .949 mark. Shestyorkin has bounced around SKA St. Peterburg’s program this year, mainly playing in their junior league after a brief stint with the senior KHL squad.

8. (6) Danny Kristo, RW, 7.5 D
Acquired via trade 2013

Kristo entered the Rangers training camp this season on the outside looking in, and he was simply beat out and passed on the depth chart a few times over. The speedy forward is approaching his 25th birthday and has yet to make his NHL debut, but has been a hard-worker in Hartford. Kristo may have leveled off, putting up similar numbers in his second season in the AHL. His value lies in his ability to move the puck and create off the rush, and with free agency pending this offseason, it’s hard to believe that Kristo will return to a Rangers team where he has yet to crack the NHL lineup.

9. (13) Adam Tambellini, C/LW, 6.5 C
Drafted 3rd round, 65th overall, 2013

Perhaps the most improved forward in the Rangers system, Adam Tambellini has taken a major step ahead in his development with the Calgary Hitmen. He has done a little of everything this season, leading the Hitmen in almost every major category as the team has battled through the WHL playoffs. Heading into the semi-finals, Tambellini led the WHL in playoff scoring and maintains his upside as a potential top nine forward for the Rangers.

10. (15) Cristoval Nieves, LW, 6.5 C
Drafted 2nd round, 59th overall, 2012

The 2013-14 season was one to forget for Nieves, who struggled in his sophomore season with Michigan. Heading into this year, a move to wing has provided Nieves with a chance to carry fewer responsibilities, but his production has leveled off a bit. A fantastic skater, Nieves has been more physically involved, resulting in better puck protection overall. He still has the size and ability to break out, and could benefit by a senior season in Michigan before turning pro.

11. (12) Ryan Haggerty, C/RW, 6.5 C
Signed as a free agent 2014

In his first season as a professional, Ryan Haggerty had to do everything the hard way. Most of his goals came in front of the net, a good sign for a young, developing player. Haggerty does have an NHL-caliber shot, something you’d like to see used a little more often as he develops. This year was a step in the right direction for Haggerty, and with an expected bump up the lineup, his second year in Hartford will be a proving ground. 

12. (10) Mat Bodie, D, 6.5 C
Signed as a free agent 2014

Fresh off winning the NCAA Championship with Union College, Mat Bodie transitioned to Hartford this season, his first as a professional. At 25 years-old, the expectations are fairly high for a player generally regarded as an offensive defenseman. He did contribute 32 points in 75 AHL games this year, but the production doesn’t necessarily match the expectations. He doesn’t stand out in any particular category, and without the big numbers players of his ilk generally possess, it’s hard to project his NHL future.

13. (16) Richard Nejezchleb, RW, 6.5 C
Drafted 5th round, 122nd overall, 2014

When he’s on the ice, Richard Nejezchleb has the ability to completely take a game over. Unfortunately, he has struggled with injuries during his time in the WHL, and was traded to Tri-City at the beginning of the season due to an import logjam in Brandon. Nejezchleb scored 19 goals and 30 assists in 47 games, often times trying to do everything by himself. His NHL potential rests squarely on his ability to stay healthy.

14. (14) Ryan Graves, D, 7.0 D
Drafted 4th round, 110th overall, 2013

After a long run towards the Memorial Cup with the Val-d’Or Foreurs, Ryan Graves is taking another shot at glory with the Quebec Remparts. He has quietly put together a solid season, finishing with 15 goals and 24 assists in 50 games. Known as a defensive defenseman, the added offense is a nice bonus for the Rangers as Graves’ upward development trend continues.

15. (NR) Keegan Iverson, C, 6.0 C
Drafted 3rd round, 85th overall, 2014

The beginning of the year was not kind to Iverson, who only scored six times in the first four months of the season. However, a newfound confidence and increased role in Portland helped turn his season around. He’s still young, and has a solid understanding of the defensive side of his game, so any extra offense will be a bonus as he progresses in the WHL.

16. (NR) Mackenzie Skapski, G, 6.5 D
Drafted 6th round, 170th overall, 2013

Sometimes all a prospect needs is one opportunity to showcase his skills, and an early injury in Hartford provided Skapski with his first AHL shutout in his first AHL game. From there, Skapski manufactured a solid season, quickly becoming a reliable starting option. The mechanically smart goaltender registered a 2.40 goals-against average and a .914 save percentage in 28 games for Hartford. He was rewarded with his first NHL start in February, stopping 24 of 25 shots against Buffalo in his first NHL win.

17. (NR) Marek Hrivik, C/LW, 6.5 D
Signed as a free agent 2012

In his third full season with Hartford, Marek Hrivik took small steps ahead, becoming a more complete player. While his offensive game has improved marginally, Hrivik has been a more responsible player defensively, picking up well on the details. Figuring out where he fits in the long term is a difficult task, but Hrivik’s steady progression suggests there may be an opportunity for him down the line.

18. (17) Daniel Walcott, D, 6.5 D
Drafted 5th round, 140th overall, 2014

Blainville-Boisbriand defenseman Daniel Walcott has been the consummate captain for the Armada this season. As a smaller defenseman, Walcott has excelled as a puck mover, on special teams, and in the final minute of play. He has logged a ton of minutes this year, and has a professional-ready skating stride. In all likelihood, Walcott will receive a contract for next year as a niche player.

19. (18) Steven Fogarty, C/RW, 6.5 D
Drafted 3rd round, 72nd overall, 2011

At just 22 years of age, Fogarty was named captain of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and enjoyed a career-year offensively. While his offensive ceiling may not be very high, his work ethic and shutdown abilities are notable. The hard-working center has all the tools to become a reliable bottom-six role player.

20. (NR) Ryan Mantha, D, 6.0 D
Drafted 4th round, 104th overall, 2014

After being declared academically ineligible to play for North Dakota, Ryan Mantha ended up with the Niagara IceDogs in the OHL. Despite an early season injury and a temporary move to the forward position, Mantha went on to put up a solid season on the blueline. At 6’5, Mantha’s stature and above-average skating stride project well with plenty of time to develop.

Thank you to Leslie Treff who contributed to this article.