For the second straight year, the New York Rangers positioned themselves for a run towards the Stanley Cup Finals. This time around, injuries and inconsistent play did them in as the team wasted another chance at its first championship since 1994.
The Rangers have the potential to again ice one of the best teams in the NHL next year, and an already aging core is in the process of being moved out. Dan Boyle and Martin St. Louis were abysmal down the stretch, and assuming the team will find a way to move on from both, the average age of the team is just short of 27 years-old—still primed to compete.
At first glance, their system looks depleted thanks to the Keith Yandle trade that saw prized prospect Anthony Duclair head to Arizona. Combine that deal with the graduations of a number of young talents like Jesper Fast, Kevin Hayes, and J.T. Miller; it’s a bit deceiving to think that the Blueshirts have nothing left in the pipeline.
The 2015 NHL Entry Draft will present the team with an opportunity to restock the cupboards, but General Manager Glen Sather and company will have to find success without a 1st round pick for the third consecutive year.
Top 10 Prospects:
1. Pavel Buchnevich, RW
2. Brady Skjei, D
3. Brandon Halverson, G
4. Oscar Lindberg, C
5. Dylan McIlrath, D
6. Conor Allen, D
7. Igor Shestyorkin, G
8. Danny Kristo, RW
9. Adam Tambellini, LW
10. Cristoval Nieves, LW
With Pavel Buchnevich opting to spend next year in the KHL, and with depth players like Oscar Lindberg and Ryan Bourque ready to compete for a roster spot, the Rangers have an immediate need to keep the pipeline fresh. While most of the forwards, outside of Buchnevich and Tambellini, profile as bottom-six additions, the team could use an injection of skill and offensive prowess.
Another spot where New York could benefit from a slightly different type of player is on defense, where they have an odd uniformity to the group. With Brady Skjei leading the way, the Rangers defense corps is void of future powerplay quarterbacks, or simply stated, guys who excel at moving the puck themselves. With a number of offensively capable defensemen available in this draft, it is imperative that the team lands one of them.
The Rangers don’t have a reputation as a team that can fill holes internally, but the thought process that free agency is the only way to acquire talent is slowly shifting. With a surprisingly young core in place, the Rangers have graduated at least two players to the NHL roster in each of the last five seasons. To that point, the Rangers have a ton of bottom-six depth and players who project as astute penalty killers and role players.
It may be a small group, but each goaltender within the Rangers prospect pool took a step forward this season. With the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, Brandon Halverson assumed the number one job and led the team deep into the OHL playoffs. Igor Shestyorkin was one of the brightest young goaltenders in the MHL and is expected to vie for regular playing time in the KHL next year. The least likely of the bunch, Mackenzie Skapski emerged from obscurity to make his NHL debut and supplant an incumbent starter for a period of time with the AHL’s Hartford Wolf Pack.
The Rangers are simply devoid of any prospect that could develop into a top-line player, with Pavel Buchnevich being the lone exception. Danny Kristo has battled through consistency concerns and has tried to inject offensive elements to his game in Hartford with varying levels of success. Oscar Lindberg put up quality numbers in the AHL, but like many other prospects in the system, it’s unlikely that he will assume a top-six role any time soon.
As previously mentioned, the Rangers desperately need a puck-moving defenseman. Brady Skjei and Dylan McIlrath may have a shot at cracking the NHL roster next season, but they certainly won’t be counted on in an offensive role. In the QMJHL, Ryan Graves enjoyed a breakout season, finishing with 15 goals and 24 assists for the Quebec Remparts. Despite the gaudy numbers, the 6’5”, 210 pound blueliner will head to Hartford to assume a defensive role, and any additional offense would be a bonus. It’s a problem the Rangers need to address in one way or another, either by pursuing a young free agent like Mike Reilly or acquiring one through the draft.
The duo of Glen Sather and Gordie Clark has teamed together since 2006, and has often preferred to select players with size and skating speed. It’s a fairly consistent trend in the early rounds, with only a few exceptions going towards players who fell in the draft for one reason or another.
The Rangers do not have a 1st round pick and will not make a selection until the end of the second round. The apparent bread-and-butter of the organization appears to be the middle rounds, where the team has opted to take boom-or-bust prospects.
There doesn’t appear to be any bias with the Rangers selections towards any particular league or country, and with a wide range of prospects in the system and an array of development paths available, the Rangers are comfortable taking the best player available no matter where he plays.
Hockey’s Future Staff Mock Draft Results
Hockey’s Future doesn’t project potential trades and makes our selections based on what selections currently are owned by their respective teams, therefore the Rangers do not have a projected mock draft selection.
With that said, the Rangers likely will want to get involved by acquiring a first round pick through trade. The team has a number of desirable assets and may parlay one or two of them in order to get into the action later this month.