European and NCAA prospect pool for New York Rangers deep at forward

By Leslie Treff
Photo: Chris Kreider will likely play one more year at the NCAA level before going pro. (Photo courtesy of Ken McKenna/HF)

New York had six prospects playing for college teams and seven playing in Europe during the 2010-11 season. Five of these players are top Rangers prospects, with one already signing an NHL entry-level contract in the last month. Twelve of the prospects are forwards and one is a defenseman. Generally, when the Rangers draft college-bound or European prospects, they have been forwards. Of the current New York Rangers, the only defensemen from the college ranks are Ryan McDonagh (obtained in a trade with Montreal) and Matt Gilroy, who signed as a free agent. The only other blue line prospects in the Rangers’s system that were drafted by New York out of either college or Europe are Tomas Kundratek and Mikhail Pashnin.


NCAA/CIS

Chris Kreider, LW, 20
Acquired: 1st Round, 19th overall, 2009

Kreider recently completed participation in his second consecutive World Championships, after representing the United States for the second year in a row at the World Junior Championships. The fleet-footed Boston College student has preformed well on the international stage, however, his 2010-11 regular season statistics with the Eagles (23 points–11 goals, 12 assists–in 31 games), were not dominating. At Boston College ice time is earned, and as a sophomore, there were many skaters ahead of Kreider. However, given the recent pro signings of several of the Boxford, Massachusetts native’s teammates, if Kreider returns to BC, he will get plenty of ice time. Although Kreider has announced his intention to return to school, nothing will be definitely decided until after Development Camp in early July. The Rangers have given indications that they feel that Kreider is ready for the professional game this coming season, albeit most likely starting in Connecticut.

Carl Hagelin, LW, 22
Acquired: 6th Round, 168th overall, 2007

At age 22, Hagelin was one of the youngest fourth-year players in college hockey during the 2010-11 season. Signed by New York to an entry-level contract in April after he competed with the University of Michigan for the NCAA title, Hagelin was a Wolverine co-captain this past season. He was also its leading scorer (18 goals, 31 assists), was fourteenth overall in the NCAA in total points, and ranked sixth in game-winning goals for all college players. An excellent defensive forward, Hagelin won CCHA honors for the second straight season and was named a Hockey West All American this spring. Five days after the Rangers announced the ELC, Hagelin signed an ATO to play for the AHL Connecticut Whale. In five AHL playoff games, He posted one goal and one assist, with four penalty minutes for the Whale. Hagelin is expected to compete for an NHL roster spot this fall.

Max Campbell, C, 22
Acquired: 5th round, 138th overall, 2007

Campbell was a big reason that the Western Michigan Broncos were playing in the Midwest Regional of the NCAA Tournament this year. He was voted the team’s Most Valuable Player by his teammates, the first post-season award in his career. Campbell led the Broncos in points and goals (18 goals, 17 assists). He had career highs in all offensive categories, and scored the sudden death OT game-winner in game three of the CCHA Quarterfinals to send the Broncos to the CCHA Semifinals for the first time since 1994. However, Campbell was not a factor in the regionals, and at times looked overmatched. At this point, it is expected that August 15th will pass without the Rangers signing Campbell to an entry-level contract. It is likely that the forward will begin the 2011-12 season in either the AHL or ECHL.

Danny Hobbs, C, 21
Acquired: 7th round, 198th overall, 2007

A final-round selection in 2007, Hobbs has been a long-term project for the Rangers. A member of the USHL Ohio Junior Blue Jackets for two years before the team ceased operations, he then joined the University of Massachusetts in the fall of 2008, where he got very little playing time. Fully expecting that it would take four years for Hobbs to develop, the Rangers are very happy with how he has progressed. During his 2010-11 junior season, Hobbs was the team’s leading scorer (12 goals, 16 assists), had the most game winners, and was recently named a co-captain for his upcoming senior year. If Hobbs continues to develop, expect the Rangers to sign him to an entry level contract after next season.


Eric Hunter, C, 24
Acquired: 6th round, 174th overall, 2006

First drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks in the final round of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, Hunter went unsigned. The Rangers then picked him up in the sixth round in 2006. At that point, Hunter had exhausted his CHL eligibility, but spent an overage year with the WHL Prince George Cougars during the 2006-07 season. Hunter then entered college and just completed his fourth season with the University of Alberta. Because of Hunter’s unusual route through junior hockey, re-entering the draft, and then attending college, he remains a Rangers’ prospect. The Golden Bears’ captain, Hunter who was injured by Mike Liambas this spring, has one more year of CIS eligibility. He signed an ATO with the Lake Erie Monsters last month and played three games for the team. He is not expected to be signed to an entry-level contract by the Rangers.

Greg Beller, LW/C, 24
Acquired: 6th round, 178th overall, 2005

Beller’s intention at the time he was drafted was to become a Yale Bulldog. However, following his freshman season at Yale, there was a coaching change and Beller decided to leave the program. After sitting out a year (and playing for the BCHL Vernon Vipers), Beller joined the hockey team at the University of Manitoba, where he has played for the past three seasons. He was named the school’s male athlete of the week earlier in the season, and now has exhausted his five years of CIS eligibility. He is not expected to be signed to an NHL entry-level contract.

Europe

Oscar Lindberg, C, 19
Acquired: Trade with Phoenix Coyotes, 2011

The Phoenix Coyotes‘ second-round pick (57th overall) in 2010, Lindberg was exchanged for Ethan Werek this past spring. Lindberg has spent two season in the SEL, both with Skelleftea HC. Used mostly as a defensive forward, he posted five goals and nine assists mostly on the team’s third line. As the youngest forward on the Skelleftea roster, Lindberg is a very good two-way forward. Very responsible in his own zone, he can chip in offensively too. Lindberg is under contract in Sweden through the 2012-13 season, but a transfer is possible before that time.

Jesper Fasth, RW, 19
Acquired: 6th round, 157th overall, 2010

A leading scorer in this year’s U20 World Junior Championships in Buffalo, Fasth spent the 2010-11 hockey season in the Swedish Elite League. A highly talented goal scorer, with excellent speed and good vision, Fasth has the upside of a second line NHL player. Signed through the 2011-12 season in Sweden with HV71 Jonkoping, it is possible that Fasth will not play in North America for one more year. But he is expected to participate in development camp this summer.

Mikhail Pashnin, D, 22
Acquired: 7th round, 200th overall, 2009

Pashnin is under contract for another month to his KHL team and has been a loyal skater for the CSKA franchise over the life of the contract (even agreeing to play for the junior team when asked this spring). However, there is no question that he is interested in playing for the Rangers and will participate in development camp this summer. Last summer, Pashnin was very impressive during his short appearance, playing an aggressive, in your face, defensive game at the camp. Previously drafted first overall in the initial KHL draft, expect Pashnin to sign an entry-level contract with the Rangers this summer.


David Kveton, RW, 23
Acquired: 4th round, 104th overall, 2006

The Rangers continue to express interest in Kveton, who played less than a season of North American junior hockey in 2006-07 before returning to Europe. Kveton recently completed his fourth season as a member of the Trinec Ocelari HC, of the Czech Extraliga, posting 32 points (14 goals, 18 assists) in 52 regular season games. Kveton also recorded 19 points (7 goals, 12 assists) in 18 playoff games, and was a major contributor to his club’s first Czech Extraliga championship. Now an established player in Europe, it is unlikely that Kveton will decide to play in North America absent a one-way contract, which the Rangers have as yet been unwilling to offer him.


Lukas Zeliska, C, 23
Acquired: 6th round, 204th overall, 2006

Zeliska was the last of four European players drafted by New York in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft Following the draft, Zeliska spent the 2006-07 season as a member of the Prince Albert Raiders of the WHL. However, he returned to Europe after that season and has not returned to North America. This season he skated for MHC Mountfield of the Slovak Extraliga. In 32 regular season games, he registered six assists, 20 PIM, and a -5 plus/minus rating. Although the Rangers continue to hold his rights, he is no longer on their radar.


David Skokan, C, 22
Drafted: 7th round, 193rd overall, 2007

Skokan was the first of two seventh-round selections for the Rangers in 2007. A high-risk pick, Skokan was in his second season as a member of the QMJHL Rimouski Oceanic at the time that he was selected by the Rangers. Not offered an entry-level contract, Skokan returned to Europe. After spending the 2008-09 season with HK SKP Propad in Slovakia, Skokan signed with HC Slovan Bratislava of the Slovak Extraliga. He continues to skate for that club and is not expected to return to North America to play hockey.

Roman Psurny, LW, 24
Drafted: 5th Round, 135th overall, 2004

After being drafted by the Rangers, Psurny came to North America with his twin brother Michal to play in the WHL. Psurny returned to the Czech Republic in 2006 and is not expected to return to North America. Psurny played for HC Mountfield (Ceske Budejovice) for the 2010-11 season, posting 27 points (10 goals, 17 assists) in 52 regular season games. Although technically still on the Rangers reserve list, he is no longer on the NHL team’s radar.