Kreider number one in Rangers Spring top-20

By Leslie Treff
Photo: Defenseman Tim Erixon has been solid in his first season with the Rangers organization. Erixon has appeared in 18 NHL games. (Photo courtesy of Rich Kane/Icon SMI)

Chris Kreider remains the top prospect in the Rangers organization. Two players, Tomas Kundratek (WAS) and Dale Weise (VAN), who appeared on the last ranking have since been traded, and one, Ryan McDonagh, has graduated. Carl Hagelin, who is close to graduation, plays on New York's top line with Marion Gaborik and Brad Richards. Michael St. Croix, who had an outstanding 2011-12 junior campaign, is also a quick riser. In total, there are 13 forwards, five defensemen and two goaltenders that comprise New York's spring 2012 Top 20. The top four prospects are all expected to compete for NHL roster spots next fall.

1 (1) Chris Kreider, LW, 8C
Drafted 1st round, 19th overall, 2009

Chris Kreider, who is expected to sign a professional contract within the next few weeks, leads the list of Rangers top prospects for the fourth straight time. Kreider, who has grown through each of his three seasons at Boston College, has been a star for the Eagles this year. One of the more experienced of a young BC team, Kreider has been a go-to player in the NCAA tournament and is a big reason the team will participate in the National Championship game this weekend. A very speedy, smart player, with good hands and the ability to crash the net, Kreider is expected to compete for an NHL roster spot next fall.

2. (3) Tim Erixon, D, 7.5B
Acquired via Trade with Calgary Flames, June 1st, 2011

Tim Erixon is the top defensive prospect in the Rangers system. He has already seen action in a Rangers' uniform this season, but has spent most of the 2011-12 campaign with the Connecticut Whale. He is currently the AHL team's top scoring blueliner as a rookie. A good puck mover, who has very good offensive upside, Erixon needs to continue growing in confidence and improve his gap control to become a regular NHL player. He has the potential to be a first to second pairing two-way blueliner, and is expected to be a member of New York's defensive corps next season.

3. (6) Dylan McIlrath, D, 7.5C
Drafted 1st round, 10th overall, 2010

Currently playing in his final WHL playoffs this spring, Dylan McIlrath is a very big, tough, in-your-face defenseman, who was targeted by the Rangers to become the next Zdeno Chara. Very raw at the time of selection, there was some question at the time of the pick as to whether he could develop other skills, besides toughness, that would allow McIlrath to become an effective NHL player. But thus far, McIlrath has developed as hoped for and has shown great progress over the last two years. Now a student of the game, who knows his role, and has become a decent skater for his size, McIlrath can distribute the puck and has learned positioning, in addition to honing his fighting skills. Expected to compete for a roster spot on the Rangers' roster next fall, it is, however, expected that McIlrath will begin the season in Connecticut.

4. (10) Carl Hagelin, LW, 7A
Drafted 6th round, 168th overall, 2007

Carl Hagelin has surprised almost everyone in the industry with the offensive skills this season. After starting the 2011-12 campaign in Connecticut with the AHL Whale, Hagelin showed that he knew how to use his speed and good hands, as well as his hockey smarts to become a huge offensive asset. Currently on the left side of New York's number-one line, Hagelin had once been expected to be a mostly defensive forward. No longer thought of as just a potential defensive forward with some offensive upside, Hagelin is one of the fastest skaters in the NHL, has excellent hockey smarts, and good hands. Additionally, the young Swede works very hard on each shift, can be used in all situations, and does not shy away from traffic along the boards. Expected to be a second line winger long-term in the NHL, at this point, Hagelin can play on any one of the Rangers' forward lines and be effective.

5. (5) J.T. Miller, C/LW, 7.5C
Drafted 1st round, 15th overall, 2011

Drafted just last summer, J.T. Miller has had an excellent rookie year with the OHL Plymouth Whalers. Miller, a natural center, who has played on the wing in Plymouth, knows how to finish and is excellent at planting himself in front of the net. Not only can he get his team a clutch game-winning goal, but Miller can use his excellent vision to be a playmaker as he being the puck up the ice. Expect the forward to get a good look in the AHL early in the fall, and if he's ready, he will play in the minors. That is because, at the time that Miller was drafted, he had declared his intention to attend the University of North Dakota, so there are no restrictions on his playing in the AHL next season.

6. (7) Mats Zuccarello, RW/LW, 7C
Signed as a free agent, May 26th, 2010

Recently sidelined with a broken wrist, Zuccarello has had a frustrating tenure within the Rangers' organization since signing a two-year contract in the spring of 2010. Zuccarello had a difficult adjustment to the NHL, as the size of the rink limited the effectiveness of his game during previous call-ups. He has spent most of the last two seasons with the AHL Connecticut Whale, scoring at about a point-per-game pace. An early spring call-up last month looked very different and it appeared that Zuccarello would finally find his place with the NHL team, when he sustained his recent injury. Now out indefinitely, it is unclear whether the highly creative, diminutive winger will ever find a place in the Rangers organization. If he can recover in time to play in the playoffs, Zuccarello may show why he was such a highly touted free agent signing two years ago, and either re-sign with the Rangers or find another NHL team. However, a return to Europe is also a possible scenario.

7. (2) Christian Thomas, RW, 7.5D
Drafted 2nd round, 40th overall, 2010

Christian Thomas had an outstanding season for the OHL Oshawa Generals during the 2010-11 campaign, raising the possibility that he may have been a complete steal as a second round 2010 selection. However, Thomas did not look like the same player when he arrived at Development Camp last summer and then later played in Traverse City. Returned to junior hockey in September, Thomas had a good 2011-12 season with the Generals. Clearly a player who would have benefitted from being able to play minor league hockey this past season, Thomas's development was somewhat stalled with a junior return. Expected to begin his professional career this coming fall, Thomas should be a member of the Connecticut Whale to start the 2012-13 season.

8. (8) Jesper Fasth, RW/LW, 7C
Drafted 6th round, 157th overall, 2010

A very talented goal scorer, Jesper Fasth recently completed a third season as a member of SEL's HV71. After sustaining a horrible foot injury early in the 2011-12 campaign, Fasth was sidelined for most of the season. However, he was able to return to action in time for the playoffs, and scored two goals in one of HV71's games. Although it was originally hoped the forward would be ready to play in North America in the fall of 2012, Fasth signed a contract extension in Sweden this past December. Although the HV71 contract extension is for two seasons, it is still possible that Fasth will join the Rangers in the fall of 2013. New York is monitoring Fasth's progress and there is no question that North American play is what Fasth desires in the future.

9. (17) Michael St. Croix, C, 7C
Drafted 4th round, 106th overall, 2011

There were rumors that the Rangers got a steal when they selected Michael St. Croix in the fourth round last summer. However, the Manitoba native was invisible in development camp and in Traverse City. Easily knocked off the puck and with very little offensive production, St. Croix had some wondering what the he would bring to the Rangers' organization. It was after being returned to the WHL Edmonton Oil Kings this past fall, that St. Croix showed why there was hype around him on draft day. St. Croix posted over 100 points during the WHL regular season, and continues to create offense for the Oil Kings during the playoffs. He still needs to add upper body strength to his frame, but has nonetheless become an excellent two-way player, who can score as well as create plays. St. Croix will return to junior hockey for the 2012-13 season, but he will be closely watched by the Rangers through development camp when more will be expected of him this summer.

10. (11) Andrew Yogan, C/LW, 7C
Drafted 4th round, 100th overall, 2010

The Rangers signed Andrew Yogan to an entry-level contract last week, which was a great accomplishment for the 20-year old Floridian. At the time that the Rangers drafted him, neither New York nor Yogan was aware that the young forward had sustained a serious shoulder injury just a few months prior and it was only after Yogan arrived at camp that it became evident he would need surgery and a long rehab process. Because he lost almost a full year of hockey, it was decided last fall to return him to juniors for an overage 2011-12 season. Yogan had an excellent season as a member of the OHL Peterborough Petes, and after the regular season, the Petes leading scorer was immediately assigned to the AHL Connecticut Whale. A natural center, he is expected to play on the wing professionally and to spend at least one full season in the AHL before being NHL-ready.

11. (14) Steven Fogarty, C, 7D
Drafted 3rd round, 72nd overall, 2011

A very raw hockey player out of Edina, Minnesota, Stephen Fogarty, was a former high school star at the time of his selection last June. Definitely committed to the college route, Fogarty spent the 2011-12 season as a member of the BCHL Penticton Vees, one of the best teams in the history of the league. As a member of a team loaded with talent, Fogarty did not stand out as much as he might have on another team, but he has made leaps in development this season. Committed to Notre Dame for the fall of 2012, Fogarty has been working hard on his defensive game, while developing his skating and offensive skills. A natural center, expect him to eventually play professionally on the wing. Fogarty is expected to play at least two years of college hockey prior to signing a professional contract.

12. (NR) Casey Wellman, C, 6.5C
Acquired via trade With Minnesota Wild, February 3rd, 2012

An almost a point-per-game player at the AHL level, Casey Wellman had been called up to the NHL Minnesota Wild in each of the last three seasons prior to the February trade which brought him into the Rangers organization. At this point a borderline NHL player, the 24-year old Wellman is a top call-up possibility in case of injury to a skilled forward. Wellman is on a one-year contract, and his future with the Rangers is unclear, but he does have some offensive upside. He is likely to be re-signed and compete for an NHL roster spot next fall.

13. (13) Chad Johnson, G, 6.5C
Acquired via trade with Pittsburgh Penguins on June 27th, 2009

Now in his third season within the Rangers' organization, Chad Johnson has been the number one netminder for New York's AHL affiliate for most of that time. Signed after four years at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, Johnson is almost 26 years old, and the standard one-year contract he signed last summer will expire shortly. It is unclear at this point whether or not he will be re-signed by New York. He has been called-up this season to serve as a back-up to Henrik Lundqvist, however, Johnson has not played at the NHL level during the 2011-12 season. A good AHL netminder, Johnson has very good size, a good glove, and stays very square to the shooter.

14. (12) Oscar Lindberg, C, 6.5C
Acquired via trade With Phoenix Coyotes on May 8, 2011

The Rangers obtained Oscar Lindberg last spring in a trade that sent former second-round prospect Ethan Werek the other way. Neither prospect had been developing in the way the team that drafted them had hoped, and it was felt that a change of organization may alter that course. Although Lindberg looked to have much promise when he attended development camp last summer, he did not have a good 2011-12 season with Skelleftea of the SEL. Lindberg is only 20 years old and with the skills he showed last summer, it is too soon to say whether his development has stalled or he is just a late bloomer.

15. (NR) Stu Bickel, D, 6A
Acquired via trade With Anaheim Ducks on November 23, 2010

 

Not much was expected from the minor league trade that sent Nigel Williams to Anaheim for Stu Bickel in November 2010. Both players had not met expectations and a change of scenery was needed. Bickel had played in the ECHL for parts of two seasons, and was a hard-nosed defensive defenseman, who could stand up for teammates, but had positioning issues. Assigned to the AHL Connecticut Whale, Bickel learned gap control and improved his skating, and when the Rangers lost a good portion of their blue line to injury this season, Bickel was called up. Although the seventh d-man at call-up, Bickel now plays every day and has filled a tough-guy defensive role that was missing on the team. Bickel's contract will expire at the end of this season.

16. (9) Ryan Bourque, LW, 7D
Drafted 3rd round, 80th overall, 2009

A diminutive winger, Bourque is a creative player with excellent speed. In his rookie professional season, Ryan Bourque is currently a member of the AHL Connecticut Whale. During the 2011-12 campaign, he had some trouble adjusting his style of play to what will work at this level. Used mostly in a defensive role this season, Bourque has not put up the offensive numbers that will enable him to be successful as a professional. However, with two more years on his contract, Bourque will have a chance to make the changes that will give him a shot at the NHL.

17. (18) Shane McColgan, RW, 6C
Drafted Fifth round, 134th overall, 2011

Shane McColgan is a smaller winger, with good offensive upside, who likes to get under the skin of opposing players. He was very impressive last summer in both development camp and Traverse City. McColgan was charged with tightening up his play this season, as he was very undisciplined in taking penalties. With a great need to learn restraint, McColgan was returned to the WHL Kelowna Rockets for the 2011-12 season. Although somewhat successful in refining his play, much work remains before the California native will be ready for professional hockey. Expect McColgan to spend at least one more season in juniors.

18. (19) Pavel Valentenko, D, 6.5C
Acquired via trade with Montreal Canadiens, June 30, 2009

Drafted by Montreal in 2006, Pavel Valentenko was part of the trade that also brought Ryan McDonagh to New York from Montreal. Valentenko is a mostly defensive blueliner, who has a heavy shot and can clear the crease. He was one of the last blueliners to be cut from the NHL team in the fall of 2010 and was expected to be a strong candidate to stick with the Rangers this fall. However, his play did not merit it and he was returned to the AHL Connecticut Whale, where he has played the entire season. Valentenko's contract will expire this summer and it is not likely that he will re-sign with the Rangers.

19. (NR) Samuel Noreau, D, 6C
Drafted Fifth round, 136th overall, 2011

Samuel Noreau is a very big, defensive blueliner, who loves to knock opposing players off their feet. The question when he was drafted last summer was, "can he play hockey at the professional level?" Although the jury is still out on that question, Noreau was impressive in Traverse City last fall, showing good command of his positioning, as well as the ability to distribute the puck. At 6'5, Noreau still needs work on his skating, but he is getting better at fighting and his shot has improved this season. Noreau is expected to spend another year in junior hockey and is at least two seasons from being NHL-ready.

20. (NR) Jason Missiaen, G, 6.5D
Signed as Free Agent on March 24, 2011

At 6'8, 220 lbs, Jason Missiaen is the largest netminder in the Rangers system. Signed to a three-year entry-level contract in 2011 after spending parts four years with the OHL Peterborough Petes and an overage year with the QMJHL Baie-Comeau Drakkar, Missiaen has toiled between the pipes for the ECHL Greenville Road Warriors during the 2011-12 campaign. Handling most of the duties in net for the Warriors this season, Missiaen has been steady between the pipes, with good lateral movement. Expected to compete for a spot with the AHL affiliate next season, Missiaen is still only 21 years old and is probably three to four years away from being ready to assume an NHL back-up position.

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