Finally we’re on to the rankings. Leave all comments below! Info on the prospects were provided by Edge and Brandon.
1. Dan Blackburn, Goaltender, New York Rangers
The 10th overall selection in the 2001 Entry Draft, Blackburn was ranked as the number 1 prospect by all three writers and was the easy choice for this spot. His emergence this season as a definite NHL caliber goalie and a potential all-star has made many fans and scouts drool over this youngsters potential. Fans are still thanking the Chicago Blackhawks for passing up on him to take Tuomo Ruutu, although Ruutu also happens to be a great talent. Expect many great things from Danny Blackburn in the future.
2. Jamie Lundmark, Center, Hartford Wolf Pack (AHL)
Lundmark would be the number 1 prospect for most teams, but he has been bumped down the list by the excellent play of Blackburn. Lundmark still has the potential and the skills to be a first line center in the NHL. He has battled through a few injuries and some inconsistent play in the AHL, but his play has progressed as of late and hopefully by next season he’ll be fully prepared for the rigor of the NHL.
3. Filip Novak, Defenseman, Regina Pats (WHL)
It has taken Novak a few tries, but he finally has been recognized as the top defensive prospect for the Rangers by the NYR staff members here at HF. Novak is a sure-fire NHL defenseman, and has the potential to be a top three offensive-minded rearguard. Expect him to spend perhaps a season in the AHL before joining the Rangers and bringing his skills to Broadway.
4. Garth Murray, Center, Regina Pats (WHL)
Murray has made great strides in his progress this season and it is certainly starting to pay off. After having an impressive training camp with the Rangers, Murray was sent back to juniors and was immediately given the Captian’s “C” by the Pats. He has been a leader both on and off the ice for the team this season, and is one of the big reasons for their early success. He had a solid World Junior tournament for Team Canada and was one of their most consistent forwards. He will turn pro next season and just might have an outside chance at earning a spot on the team. Expect him to be a fiesty, intense player who gives 110% each game throughout his career.
5. Fedor Tyutin, Defenseman, Guelph Storm (OHL)
After being selected by the Rangers in the 2nd round this past June, the 18 year old Russian has found the transition to North American hockey to be very smooth. He has been a dominant defenseman for the Storm all season and despite being mostly known as a stay-at-home defenseman back in Russia, he has been great offensively as well. Played solid for the Russian World Junior team that won the gold medal during this year’s tournament. The Guelph Storm were officially awarded the Memorial Cup this season, and will be the hosts to the CHL’s Championship. Tyutin will have to come up big for the Storm from now until the end of the season if they want to continue their success. A potential top 4 defenseman in the NHL when he pans out.
6. Barrett Heisten, Left Wing, Hartford Wolf Pack (AHL)
Originally a 1st round draft pick (20th overall) by the Buffalo Sabres in 1999, Heisten failed to agree to terms with them and signed on with the Rangers as a free agent this past summer. The gritty, two-way player impressed the coaches during training camp with his physical play and competitiveness, and was on the team for the first 10 games before being sent down to the minors to get some more ice time. Since then he has struggled both on and off the ice, as he had to deal with the death of his father, but his play has picked up as of late since playing with Lundmark and Benoit Dusablon. Heisten will be a 2nd or 3rd liner in a few years.
7. Mike Mottau, Defenseman, Hartford Wolf Pack (AHL)
There was a lot of hype around this former 7th round draft pick after he won the Hobey Baker award in his senior season at Boston College, yet he hasn’t been able to stick in the NHL for any lengthy period of time. He has been a terrific minor leaguer, however, and was named to the Planet USA All-Star team for the second year in a row. That’s great, but Mottau just hasn’t taken it to a higher level. He’s slipping on the depth chart and is looking more and more like a borderline player. Already turning 24 soon. Still has the potential to be a top 5 NHL defenseman, but he’ll need to improve his strength and physical play in order to stick in the NHL.
8. Rico Fata, Center, Hartford Wolf Pack (AHL)
Selected 6th overall in 1998 by the Calgary Flames, Fata was claimed off waivers by the Rangers in the beginning of the season after the Flames tried to send him down to the minors. Fata played in a handful of games with the Rangers before ultimately being sent down to the AHL, and luckily for them this time he cleared waivers. Since he has been in Hartford he has been arguably their best player. He’s been on a scoring rampage over the last few weeks, and it’s only a matter of time before the Rangers give him a lengthy audition in the NHL. He has a few cups of coffee with the team, but spent the majority of his time with them either on the bench or in the press box. He’s a gritty player and has tons of speed, however he doesn’t have soft hands and people have been questioning his ability to finish at the NHL level. He has played in a total of about 30 NHL games, and is still waiting for his NHL goal. If he is given a real opportunity, that goal could come pretty quick. Has earned a shot to contribute and certainly can’t be worse then Jeff Toms.
9. Peter Smrek, Defenseman, Hartford Wolf Pack (AHL)
Acquired from the St. Louis Blues late last season in return for veteran Alexei Gusarov, Smrek was another rookie who made the team out of training camp this fall, but was eventually sent down to the minors. He was often scratched during games and didn’t see a lot of ice time. Since going down to the AHL, he has played well but not as good as most would have thought. Still has the potential to be an NHLer. Most likely a 5th or 6th defenseman when he finally makes it to the show.
10. Dominic Moore, Center, Harvard University (ECAC)
A 6’1 190lbs. center, Moore is an energetic and intense competitor. He plays hard each shift, and as a result good things happen. He led Harvard in scoring last season as a sophomore and is currently 3rd in scoring this year, only two points behind leading scorer Brett Nowak. Moore has good NHL potential, and he is a likely third line center when he reaches his full potential. A two-way player in the mold of Mike York, Moore could become a fan favorite over time.
11. Henrik Lundqvist, Goaltender, Vastra Frolunda (SEL)
A 19 year old goaltender from Sweden, Lundqvist is ranked as the 2nd best goaltending prospect in the organization behind Dan Blackburn. His emergence as a solid player and the drop off in play of others such as Johan Holmqvist has helped him his position in these rankings. He has played well for Vastra Frolunda this season in the Swedish Elite League, arguably the 2nd best league in the world. Lundqvist also impressed for the second straight year as Sweden’s starting goaltender at the World Junior Championships. Is still a few years away and the Rangers are giving him the time he needs to develop into a future NHL netminder.
12. Patrick Aufiero, Defenseman, Boston University (Hockey East)
The “other” prospect the Rangers drafted with the picks they received from Calgary in the Marc Savard for Jan Hlavac draft-day trade back in 1999. Aufiero is a steady, two-way defenseman who plays a simple game and rarely makes any mistakes. He’s not flashy, but is effective and gets the job done. Is currently in his senior season with the Terriers and likely will have a contract offer from the Rangers once he graduates.
13. Jason Labarbera, Goaltender, Hartford Wolf Pack (AHL)
After spending last season in the ECHL with the Charlotte Checkers, Labarbera moved up to the AHL this season and has played excellent while sharing time in net with Johan Holmqvist. Labarbera is a big goalie who likes to go down on his knees and take away the low portion of the net. His play has improved a lot this season and might have a future in the NHL, whether it is as a starter or as a back-up.
14. Martin Richter, Defenseman, Hartford Wolf Pack (AHL)
The 24 year old Czech defenseman, a 9th round draft pick in 2000, has played a steady defensive game for the Wolf Pack this season. He started off last season in the AHL, but went back home to Finland and had solid season for SaiPa in the SM-Liiga. He came back to North America this off-season and was very impressive during training camp. He played solid defensively and was one of the final cuts made by Ron Low and the Rangers’ management. If the Rangers need some defensive help on the blue line and have to get it from within their organization, Richter could be the likely choice to get the call up. Will likely be a 5th or 6th defenseman when he reaches the NHL full-time in another season or so.
15. Ryan Hollweg, Forward, Medicine Hat (WHL)
Drafted in the 8th round this past summer, Hollweg has emerged as a legitimate NHL prospect. He has continued to play his usual physical game, yet this season he has shown the ability to chip in offensively and put the puck in the net. He was the Rangers best player during their annual Rookie tournament in early September (despite the roster being filled with walk-ons) and followed that up with a strong showing in the main camp. Was a member of the Team USA World Junior team this past December and was one of the Americans’ best players. At this point it’s looking like he definitely has a future in the NHL as a crash-and-bang third liner who can occasionally chip in a couple of goals.
16. Johan Holmqvist, Goaltender, Hartford Wolf Pack(AHL)
Holmqvist’s play has slipped this year after an impressive previous season. He has started to pick up his play as of late, but he’s still needs some more time in the minors. He played solid during training camp, but gave up about 4 or 5 goals in an exhibition game late in the pre-season and that must have rattled his confidence, as his play has went downhill from there. At this point he’s likely an NHL back-up and may never fulfill that starter’s potential he had just a few short seasons ago…
17. Bryce Lampman, Defenseman, University of Nebraska-Omaha (CCHA)
Another prospect drafted this past summer, Lampman was selected in the 4th round after an excellent season with the Omaha Lancers of the USHL. He has since moved on to college hockey and is playing solid as a freshamn with the University of Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks. A member of USA’s World Junior Team, Lampman was help scoreless during all 7 games, despite playing a steady game defensively. A gritty, physical player, Lampman is going to need a few more years to develop but should round into a number 5 defenseman.
18. Johan Asplund, Goaltender, Brynas (SEL)
The forgotten man when it comes to the goaltender prospects in the organization, Asplund’s play has continued to be steady in the Swedish Elite League. A former 3rd round pick in 1999, Asplund appears ready to make the jump to North America in the next year or two. Is still a couple of years away before he becomes a contender for a spot in the NHL.
19. David Inman, Center, Notre Dame (CCHA)
One of the most talented prospects in the world, Inman, 2nd round pick in 1999, has not been able to put together the total package. He has blazing speed, a cannon of a shot and slick moves, but the one thing that he lacks is the hockey sense to become a top player. At times he seems lost on the ice and is invisible. This year he has stepped up his play and is having a career season as a senior, but it may be too late for this once promising prospect. Time will tell, folks.
20. Shawn Collymore, Center, Quebec Remparts (QMJHL)
Collymore, drafted in the 5th round of the 2001 Draft, is a gifted center playing for the Quebec Remparts of the QMJHL. He has been a leader for the relatively young team and has been averaging about a point per game. An ankle injury kept him from participating during training camp, and it’s unfortunate because his flashy moves and excellent skating would have caught the eyes of management. We’re not saying he would have made the team, but he would have been a player that would have been noticed for sure. He’s a few years away from stepping in and will need to get stronger and add a few pounds to his frame in order to handle the physical play of the NHL.
Other players also receiving votes: Matt Kinch, Sven Helfenstein, Juris Stals, Stefan Lundqvist and Ilja Gorokhov