The New York Rangers' prospects had an excellent season, as the fruits of the changes in drafting philosophy continue to bear fruit. The awards include three first round selections and two picks from the 2011 entry draft.
Hardest Worker: Carl Hagelin, LW, New York Rangers (NHL)
Carl Hagelin, a Rangers' rookie this past season, is almost certainly the prospect that best fits the way the Rangers play hockey under Head Coach John Tortorella. Hagelin never stops working, never gives up on a shift, and, even though he is far from the biggest member of the Rangers' stable of prospects, Hagelin will hit anything in his way. Not afraid to play in traffic and work hard along the boards, Hagelin was far and away the best candidate for this award.
A former first round selection that the Calgary Flames could not sign, Tim Erixon came to the Rangers in a last minute June 1st, 2011 trade that sent Roman Horak and two second round picks to Calgary. Immediately signed to an entry-level deal, the Rangers were hoping that the young blueliner who had been playing in Europe was NHL-ready. Erixon did appear in 18 NHL contests this past season, but he spent more time during the 2011-12 campaign in Connecticut, where he played well for the Rangers' AHL affiliate. Erixon is expected to be an offensive defenseman in the NHL, but must continue to build upper body strength to be ready next season.
The other candidate considered for this award was Dylan McIlrath.
Fastest Skater: Chris Kreider, LW, Boston College Eagles (Hockey East)/New York Rangers (NHL)
Some fans were surprised when Chris Kreider showed his speed during the NHL playoffs this spring, but enormous, explosive speed was one of the main reasons the Rangers selected Kreider in first round of the 2009 entry draft. Signed by the Rangers after Kreider completed his third season with the NCAA Champion Boston College Eagles, the young Massachusetts native was flying up and down the ice in the NHL post-season. Arguably the fastest skater who played in the NHL this season, this is even more impressive given Kreider's 6'3, 230 lb body.
The other candidate considered for this award was Carl Hagelin who was the fastest skater at the NHL all-star game this season.
Prospect of the Year: Carl Hagelin, LW, New York Rangers (NHL)
Given the entire season's worth of work, Carl Hagelin has been awarded the Rangers' Prospect of the Year. Projected to be a mostly defensive forward prior to the start of his professional career, Hagelin signed with the New York Rangers after graduating from the University of Michigan, serving as co-captain of the Wolverines hockey team and earning scholar-athlete awards in each of his collegiate seasons. Hagelin began the 2011-12 season with the AHL Connecticut Whale, where he showed more offensive production than expected. Called up to the Rangers in November, Hagelin was sixth among NHL rookies in scoring during the regular season, and his plus-21 plus/minus rating was the best of any rookie playing this past season.
Breakout Player for 2012-13: Steven Fogarty, C, Pentiction Vees (BCHL)
Steven Fogarty was not known to most fans when the Rangers selected him with their third round pick in the 2011 entry draft. The Rangers obtained the pick through the trade of former top prospect Evgeny Grachev to the St. Louis Blues, and were very happy to select the Minnesota high school player. A former a finalist for Minnesota's Mr. Hockey, Fogarty joined the heavily stocked BCHL Penticton Vees for the 2011-12 season. The team was very successful and won the RBC Cup National Championship this season. Fogarty was seventh in points on the Vees during the regular season, and tied for eighth in Penticton scoring during the playoffs. Committed to the University of Notre Dame for the 2012-13 season, Fogarty was very raw when drafted. However his progress this past season suggests a very good adjustment to the collegiate ranks and plenty of opportunities to put up big numbers next season.
When Michael St. Croix was selected by the Rangers in the fourth round of the 2011 entry draft, there was talk that St. Croix might be the steal of the draft. His final Central Scouting ranking was 59, yet he fell to the Rangers in the forth round. During the 2010-11 regular season, St. Croix posted 75 points for the WHL Edmonton Oil Kings. This season, he recorded 105 points (45 goals, 60 assists) in 72 games ranking eighth overall in the WHL, and then performed very well in the playoffs. Although it is far from certain that St. Croix will continue to produce once he is playing professionally, he did play a very big part in the Oil Kings' successful season.
Most Improved Prospect: Dylan McIlrath, D, Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL)
It was surprise to many when the Rangers selected Dylan McIlrath as the tenth overall pick in the 2010 entry draft. Although it was true that New York did not have any crease-clearing, mean defensemen in its stable of prospects, the young blueliner had some skating and balance issues while playing for the WHL Moose Jaw Warriors the season before. McIlrath was a work in progress and in the two seasons since being selected, the tough blueliner has matured quite a bit. Selected as captain of the Rangers' prospects for the Traverse City Rookie Team last fall, McIlrath showed leadership skills which he continued to hone as alternate captain of the Warriors this past season. In addition, McIlrath's skating and positioning improved this season, along with his shot. There is no question that he is the most improved prospect that the Rangers' have in their organization.
Underachiever: Ryan Bourque, LW, Connecticut Whale (AHL)
Ryan Bourque showed some excellent offensive skills as a two-year member of the QMJHL Quebec Remparts. His successful adjustment to professional hockey, however, has been slow in coming. Bourque's offensive game has not translated to the more north-south hockey of the AHL, so the Connecticut Whale used him in a more defensive forward role during his rookie 2011-12 season. Bourque, who posted 14 points in 69 regular season games, will be expected to produce more next season.
Christian Thomas was New York's second round selection in the 2010 entry draft. Undersized, but speedy with excellent hockey sense, the Rangers were very happy that Thomas was available to them. He then had a break-out season for the OHL Oshawa Generals in 2010-11 and the Rangers began to believe that Thomas could be an elite forward in the NHL. There was even some talk about giving Thomas a chance to play in the NHL this past season, and there were high hopes going into the Traverse City Rookie Tournament last fall. Unfortunately, Thomas looked rather lackluster in the tournament and was sent back by the Rangers to junior hockey in the first cut of players last fall. During the 2011-12 season with the Generals, Thomas did not put up anywhere near the numbers he did the previous year. However, he won Oshawa's Three Star award after the season and was the team's leading scorer. Expected to join the Connecticut Whale next fall, Thomas could become a prolific scorer in professional hockey, or he could easily bust.