There are 11 "home grown" players currently on the New York Rangers' roster, including former first round selection Chris Kreider, who played with the AHL Connecticut Whale as recently as January. Of the Rangers prospects currently on the Connecticut Whale roster, there are two former first round picks (Dylan McIlrath and J.T. Miller), one second round selection (Christian Thomas), and seven rookies overall.
In addition to the young players in Connecticut signed to Rangers' contracts, three prospects are suiting up at the AA level for the ECHL Greenville Road Warriors. Even with the budding elite power forward Kreider on the roster, Connecticut had difficulty season. Averaging only 2.8 goals per game (while giving up more than 3.0), the Whale will struggle to qualify for the playoffs. The team was expected to be challenged offensively during the 2012-13 campaign, but defense has also been an issue this season.
Marek Hrivik, LW, 21
Hrivik was signed as a free agent by the Rangers on May 30, 2012, after appearing in 17 games last season for the Connecticut Whale. His outstanding performance in the AHL playoffs last spring (nine points in nine games) attracted the Rangers attention. Hrivik had previously spent three seasons as a member of the QMJHL Moncton Wildcats, and has excellent offensive skills. Currently out with a concussion, it is the young Slovak's second of the season. Prior to his head injury early this month, the playmaking winger was one of the Whale's leading scorers-in 32 games Hrivik posted 22 points (four goals, 18 assists). It is hard to predict when Hrivik will return, but the sooner he does, the better off the Whale's offense will be.
Kyle Jean, C, 22
Following an excellent development camp performance in late June 2012, the Rangers signed Jean to an entry-level contract. He had just completed his second season as a forward at Lake Superior State University, and at camp, showed he had a nose for the net and played well in traffic. He had an excellent start of the 2012-13 season, and then suddenly stopped producing. He had been logging very high minutes per game, and the adjustment was just too much for him. After posting at least one point in his first seven games, Jean has registered only 10 points since the end of October. His play has improved recently, and with good size and grit, expect Jean to be an integral part of the Whale's playoff drive in the coming months.
J.T. Miller, C, 19
Likely the forward with the most offensive potential on the current Whale roster, Miller has had a very busy 2012-13 season. The Rangers 2011 first round pick was a member of the United States gold-winning 2013 U20 World Junior Championship team, and recently was selected to replace Chad Kolarik as Connecticut's representative to the AHL All-Star Game. The youngest player on the Whale, Miller has posted 20 points (eight goals, 12 assists) in 37 games, including seven points and two game-winning goals in the first eight games of December (prior to leaving for the WJCs).
Miller was recently recalled to the NHL.
Ryan Bourque, LW, 22
Small, fast, and excellent on the penalty kill, Bourque is having a very good AHL sophomore season. Not expected to be a top six forward, Bourque is a small two-way forward, who has not posted a point since December 29, 2012. He has however engaged in his first fight as a pro hockey player, just last week. A good team player, Bourque continues to hone his skills, but is not expected to move to the next level in the foreseeable future.
Jason Wilson, LW, 22
Drafted by the Rangers in the fifth round of 2010, Wilson was 20 when selected. Signed by the Rangers the following spring, Wilson is a big body, who is not afraid to engage physically with opposing skaters. Assigned to the ECHL Greenville Road Warriors last season, he has also played 20 games at that level this year. However, he recently was reassigned to the Whale roster, having appeared in eight games and posting one goal in less than three weeks. He has participated in three fights in the eight games.
Andrew Yogan, C/LW, 21
In his first full season as a pro, Yogan has recently been returned from a two-month stint as a member of the ECHL Greenville Road Warriors. After successfully playing at the AA level, where he posted 12 points in 15 games, Yogan has one goal and three assists in 10 games. Expected to skate in a top nine role in Connecticut, Yogan needs to be offensively producing to be effective at this level.
Brandon Mashinter, LW, 24
The undrafted Mashinter was signed by San Jose on March 3, 2009. He has spent most of the last three seasons with the AHL Worchester Sharks, and appeared in a San Jose uniform for 13 games during the 2010-11 season (0 points, 17 PIM). The tough, gritty big winger was traded to the Rangers on January 16, 2013 in exchange for Tommy Grant and a conditional selection in 2014. Thus far this season, Mashinter has posted 13 points in 38 games, including seven points (three goals, four assists) in his eight appearances with Connecticut. With 58 PIM this season, he has engaged in six fights this season.
Mashinter was recently recalled to the NHL.
Christian Thomas, RW, 20
A lot was expected of rookie Thomas in his first year of professional hockey, and although there have been moments of offensive brilliance, he is still adjusting to this level of play. It was just a little more than a week ago that Thomas potted his first game-winning goal, and 10 days before that, he participated in his first AHL fight. With 17 points (nine goals, seven assists) in 45 games, Thomas, who has been used extensively on the power play, has been getting more ice time of late.
Dylan McIlrath, D, 20
There are very high expectations on McIlrath in his rookie pro season. The former first round selection suffered a devastating knee injury during development camp last summer, which necessitated surgery the following week. He was unable to return to the ice until September and did not play his first game as a professional until December 27th. According to Gordie Clark, the New York Rangers' Director of Player Personnel, the team is looking for McIlrath to "play a very simple game–moving the puck, making the right decisions." In the 15 games since being activated, McIlrath has one assist, and 55 PIM (with five fights).
Blake Parlett, D, 23
Parlett, a two-way blueliner, was signed to a two-year entry-level contract prior to the 2011-12 season. After splitting the 2011-12 season between Connecticut and the ECHL, Parlett has remained on the Whale roster for the entire 2012-13 campaign. Although he has improved his offensive production (in 46 games, he has posted 20 points), Parlett is still working on his decision making.
Cam Talbot, G, 25
Signed as a free agent on March 30, 2010, out of the University of Alabama-Huntsivlle, Talbot shared the goaltending responsibilities in his first two professional seasons with Chad Johnson, who has since moved on to the Phoenix Coyotes. Talbot is now the clear number one in Connecticut and he has thrived in the situation. With only a half dozen bad outings all season, Talbot has appeared in 34 games, posting a 2.69 goals against average and a save percentage of .915 percent. Earlier this month Talbot recorded his first shutout of the season.
Jason Missiaen, G, 22
The backup in Connecticut this season, Missiaen is a second year pro, who was a free agent signing in March 2011. Drafted by the Montreal Canadiens in 2008 and never signed, Missiaen toiled last season in the ECHL, as the number one netminder of the ECHL Greenville Road Warriors. A member of the Whale for most of this season, he was assigned to Greenville for a brief time in December 2012, Missiaen has appeared in 12 AHL games, with a record of 5-4-1 (3.83 goals against average, .883 save percentage). While with the ECHL Road Warriors, Missiaen played in five games (4-1), posting a goals against average of 2.75 and a save percentage of .922.
Steven Delisle, D, 22
Originally selected by the Columbus Bleu Jackets in the 2008 draft (4th round, 107th overall), Delisle has spent the majority of the last three seasons playing at the AA level. Traded to New York in the July 23, 2012 deal that brought Rick Nash to New York, Delisle has played most of this season with the Greenville Road Warriors. As a member of the Road Warriors, Delisle has accumulated the second best plus/minus rating in the ECHL (plus-25 in 41 games). In addition to registering 15 points (3 goals, 12 assists), Delisle has 56 penalty minutes (including six fights). A brief call-up found him in four AHL games in December, where he managed two assists and six penalty minutes.
Jyri Niemi, D, 22
Niemi began the 2012-13 season with the AHL Connecticut Whale, but as was the case last year, was reassigned to Greenville. Originally drafted by the New York Islanders in 2008, Niemi was traded to the Rangers in May of 2010 for a 6th round selection in that year's draft. Signed by the Rangers shortly thereafter, he spent the 2010-11 season in Hartford. However, he has been up and down since. Only appearing in five games for the Whale this season, Niemi has posted six points (one goal, five assists) in 14 games with Greenville since December 2012.
Scott Stajcer, G, 21
Now in his first professional season, Stajcer has been plagued by injuries since his days of junior hockey. He was on the IR for more than a month from late November through most of December, and up until that point only had three games at the AA level. Stajcer started the year as a member of the AHL Connecticut Whale, but clearly was not ready for that level of play, and has played very well since his return. He is 4-1-1 in the month of January, posting a 2.60 goals against average and a .921 save percentage.
Editor's Note: Chris Kreider was excluded from this article because he is considered an 'NHL Prospect'. Kreider did spend 33 games in the AHL this season though it was due to the NHL Lockout, not based on his play. In 33 AHL games Kreider managed five goals and seven assists. In three NHL games this season, Kreider has zero goals and assists. He is currently on Injured Reserve because of an ankle injury.