The New York Rangers currently have six prospects playing in the NCAA, five of whom are forwards. Three will complete their fourth year of eligibility this spring, and the Rangers will only have until August to decide whether or not to ink them to an NHL contract.
Greg Beller, 6’2, 220
Drafted: 2005, 6th round, 178 overall
Team: Yale University
In his freshman season at Yale, Beller currently has one goal and two assists in 15 games. He scored the game winner in overtime on Oct. 28 against the University of New Hampshire, but most of his season has been pretty quiet. It has taken him time to get back the confidence he lost being out of hockey for almost a full year, for although Beller was listed as a member of the Green Bay Gamblers (USHL) during the 2005-06 season, he played only three games with the team. He was first injured during the preseason, and then reinjured in mid-November, Beller returned to his local high school in Rainy River, Ontario and graduated with academic honors last June.
Beller is only a college freshman, and thus the Rangers have more than three years to decide whether he will be offered an NHL contract. With last year completely lost for hockey purposes, this year has to be considered an adjustment season for the big forward.
Darin Olver, 6’0, 190
Drafted: 2004, 2nd Round, 36 overall
Team: Northern Michigan University
Currently a senior at Northern Michigan, alternate captain Olver has skated in 31 games and posted 28 points (11 goals, 17 assists). For his first three years at the school, Olver led the team in points, and was at separate times named CCHA Rookie of the Week and Scholar-Athlete of the Year. This year Olver was given an honorable mention for the 2006-07 All-CCHA Preseason Team. With five games left in the season, the center has a chance to surpass his sophomore record of 39 points in a season, but he will not be the team’s high scorer this year. Olver’s teammate Mike Santorelli (NAS) is having an outstanding season (41 points in 31 games) and will capture that distinction.
Olver was drafted in the earliest round of all the current Rangers’ NCAA prospects, and the NHL team must make a decision about whether to sign him to an NHL contract over the next few months. While he has not has a breakout season, Olver has consistently performed over the last four years at Northern Michigan and is very likely to be signed to an entry-level NHL contract. A gritty player, with some offensive potential, Olver projects to have third-line scoring potential.
Billy Ryan, 6’1, 170
Drafted: 2004, 3rd Round, 80 overall
Team: University of Maine
Last year Ryan was named a Black Bears’ "Scholar Athlete Rising Star". This year, while the big forward has pretty much matched his numbers from last season, Ryan has not made any major leaps forward. Currently, he is fourth on the team in scoring, with 20 points (7 goals, 13 assists) in 25 games, while maintaining a +5 plus/minus. Good solid numbers, but not anything special, particularly given his potential. A disciplined player, Ryan does not take many penalties, and can be counted on to play in any situation, including on the penalty kill. Ryan is one of only four Black Bears with a short-handed goal this season.
Although Ryan has not increased his production this season, he does have another year to impress the Rangers with his abilities to put the puck in the net. Additionally, although the Black Bears are currently ranked ninth nationally, the loss of Greg Moore (NYR) and Derek Damon has taken a toll on the team. But there really is little excuse for Ryan’s flat year, as the core of the Black Bears team is very much the same as last year, and Ryan should be able to put up good numbers with the talent still on the roster.
Jordan Foote, 6’4, 217
Drafted: 2004, 6th Round, 169 overall
Team: Michigan Tech
A big, aggressive winger, Foote likes to hit. This year he has added some offensive punch to his game too, recording nine points in 28 games (2 goals, 7 assists). Foote also has become more aware defensively, which is reflected in his numbers; for the first time in his collegiate career, Foote’s plus/minus is positive (+2). When Foote was drafted, it was still the old NHL, where size was almost as important as talent. Things have changed in the NHL, and this season Foote has shown some of the development that will be needed to convince the Rangers that he was a wise selection at number 169. Foote must continue to put up numbers, crash the net, and generally play a big game. He has a little more than a year to do so, and despite the slow start to his collegiate career, it would not be prudent to write him off yet.
Ken Roche, 6’0, 205
Drafted: 2003, 3rd Round, 75 overall
Team: Boston University
Currently the assistant captain of the Terriers team, Roche is in his final semester of eligibility at BU. He had an outstanding season last year, and was named to the Hockey East Honor Roll four times. Thus far this season, Roche continues to do well (21 points in 25 games), and contributes regularly to BU’s efforts. Although his numbers have not stood out, Roche is first among his teammates in shots, and often gets the primary assist on goals. A quiet contributor to an excellent team, Roche has a very good shot at being signed to a Rangers’ NHL contract this summer.
Dylan Reese, 6’1, 205
Drafted: 2003, 7th Round, 209 overall
Team: Harvard University
Reese is the captain of the Harvard team this season, and has been one of the Crimson’s better performers. With 10 points (4 goals, 6 assists) in 21 games, and a +1, he is the leading defenseman on the team, and one of only four players with a positive plus/minus on the whole roster. A staple on the power play, where he serves as the quarterback, nine of Reese’s 10 points have been recorded with the extra man.
Harvard does not have a particularly good team this year, and Reese has not had a point in any game against a top-20 nationally ranked team. However, he has been one of the better Rangers’ NCAA prospects this season. This is not unexpected, as last season, Reese was selected to the All-Ivy League first team, All-ECACHL second team and ECACHL Championship all-tournament team for his fine play. Whether or not he will be signed to an NHL contract will depend on how he performs between now and August, including his play in any prospect camp the Rangers hold prior to the signing deadline.
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