Photo: Michael St. Croix is one of only four Rangers prospects playing at the CHL level in 2012-13. (Derek Leung/Getty Images)
For the first time in many years, the New York Rangers have fewer junior players in their system than almost any other NHL team. There are only four New York prospects skating in the CHL this season, two in the WHL, and one in each of the QMJHL and OHL. Although this is partly the result of the team moving toward drafting players headed to college, it also can be explained by the small number of selections that New York has had in recent drafts. In the last three years, the Rangers have only drafted 16 players, including four in the 2012 NHL Draft. Of the four drafted in 2012, two are playing for NCAA teams and two are continuing their development in Europe.
Photo: Drafted 10th overall in 2010, Dylan McIlrath brings size and toughness to the Rangers blue line. McIlrath has yet to suit up this season due to a knee injury suffered this past summer. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
The New York Rangers have become one of the NHL teams that rely most on good player development. As the result of a rebuild that lasted at least half of the last decade, close to half of the players on the 2011-12 roster had either been drafted or signed as free agents out of junior hockey.
Photo: After playing the past three seasons in Finland, defenseman Sami Vatanen made his way to North America and currently plays for the AHL affiliate of the Anaheim Ducks. (Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
Below is the middle section Hockey’s Future’s NHL Team Rankings. The teams are ranked in terms of the quality of their overall prospect pool as voted on by the staff of Hockey's Future. For reference, just the top five prospects are listed. To be eligible, a prospect must meet HF's prospect criteria. The rankings are done twice a year, with the second scheduled to be published in the Spring.
Photo: Selected 28th overall in the 2012 NHL Draft, defenseman Brady Skjei could be the next in an ever growing line of talented, mobile Rangers defensemen. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
After several years with a very strong group of prospects, the New York Rangers have graduated a lot of home-grown talent to the NHL team. The system remains strong defensively, but the only potential star in the system is winger Chris Kreider. Organizational depth in goaltending remains a weakness, with only Jason Missiaen and Scott Stajcer among the netminding prospects.
Photo: Cristoval "Boo" Nieves was one of only four players drafted by the New York Rangers in 2012. (Ian Altenbaugh/HF)
The successful rebuild of the New York Rangers has been based on the identity of speed, grittiness, and character. Eleven of the roster players have developed in the system, and the Rangers are not afraid to promote young players at any time of the year. Although the point of having a system through which prospects develop is to graduate them to the NHL roster, sustained success can leave a system needing replenishment.