Erixon and Miller join a talented group of prospects for the New York Rangers

By Leslie Treff
Photo: Selected in the third round of the 2011 Draft, Steven Fogarty makes his debut at the 14 spot in the Rangers top-20. (Photo courtesy of Ken McKenna/HF)

Chris Kreider tops the group of Rangers’ prospects for the third list in a row. Added for the first time are three prospects from Sweden, including one defenseman and two forwards. The Rangers top-20 includes 13 forwards, five blueliners, and two goaltenders.

1. (1) Chris Kreider, LW 8.0C
Acquired: 1st round, 19th overall, 2009

For the third time, Chris Kreider is the top prospect in the Rangers’ organization. The incredibly fast forward, with excellent size and hands, is now in his junior year at Boston College. As one of the more experienced players on the Eagles’ squad, he has played at the international level as well as in the NCAA championships. Kreider is expected to put up big numbers this season in what should be his final year of college hockey. An imposing figure on the ice, Kreider is one of the fastest skaters for any man his size in any of the NHL team’s system. Expected to become a power forward on the left side for New York, Kreider should get a long look in the fall of 2012, but will more likely begin his professional career in the AHL with a possible call-up during next season.

2. (3) Christian Thomas, RW, 8.0D
Drafted 2nd round, 40th overall, 2010

After Christian Thomas‘s outstanding 2010-11 campaign (he was in the top 10 in the OHL in goals and points in the regular season), there were high hopes that he would be ready for professional play this fall. When Thomas took the ice during training camp and at the Traverse City rookie tournament this summer, however, it was clear that although Thomas is an extremely fast skater, is incredibly creative, and has a very quick release, he is still easily knocked off the puck. Although he might have been reassigned to the AHL, Thomas was drafted out of the CHL, and, at 19 years old, is thus not eligible for AHL play. Reassigned to the Oshawa Generals for the 2011-12 season, Thomas will need to get much stronger to play in the NHL. If he accomplishes this without compromising his speed, Thomas has the potential to be a first line player, and may compete for a roster spot on the NHL team next fall.

3. (NR) Tim Erixon, D, 7.5B
Acquired via trade with Calgary Flames, June 1st, 2011

Tim Erixon was drafted by the Calgary Flames 23rd overall, in the first round, of the 2009 entry draft. After playing for Skelleftea in the Swedish Elite League for three seasons, it was clear he would not sign with Calgary. New York made a deal with Calgary for Erixon on the last day possible, with the Rangers sending Calgary prospect Roman Horak and two second round draft selections in 2011 for Erixon and the fifth round selection this year, with which the Rangers chose Shane McColgan. Erixon is a two-way defenseman with an excellent mental game. He is not flashy, but he can put up points, and has a heavy shot. A good puck mover and very responsible in his own zone, Erixon is competing for a roster spot this fall, but may need some seasoning in the AHL prior to becoming a permanent member of the NHL team.

4. (2) Ryan McDonagh, D, 7.5B
Acquired via trade with Montreal Canadiens, June 2009

Acquired as part of the trade that sent Scott Gomez to Montreal, Ryan McDonagh was originally drafted 12th overall in the first round of the 2007 entry draft. Although originally hoped to be an offensive blueliner, McDonagh is a strong two-way defenseman, who is expected to be a solid second pairing blueliner for the Rangers during the 2011-12 season. Although, he started last season slowly and was assigned to the AHL Hartford Wolf Pack to begin his professional career, McDonagh was called up to the NHL team in early January. The defenseman adapted quickly to the increased speed of the game at the NHL level, and by the end of the season was put out on the ice in critical situations. McDonagh is still in the process of learning the professional game, however, he is an excellent two-way defenseman who is solid positionally, makes good use of his stick, and has an edge to his game.

5. (NR) J.T. Miller, C, 7.5C
Drafted 1st round, 15th overall, 2011

About to join the OHL Plymouth Whalers, JT Miller is a hard-nosed forward, who likes to play a north-south game. A member of the NTDP last season, Miller originally planned to attend University of North Dakota. However, given what the Rangers feel may be his fairly quick readiness for the NHL, Miller chose to play in the CHL this season. An excellent two-way forward, Miller works very hard down low and along the boards. He showed more offensive upside than was expected while at development camp and in Traverse City this summer, and was one of the best forwards among the prospects in training camp this fall. Miller has no problem crashing the net, but has good enough hands to also pass the puck to teammates in the offensive zone on the rush. Additionally, unlike most 18 year olds in the CHL this season, because Miller, was drafted out of the NTDP, he will be eligible for AHL play after one season of junior hockey.

6. (6) Dylan McIlrath, D, 7.0C
Drafted 1st round, 10th overall, 2010

The Rangers drafted McIlrath for his nasty, in your face play. Although a somewhat controversial pick by New York last season, thus far, he has proved the skeptics very wrong. Although McIlrath he was very raw with questionable speed, balance, and poor defensive coverage in his draft year, he has developed by leaps and bounds over the past year. The Rangers, however, put a huge amount of confidence in McIlrath during the season, signing him to an entry level contract in March 2011, and naming him captain of the 2011 Traverse City rookie team. His play this past summer has gotten better and better, literally by the game. McIlrath showed surprising maturity in the Traverse City tournament, and flattened a player that sought him out in a fight. Additionally, McIlrath has played extremely well in training camp. He is expected, however, to return to junior play for one more season. McIlrath is expected to compete for an NHL roster spot in the fall of 2012.

7. (5) Mats Zuccarello, RW/LW, 7.0C
Signed as a free agent, May 26th, 2010

About to begin his second season of professional hockey in North America, Mats Zuccarello made a big splash coming to the Rangers last fall. Previously named the Swedish Elite League’s most valuable player, Zuccarello had played for two seasons for the Modo club. A very creative, elusive, fast skater, with an offense-first style, Zuccarello can hit and agitate. However, he has had to make adjustments to his game to accommodate the smaller rink. After splitting the 2010-11 season between the Rangers and the AHL Connecticut Whale, Zuccarello is attempting to become a permanent member of the NHL roster. If he can use his speed and vision, combined with excellent hands, and not try to do too much in the smaller rink, Zuccarello will be an effective NHL player. He is expected to be a member of the NHL team this fall.

8. (14) Jesper Fasth, RW, 7.0C
Drafted 6th round, 157th overall, 2010

Jesper Fasth has made the biggest leap in the organizational rankings of any player this season. Now in his third season in the Swedish Elite League, with HV71 Jonkoping, Fasth had an outstanding develop camp early this summer. When added to his excellent performance at the 2011 World Junior Championships (six points in as many games), and his great start to the 2011-12 season, in the SEL, Fasth is on the fast track to a Rangers’ contract. Fasth is completing his final season under contract in Sweden and should compete for an NHL roster spot next fall. Fasth is a highly talented goal scorer, with excellent speed and good vision, along with competence on the forecheck. He is the kind of player who is not limited to a top six role, and therefore has a better chance of making the 2012-13 Rangers than some of the other highly skilled prospects.

9. (8) Ryan Bourque, LW, 7.0C
Drafted 3rd round, 80th overall, 2009

Ryan Bourque is one of the fastest skaters among all the prospects in the Rangers’ system. Despite his small size, Bourque thinks nothing of taking on opponents while he is forechecking in the offensive zone or initiating an open ice hit. Additionally, he has an excellent, quick release on his shot and tricky moves to get into position. Excellent in traffic and playing short handed, Bourque makes pinpoint passes, which also make him very useful on the power play. Originally, a center, Bourque has been moved to the wing over the last couple of years. After completing his junior career last spring, the 20-year old is ready for professional hockey. A long-shot to make the NHL team out of camp, expect Bourque to begin the season with the AHL Connecticut Whale. It is possible that he will, however, get at least one mid-season call-up to the NHL during 2011-12.

10. (7) Carl Hagelin, LW, 6.5B
Drafted 6th Round, 168th overall, 2007

After completing four years at the University of Michigan last spring, Carl Hagelin signed an entry-level contract in April and formally became a member of the Rangers’ organization. Named the CCHA’s Best Defensive Forward last season, after leading the Wolverines in goals (15), assists (22) and points, Hagelin is competing for a third- or fourth-line wing position with the NHL team this fall. A very quick skater and bright hockey mind, Hagelin showed some offensive potential in Connecticut with the AHL Whale during the playoffs last spring, and in Traverse City earlier this month. Whether he can achieve the same success at the NHL level without some time in the AHL this fall remains to be seen.

11. (17) Andrew Yogan, C, 7.0C
Drafted 4th round, 100th overall, 2010

Andrew Yogan was off the ice for almost the entire 2010-11 season, recovering from shoulder surgery. One of the most highly touted Florida prospects ever, Yogan began his CHL career for the 2007-08 campaign. The following season, he was traded from Windsor to Erie, where he blossomed during the 2009-10 campaign. Recently traded to the Peterborough Petes, Yogan, who was also eligible to play in the AHL, will play there during the 2011-12 season. The center has a big frame and skates well. He can plant himself in front of the net and has soft hands. He is expected to play on the wing at the professional level, which is expected to begin next spring.

12. (NR) Oscar Lindberg, C, 6.5B
Acquired via trade With Phoenix, May 8th, 2011

Originally selected by Phoenix 57th overall (second round) in the 2010 entry draft, Oscar Lindberg was traded to the Rangers in exchange for Ethan Werek last spring. Currently skating in his third season with Skelleftea in the Swedish Elite League, Lindberg was recently a teammate of fellow prospect, Tim Erixon. Lindberg participated in Rangers development camp this summer. His on-ice play with Jesper Fasth at that time was very impressive. The forward has an excellent work ethic and plays well in all zones. A true center, with very good on-ice awareness, Lindberg has good playmaking abilities and is a potential second- to third-line player with good face off abilities. He will spend at least this season in Europe prior to playing in North America.

13. (10) Chad Johnson, G, 7.0C
Acquired via trade with Pittsburgh, June 27th, 2009

Originally selected by Pittsburgh in the fifth round (125th overall) of the 2006 draft, Chad Johnson signed his second contract with the Rangers earlier this summer. Thus far, Johnson has had a literally up and down career within the Rangers organization. In addition to playing in net for the AHL team, for the past two seasons, he has intermittently served in the role of NHL backup to Henrik Lundqvist. Efficient in his body movements with good use of his large frame, Johnson has a good glove and generally stays square to the shooter. He does give up some bad rebounds, which has not harmed him as much at the AHL level than when he has played with the Rangers. Johnson will begin the season in Hartford once again, and compete for the number one spot there with fellow netminder Cam Talbot.

14. (NR) Steven Fogarty, C, 7.0D
Drafted 3rd round, 72nd overall, 2011

Steven Fogarty was selected with the draft pick that the Rangers obtained in the trade of Evgeny Grachev to St. Louis. Fogarty played for Edina High School in Minnesota and the USHL Chicago Steel last season and was a finalist for Minnesota’s Mr. Hockey award (an honor awarded to fellow prospect Ryan McDonagh in 2007). Fogarty has good offensive skills and a big body, which he uses well along the boards and in front of the net. A decent skater, he is good in all zones, and is most effective when he plays a physical game. Fogarty was expected to return to the USHL for the 2011-12 season, however in July 2011, he agreed instead to play for the BCHL Penticton Vees. He is orally committed to joining the Notre Dame Fighting Irish for the 2012-13 season. Fogarty projects to be a power forward at the NHL level, however, he is very raw and could be four to five years away from being NHL-ready.

15. (12) Tomas Kundratek, D, 6.5C
Drafted 3rd round, 90th overall, 2008

Tomas Kundratek is a solid physical defensive defenseman, who is a good puck mover with a nice shot. Although drafted in 2008, and therefore a Rangers prospect for several years, Kundratek is still only 21 years old and just growing into his body. For the first time this fall, it appears he has begun to fill out. After a successful rookie professional season with Connecticut in 2010-11, Kundratek will be relied upon more this coming season. With two more years on his entry-level contract, Kundratek will likely spend most, if not all, of this season in the AHL, with a shot at the NHL roster next fall.

16. (13) Dale Weise, RW, 6.0B
Drafted 4th round, 111th overall, 2008

Dale Weise was drafted by the Rangers as a 20-year old, and quickly showed that he was ready for AHL play. After his first year in Hartford, Weise captained his rookie team in Traverse City and had a tremendous training camp. He looked to be an early call-up to the NHL, but despite having an excellent AHL 2009-10 campaign, the call-up never came. After he was returned to the AHL to begin last season, Weise did get a 10-game call-up to the NHL, but did very little with it. He is a gritty winger, who likes to bang along the walls, and crash the net. Weise has good leadership abilities, and will fight to protect teammates. After he signed a new one-year contract with the Rangers in June, Weise changed his diet and exercise regimen. He looks bigger this fall and he is playing with renewed energy. He is expected to compete for an NHL roster spot this fall.

17. (NR) Michael St. Croix, C, 6.5C
Drafted 4th round, 106th overall, 2011

Drafted out of the WHL, Michael St. Croix is a Winnipeg native, who is currently the revived Edmonton Oil Kings franchise leader in career points. A playmaking center, with solid two-way skills, St. Croix is somewhat undersized, but with very good speed and excellent hockey sense. St. Croix, who was recently reassigned from the Rangers’ training camp, is expected to spend two more seasons in junior hockey. St. Croix projects to be a top-nine forward in the NHL, but reaching that level will require increased strength and physical development, more consistency in tactical play, and a greater willingness to play in traffic areas.

18. (NR) Shane McColgan, RW, 6.0C
Drafted 5th round, 134th overall, 2011

Shane McColgan was very impressive in development camp, Traverse City and in the Rangers’ main camp this fall. An undersized winger, with offensive ability, tremendous grit, and the ability to get under opposing players’ skin, McColgan led his team, the WHL Kelowna Rockets in total points last season. McColgan’s biggest weakness, however, is that his play can be undisciplined at times and untimely, selfish penalties can be taken. McColgan will spend at least two more seasons in junior hockey before turning pro. His future as a professional hockey player will depend on matching his determination with discipline and restraint, as well as improving his body strength.

19. (11) Pavel Valentenko, D, 6.5C
Acquired via trade with Montreal, June 30th, 2009

Originally drafted by Montreal in the fifth round (139th overall) of the 2006 entry draft, Pavel Valentenko came to New York as a part of the trade that sent Scott Gomez to Montreal. At the time, Valentenko had returned to Russia to attend to family matters and was playing in the KHL. When he returned to North America for the 2010-11 season, he was in the second year of his entry-level contract. After an impressive training camp in the fall of 2010, Valentenko was assigned to the AHL Hartford Wolf Pack to start the season. An agitating, defensive blueliner, Valentenko had an excellent season in Connecticut, but never got a chance to play in New York. He was expected to compete for a spot on the Rangers’ blue line this fall, however had an unimpressive camp and an even worse pre-season. Recently reassigned to the AHL, it is likely that Valentenko’s days as a Rangers’ prospect are numbered.

20. (16) Cam Talbot, G, 6.5C
Signed as a free agent, March 30th, 2010

The undrafted Cam Talbot was signed by the Rangers after his third year at the University of Alabama-Huntsville. The big netminder has very good lateral movement, a good glove, and comes out to challenge shooters very well. Expected to spend the 2011-12 season in Connecticut, sharing the netminding duties with Chad Johnson, the 24-year-old Talbot had a very good training camp this fall, including an outstanding appearance in one of the Rangers’ pre-season games.