Graduations, trades leave New York Rangers prospect pool shallow at some positions

By Leslie Treff

Brady Skjei - New York Rangers

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.

1. (1) Chris Kreider, LW, 8.5C
Drafted 1st round, 19th overall, 2009

After helping the Boston College Eagles to an NCAA championship in 2012, Chris Kreider joined the Rangers for the playoffs with aspirations to win a Stanley Cup that same spring. Although it was not meant to be, Kreider was very impressive in the 18 NHL playoff games he appeared in. Aside from occasionally getting caught out of position, the young Massachusetts native showed quickness getting up the ice, as well as a willingness to play the physical game. He deftly used his stick to block passes and demonstrated soft hands, scoring five goals and adding two assists in 18 playoff games. Although, he would be a regular member of the NHL team this fall, given the lockout, expect Kreider to begin the season as a member of the AHL Connecticut Whale. One of the fastest players within the Rangers' system, Kreider has excellent hands and the ability to crash the net. He has the potential to be an elite player in the NHL.

2. (5) J.T. Miller, LW, 7.0C
Drafted 1st round, 15th overall, 2011

J.T. Miller is a natural center, who will be playing on the wing this coming season. Although eligible to return to junior hockey (Miller was drafted in 2011), he will get a long look with the Connecticut Whale this fall (at the time Miller was drafted, he had committed to play NCAA hockey). Miller has added muscle since last season and appears to be a stronger skater too. He knows how to finish and with his added strength, Miller should be an increased threat in front of an opponent's net. While a member of the Plymouth Whalers last season, Miller posted 62 points (25 goals, 37 assists) in 61 regular season games and 10 points in 13 games in the post season. Chosen to participate in the U-20 U.S. National Evaluation Camp, Miller was very active, scoring one goal and three assists and incurring 10 penalty minutes.

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

After dislocating his kneecap during development camp this summer, McIlrath is not yet ready to take the ice with the Connecticut Whale. However, the big, tough, in-your-face defenseman is expected to spend most of the coming season in Hartford. After the Rangers surprised many people in selecting McIlrath 10th overall in 2010, he has progressed nicely over the past two seasons in junior hockey. Prior to his knee injury earlier this summer, McIlrath showed improved skating and had become a student of the game. His positioning has improved, as has his decision-making. McIlrath has also added leadership and better fighting skills since he was selected. Expect McIlrath to spend this coming season as a member of the Whale. 

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

The Rangers signed Fast to an entry-level contract this past summer and then the young Swede returned to SEL's HV71. After sustaining a horrible foot injury early in the 2011-12 campaign, Fasth was sidelined for most of last season. Although Fast signed a two-year contract extension with NV71 this past December, it is still possible that he will join the Rangers in the fall of 2013. With excellent offensive skills and good speed, Fast has begun the 2012-13 SEL season with a bang-in 10 games, he has recorded six points (four goals, two assists).

5. (NR) Brady Skjei, D, 7.0C
Drafted 1st round, 28th overall, 2012

Now a freshman at the University of Minnesota, Skjei is a big blueliner, who skates very well and has excellent vision. He skated in 60 games with the U.S. NTDP Under-18 Team last season, recording 23 points (four goals and 19 assists) and 36 penalty minutes. In addition to playing in the World Under 17 Challenge in Winnipeg/Portage La Prairie, MN in 2011 (four points in six games) and in the U-18 WJCs this past spring in the Czech Republic (where the United States won the gold medal), Skjei participated in the U-20 U.S. National Evaluation Camp, which took place in August in Lake Placid, where he posted two assists. 

6. (7) Christian Thomas, RW, 7.5D
Drafted 2nd round, 40th overall, 2010

Thomas begins his professional hockey career this fall, after showing excellent offensive upside during his three-plus years as a member of the Oshawa Generals. Two seasons ago, Thomas was a prolific scorer in the OHL, and although his production dropped off last season, the diminutive winger could bring some needed scoring power to the Connecticut Whale this fall.

A goal scorer, as well as good distributor of the puck, Thomas will need to improve his strength on the puck to take his junior successes to the next level this season.

7. (9) Michael St. Croix, C, 7.0C
Drafted 4th round, 106th overall, 2011

St. Croix tore up the WHL last season, and upon his return to junior hockey this fall, has continued where he left off. Although he has not shown much in development camps or in Traverse City in 2011, the Rangers expect St. Croix to be an excellent two-way player when his professional career begins fall of 2013. He still needs to add upper body strength to his frame, however, his playmaking ability and ever improving zone coverage should make him ready for the leap to professional hockey in 2012-13.

8. (NR) Boo Nieves, C, 6.5C
Drafted 2nd round, 59th overall, 2012

Cristoval "Boo" Nieves is beginning his collegiate career this fall at the University of Michigan. Noticeable on the ice this summer in development camp, Nieves uses his body well and has excellent speed in the offensive zone. Although a natural center, expect Nieves to be playing on the wing as he moves along in his hockey career-he is very good at crashing the net and uses his size well. Splitting his time last season between prep hockey and the USHL, Nieves posted 39 points in 22 games with Kent school. After his season at Kent, Nieves joined the USHL Indiana Ice, where he recorded 10 points (two goals, eight assists) in 13 games.
9. (14) Oscar Lindberg, C, 6.5C
Traded with Phoenix Coyotes, May 8, 2011

Lindberg was traded to the Rangers in 2011 in exchange for former Rangers prospect Ethan Werek. Originally drafted by Phoenix in the second round (57th overall) of the 2010 entry draft, the Rangers signed Lindberg to an entry-level contract earlier this summer. Loaned back to Skelleftea of the SEL, the Rangers expect Lindberg to develop into a mostly defensive forward when he plays professionally in North America. Good at faceoffs and puck distribution, Lindberg is good positionally in his own zone. However, he does have some offensive upside, which he has demonstrated at the start of the SEL season-posting eight points (three goals, five assists) in seven games.

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

Fogarty was a member of the BCHL Penticton Vees for the 2011-12 season, and he posted very good numbers. However, as a member of a team loaded with talent, he did not stand out as much as he might have on another team. Attending Notre Dame this fall, Fogarty expects to get good ice time and continue working hard on his defensive game, while developing his skating and offensive skills. A natural center, expect Fogarty to eventually play professionally on the wing.

11. (NR) Calle Andersson, D, 6.5C
Drafted 4th round, 119th overall, 2012

Andersson is a puck-moving defenseman, who has the potential to post decent offensive numbers as his career moves on. After playing for Farjestad J20 and posting 36 points (12 goals, 24 assists) in 49 games last season, as well as seven points in four games early in the 2012-13 campaign, Andersson has joined Farjestad in the SEL. With good speed and a very crisp first pass, expect Andersson to develop in Europe for at least one more season.

12. (10) Andrew Yogan, C, 6.5C
Drafted 4th round, 100th overall, 2010

Signed to an entry-level contract last spring, Yogan will begin the 2012-13 season as a member of the Connecticut Whale. As a first year pro, and a natural center, who can take faceoffs, Yogan is expected to play mostly on the wing for the Whale. With good size and some offensive upside, Yogan should be a second to third liner this coming season.

13. (15) Stu Bickel, D, 5.5A
Traded with Anaheim Ducks, November 23, 2010

Recently re-signed to a two-year contract, Bickel was obtained as part of a minor league trade that sent Nigel Williams to Anaheim in November 2010. The big defenseman played in the ECHL for parts of two seasons, and was a hard-nosed defensive defenseman, who could stand up for teammates. After working on positioning issues with the Connecticut Whale, Bickel managed to work himself onto the NHL roster last season. A defensive defenseman who can function as one of the tougher players on the ice, Bickel is expected to take the ice as a part of the Rangers NHL team, when the 2012-13 NHL season begins.

14. (NR) Marek Hrivik, LW, 7.0D
Signed as free agent, May 30, 2012

Hrivik was signed to an entry-level contract after showing some excellent offensive production late in the Connecticut Whale's 2011-12 season. After three seasons with the Moncton Wildcats, Hrivik was a March signing for the Whale. He posted nine points (five goals, four assists) in as many games during the AHL playoffs and the Rangers signed him to an entry-level contract last May. A budding power forward, with outstanding size, good speed and a quick release, Hrivik will begin the season with the Whale.

15. (NR) Cam Talbot, G, 6.5C
Signed as free agent, March 30, 2010

Talbot started the 2011-12 campaign sharing the starting netminding role with Chad Johnson, but as the regular season went on, Talbot showed that he should be carrying most of the load. He had an excellent spring, posting two shutouts, a 1.17 goals-against average and a 95.9 save percentage in his last five regular-season starts. Talbot then recorded two shutouts in the first two games of the playoffs. Currently recovering from a broken foot, it is unclear whether Talbot will be ready to start the 2012-13 season with the Whale.

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

An undersized winger, with a nasty streak and good offensive upside, McColgan makes things happen when he is on the ice. Challenged to become more disciplined in his play, the Rangers want McColgan to be difficult to play against, but smart in taking penalties. Recently traded from the Kelowna Rockets to the Saskatoon Blades, 2012-13 will likely be McColgan's final season of junior hockey.

17. (16) Ryan Bourque, LW, 6.5D
Drafted 3rd round, 80th overall, 2009

Bourque had a difficult adjustment to professional hockey last season. Unable to provide much offensive production during his rookie year, he often played the role of defensive forward for the Connecticut Whale during 2011-12. Still needing to play a more north-south game, this will be an important season for the undersized Bourque.

18. (20) Jason Missiaen, G, 6.5D
Signed as a free agent, March 24, 2011

Missiaen is 6'8 and 220 lbs, a very large figure between the pipes. With good lateral movement and handling of the puck, Missiaen spent last season between the pipes for the ECHL Greenville Road Warriors. He is competing for a spot on the AHL Connecticut Whale this fall, and is expected to get the backup role at that level for the 2012-13 season. Still only 22 years old, Missiaen is still learning his position, and is not expected to be NHL-ready for several years.

19. (NR) Kyle Jean, C, 6.5D
Signed as a free agent, July 5, 2012

Jean had just finished his second season with Lake Superior State University when he got the chance to attend the Rangers development camp this summer. A hard-hitting, goal scoring center, Jean was extremely impressive in everything he did in development camp. Shortly thereafter, the Rangers signed him to an entry-level contract. Jean has excellent size, which he uses wisely and with discipline. He also has a very good release on his powerful shot. Expected to join the Connecticut Whale this fall, the 22-year old is expected to make a good transition to the pro game.

20. (NR) Scott Stajcer, G, 6.0C
Drafted 5th round, 140th overall, 2009

Stajcer had a devastating hip injury that shortened his 2010-11 season, so he was returned to junior last season to get more experience and development. Expected to begin the 2012-13 hockey season in either the AHL or ECHL, Stajcer is still working on staying square to the shooter and lateral movement. Although Stajcer has been in the Rangers system for more than three years, he still is only 21 years old and will be given several more years to develop within the organization'