Rangers Top 20 prospects

By Leslie Treff

The Rangers Top 20 prospects list has been revised quite a bit since last August, as many players are closer to NHL-ready (13 are either members of the Hartford Wolf Pack or the NHL Rangers) and there are some changes in personnel.  Marc Andre Cliche was traded to Los Angeles as part of the deal that brought Sean Avery to New York and Alex Bourret, the new No. 3 prospect, joined the organization in an NHL trade deadline transaction with Atlanta. Additionally, netminder Al Montoya now fills the No. 1 position among Rangers prospects.

1. (2) Al Montoya, G Rating: 8.5 B
Team: Hartford Wolf Pack (AHL)
Acquired: Draft, 1st round, 6th overall 2004
DOB: 2/13/85, Height: 6’1, Weight: 193

Montoya, who was named the AHL‘s Goaltender of the Month for February, moves into the No. 1 spot among the organization’s prospects. In his second year of professional hockey, Montoya shows no signs of a sophomore slump, and, in fact, has improved significantly upon his excellent, but injury-marred, rookie season. With six games left in the season, Montoya has a record of 24-16, a 2.27 GAA, and a .915 save percentage. In addition, he has recorded five shutouts and has stayed relatively healthy for the entire season.

Montoya’s Goaltender of the Month award is not the first accolade that he has received this season. Early in January, he was named AHL Player of the Week for his two shutouts and a 3-0 record during the last week of December. Montoya is presently ranked fifth among all AHL goalies for the season in both goals against and save percentage.

A quick, confident goaltender, with good lateral movement, and an excellent glove hand, Montoya is now two years beyond his outstanding University of Michigan collegiate career. Given everything he has accomplished during his last two seasons in the AHL, Montoya should be NHL-ready next season or, at the latest, the year following. So, it begs the question as to what the Rangers organization has in mind for him. Henrik Lundqvist, who started slow this season but has been a top performer during the playoff run, has just celebrated his 24th birthday, and, absent injury, is not yet at the apex of his career. It makes sense therefore that one of either Lundqvist or Montoya will be traded in the near future. Unless Lundqvist performs poorly over the remaining games this week or in the playoffs, he is most likely the goaltender the team will keep. So very shortly the Rangers should begin to seriously entertain offers for Montoya, and it would not be surprising if he begins next season as another organization’s prospect.

2. (1) Marc Staal, D Rating: 8.0B
Team: Sudbury Wolves (OHL)
Acquired: Draft, 1st round, 12th overall, 2005
DOB: 1/13/87, Height: 6’4, Weight: 205

This season began on a bad note for Staal. Although he was expecting to spend the 2006-07 campaign in New York, with the NHL team, the big blueliner was returned to his junior team in Sudbury in late September. As one of the players subject to the rule that made it effectively impossible for a 1987-born player coming from major junior hockey to play in the AHL this season, Staal was sent back to his OHL team after spending almost the entire preseason with the NHL Rangers. Because Staal’s performance on the ice during preseason was not of NHL caliber, the Rangers did not have much of a choice but to send him back.

Told that he needed to continue to work on his speed and his strength to be NHL-ready, Staal had difficulty with the disappointment and his play suffered for most of the regular season. However, in the postseason, he has come alive once again and helped his team to somewhat of an upset in the first round of the playoffs. A solid defenseman with excellent on-ice vision and positioning, and very good work along the boards, this season Staal has shown a great improvement in his shot. Expected to continue to develop in the AHL or with the Rangers next season, Staal is projected to be a solid No. 2 or 3 defenseman, who can shut down the opposition’s offense and contribute offensively.

 3. (NR) Alex Bourret, RW Rating: 8.0C
Team: Hartford Wolf Pack (AHL)
Acquired: February 27, 2007 Trade with Atlanta Thrashers
Drafted: 1st Round, 16th overall, 2005 
DOB: 10/05/86 Height: 5’10, Weight: 205

Bourret was traded to the Rangers just prior to this year’s trade deadline in exchange for winger Pascal Dupuis and the Rangers third-round draft selection in the 2007 draft. As Dupuis had been acquired by the Rangers earlier in the month for Adam Hall, effectively Bourret was obtained for Hall and a third round pick.

A gritty, highly offensive player, Bourret’s professional career did not start in an auspicious way. Marred by early injuries and a language barrier, the French-Canadian Bourret’s adjustment in his rookie AHL season has been slow. Bourret is an excellent skater, has good hands and likes to hit. A consistent work ethic and improved defensive zone play will be necessary for the small winger to succeed at this level. In the last two weeks, Bourret has really picked up his play, and if he continues to perform at this level, the Rangers will be very happy with the trade they made with the Thrashers to get him.

4. (3) Jarkko Immonen, C 7.0 B
Team: Hartford Wolf Pack (AHL)
Acquired: March 3, 2004 Trade with Toronto Maple Leafs
Drafted: 8th Round, 254th overall, 2002
DOB: 4/19/82 Height: 6’0, Weight: 200

Immonen is an excellent face-off man, who has spent the majority of the last two seasons in the AHL. Although he seems to be able to play extremely well at that level, his skating and positioning have not allowed him to succeed in the NHL thus far. He does have second line potential but to reach that level, he will have to really pick up his game.

With all the younger Rangers prospects starting to become NHL-ready, the pressure for Immonen to make his mark is growing. Should he not be able to do so by next season, the likelihood of him donning a Rangers uniform on a steady basis will decrease enormously.

5. (4) Nigel Dawes, LW 7.0B
Team: Hartford Wolf Pack (AHL)
Acquired: Draft, 5th Round, 149th overall, 2003
DOB: 2/9/85 Height: 5’8, Weight: 190

Dawes made the Rangers roster out of camp this past fall based upon his work ethic and great hands. However, after playing only a couple of games, he sat on the bench for most of October. Once returned to Hartford, Dawes was more productive and actually has had a very good season, albeit a quiet one.

Although Dawes is already considered an AHL veteran, it is important to remember that he is still only 22 years old. Whether he can make the leap to the NHL full time remains to be seen, but the fact that he has a great shot with a quick release, never gives up on the play, and has an incredible desire to play at the highest level makes the likelihood that he will play in the NHL on regular basis very high.

6. (6) Brandon Dubinsky, C Rating: 7.0B
Team: Hartford Wolf Pack (AHL)
Acquired: Draft, 2nd Round, 60th overall, 2004
DOB: 4/29/86 Height: 6’1, Weight:: 210

After putting up some very big numbers when he first joined Hartford late last season, there were very high expectations of this 20-year-old. Always a high energy player, Dubinsky has made his presence felt at every opportunity he has had to impress the Rangers’ management.

After being one of the last cuts in training camp, Dubinsky started off slowly during the 2006-07 campaign in Hartford. Over the last month, however, he has come on and really increased his offensive production. Called up to the NHL team a couple of times this season, Dubinsky is having a very good rookie professional season.

The hard-working center has second line potential, in that he has an excellent scoring touch and never gives up on the play. Never afraid to mix it up, Dubinsky plays a very tough, nasty game. 

7. (16) Ryan Callahan, RW Rating: 7.0 B
Team: New York Rangers (NHL)
Acquired: Draft, 4th round, 127th overall, 2004
DOB: 3/21/85 Height: 5’11, Weight: 185

Callahan has taken the professional ranks by storm in his rookie season. He quickly became the go-to forward in Hartford, and over the past three weeks, he has become an integral part of the resurgent Rangers third line in the NHL. Scrappy, hard working, with a good scoring touch, Callahan has shown that his decision to spend an overage year with the OHL Guelph Storm was very wise. Instead of accepting the AHL contract that was offered to him following the Rangers’ fall 2005 training camp, Callahan chose to return to junior hockey. Not only did it afford him an opportunity to improve his physical strength and hockey skills, but the resulting greater emotional maturity and increased leadership abilities are obvious this season.

Just named to the AHL All-Rookie team (even though he has been recalled to the Rangers because of injuries on the big club), Callahan has been receiving accolades in the league all year. He scored the game-winning goal in the AHL All-Star Game in Toronto in January and Callahan remains Hartford’s leading scorer, even though he has not played an AHL game for three weeks. having an outstanding year.

In the past few games, Callahan has been playing on the Rangers third line. Whether that will continue once Marcel Hossa returns from injury is uncertain at this point, however, over time, with his scoring touch and great work ethic, Callahan has the potential to become a second line player.

8. (5) Bobby Sanguinetti, D Rating 7.5C
Team: Owen Sound Attack (OHL)
Acquired: Draft, 1st Round, 21st overall, 2006
DOB: 2/29/88 Height: 6’2, Weight: 183

When Sanguinetti was drafted last summer, there was no question that he had excellent offensive skills. What was on all the NHL teams’ collective minds was whether or not he could play in his own end. Unfortunately doubts about Sanguinetti’s defensive abilities linger, as he made a poor defensive showing for his junior team this year. Sanguinetti had one of the worst plus/minus ratings on Owen Sound during the 2006-07 season and often looked lost when he set out to perform defensive tasks.

Problems include positioning and toughness, both of which will have to be substantially improved for Sanguinetti to become a good offensive defenseman at the professional level. Sanguinetti recently signed an ATO to play for the Hartford Wolf Pack for the rest of the season, and will get the opportunity to show the Rangers’ brass that this impression of him is not correct. His performance over the next few weeks will be a good gauge as to what to expect from Sanguinetti in the future.

9. (NR) Dane Byers, LW Rating: 7.0C
Team: Hartford Wolf Pack (AHL)
Acquired: Draft, 2nd Round, 48th overall, 2004
DOB: 2/21/86 Height: 6’3, Weight: 190

Byers is one of the biggest surprises of the 2006-07 season. A big forward with an aggressive game, Byers was not a prolific scorer in junior hockey. However, when he was put on a line with Callahan and Brandon Dubinsky earlier this season, he blossomed. Since the line was broken up (because of Callahan’s promotion to the NHL), Byers continues to put the puck in the net  and ast week he had his first professional hat  trick.

Byers potential is become a second line power forward, who can crash the net and get dirty goals from in front of the net. He skates well and has good passing skills, making him an excellent winger on a high-scoring line.

10. (8) Lauri Korpikoski, LW Rating : 7.0C
Team: Hartford Wolf Pack (AHL)
Acquired: Draft, 1st Round, 19th overall, 2004
DOB: 7/28/86 Height: 6’1, Weight: 190

This is Korpikoski’s first full season playing in North America, and it has been quite an adjustment. Used primarily in a defensive role this season, both at even strength and on the penalty kill, Korpikoski did not often play on a line with offensively-minded skaters.

With some real offensive abilities that thus far have not been tapped, Korpikoski is an excellent skater with a quick release on his shot. Over time it is hoped that Korpikoski will play a more offensively-minded game.

11. (NR) Daniel Girardi, D Rating 6.5 A
Team: New York Rangers
Acquired: Free Agent
DOB: 4/29/84 Height: 6’2, Weight: 200

After playing junior hockey for three OHL teams in four seasons, Girardi appeared to be destined for a minor league hockey career at best. Always solid in his own zone, he was not flashy in his play, and was not selected in either of the entry draft years in which he was eligible.

However, Girardi is a incredibly hard worker, and based on his steady play was signed to an AHL contract last season. After an excellent rookie season in both Charlotte (ECHL) and Hartford, the Rangers signed Girardi to an NHL this past summer. When injuries befell the Rangers this winter, the team called upon Girardi, who plays a very smart game in his own end. The recently named fan favorite Rangers’ rookie, Girardi has played very solidly in the second and third defensive pairings over his last two months in the NHL.

12. (15) Tom Pyatt, C Rating: 6.5B
Team: Saginaw Spirit (OHL)
Acquired: Draft, 4th Round, 107th overall, 2005
DOB: 2/14/87 Height: 5’11 Weight: 180

Until this season, Pyatt has always been thought of as a defensive-minded forward. Solid along the boards, excellent on face-offs with good hockey sense and good bloodlines, Pyatt was considered to be an excellent third-line prospect.

But during the 2006-07 campaign, Pyatt showed that he is capable of excellent offensive production and thus could become a second-line player. During the regular season, the 20-year-old recorded 81 points in 58 games, while only accumulating 18 PIM and maintaining a +33 rating. Already signed to an ATO with the Wolf Pack this past week, Pyatt is expected to become a regular member of the team next fall.

13. (7) Artem Anisimov, C Rating: 7.5D
Team: Yaroslavl Lokomotiv (Europe)
Acquired: Draft, 2nd Round, 54th overall, 2006
DOB: 5/24/88 Height: 6’4, Weight: 176

After a very good performance for Team Russia in the 2007 World Junior Cup in Sweden, Anisimov returned to Yaroslavl Lokomotiv of the Russian Super League and was less impressive. A tall slim playmaker, Anisimov needs to bulk up and play a more aggressive game.

Hoping to come to North America next season, if all the logistics can be arranged, Anisimov is a good skater with excellent puckhandling skills, whose top potential lies somewhere between the first and second lines.

14. (10) Hugh Jessiman, RW  Rating:7.5D
Team: Hartford Wolf Pack (AHL)
Acquired: Draft, 1st Round, 12th overall, 2003
DOB: 3/28/84 Height: 6’6, Weight: 235

It is no secret that Jessiman has struggled thus far in his professional career. After a short collegiate career, marred by injury, the big winger turned pro prior to the 2005-06 season. After a disappointing campaign, during which he played a large number of games with the Charlotte Checkers of the ECHL, Jessiman began this season with high hopes of a better outcome. Thus far, however, he has not significantly produced at the AHL level. He was very productive during the time he spent with Charlotte this season and he does appear much stronger on the puck than he has been in the past, but no one can deny that his lack of production is worrisome.

While it is doubtful that Jessiman will achieve his first or second line potential, it is too early to completely write him off. A very smart player, who has become much stronger with and without the puck, Jessiman still needs to work on finishing and maturing both on and off the ice. Although some have grown impatient with Jessiman’s progress, it is still possible for him to become a regular NHL player.

15. (12) Tomas Pock, D  Rating: 6.5A
Team: New York Rangers (NHL)
Acquired: Free Agent
DOB: 12/2/81 Height: 6’2, Weight: 208

Pock has become a regular NHL player, although he can hardly be called a mainstay on the Rangers’ blueline. A former collegiate forward converted to a defenseman, Pock has had a difficult time adjusting to his role along the blueline. Still prone to positional errors, Pock has improved his game sufficiently over the last year so that he can play in the team’s third pairing without too many problems, but he does not seem to have sufficient defensive instincts to progress beyond that.

16. (13) Ivan Baranka, D  Rating: 6.5B
Team: Hartford Wolf Pack (AHL)
Acquired: Draft, 2nd Round, 50th overall, 2003
DOB: 5/19/85 Height: 6’3, Weight: 205

Despite the fact that this is the third season that Baranka is appearing in the Wolf Pack uniform, it is important to remember that he is still only 21 years old. After joining Hartford for its playoff run in 2005, Baranka effectively only began his AHL career last season. The problem with this smooth-skating, offensive defenseman is that both of his professional seasons have been cut short by hand injuries. Presently out with a thumb injury, Baranka has not played since the middle of March.

Although Baranka may be able to play in the second pairing, his progress has been severely impeded by his injuries over the last two seasons. He has the size and the raw skills to reach his potential, however, it is not at all clear that he will be able to remain healthy enough to do so.

17. (9) Michael Sauer, D  Rating: 6.5C
Team: Medicine Hat Tigers (WHL)
Acquired: Draft, 2nd Round, 40th overall, 2005
DOB: 8/7/87 Height: 6’4  Weight: 205

Playing healthy for the first season in awhile, Sauer has had an up and down year. The big blueliner began the 2006-07 campaign as a member of the Portland Winter Hawks, one of the worst teams in the league. Often the best player on the ice for the hapless team, Sauer’s numbers suffered as a result of being on Portand’s roster. This past January, he was traded to the much better Medicine Hat team and his plus/minus improved accordingly.

A solid defenseman who has some offensive abilities but can really shut down the opposition when on his game, Sauer’s progress has been slowed by several injuries over the last two years.

18. (17) Brodie Dupont, C  Rating: 6.5C
Team: Calgary Hitmen (WHL)
Acquired: Draft, 3rd Round, 66th overall, 2005
DOB: 2/17/87 Height: 6’2  Weight: 206

Dupont has had an outstanding 2006-07 season. Always an excellent puckhandler, with an aggressive edge, Dupont has now showed that he is a prolific scorer too. With 70 points (37 goals, 33 assists) in as many regular season games, 90 PIM and a +23 plus/minus rating, Dupont is certain to find his way to Hartford next fall.

Dupont can play in all situations and is not afraid to take it to his opposition. Good on the forecheck and strong on the puck, the big center is expected to be either a third or second liner over time. 

19. (NR) Tomas Zaborsky, LW  Rating: 7.5D
Team: Saginaw Spirit (OHL)
Acquired: Draft, 5th Round, 137th overall, 2006
DOB: 11/14/87 Height: 5’11, Weight: 181

Zaborsky is a sniper, with good on-ice vision and excellent wheels. In addition, he knows how to take care of his own end. In his first year of North American play, the Slovakian native registered 43 points in 59 games, was assessed only 18 PIM, and had a plus/minus of +18.

A late 1987 birthday, Zaborsky is eligible to play in the AHL next season. As he was just signed to an ATO contract by Hartford, it is likely that he will see AHL action over the next few weeks. Zaborsky has second line potential and could easily move up in the rankings depending upon his play in the next few months.

20. (14) Greg Moore, RW  Rating: 6.0B 
Team: Hartford Wolf Pack (AHL)
Acquired: March 6, 2004 Trade with Calgary Flames
Drafted: 5th Round, 143rd overall, 2003
DOB: 3/26/84  Height: 6’1, Weight: 225

Moore is an excellent defensive forward, who is currently a third-line winger for the Wolf Pack. A penalty-kill expert, Moore plays a very smart, technical, north-south game, which almost garnered the final roster spot on the NHL Rangers last fall. Not a flashy player, Moore is consistent and hard working and expected to become a third-line NHL winger within the next one to two years.

Copyright 2007 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.