Sunday, October 17, 2010

My Top 18 New York Rangers Prospects: Who, Where, Why, Maybe Even When, How They Hit Broadway

Ranger Prospect Rankings Oct 2010

1. Derek Stepan
2. Chris Kreider
3. Ryan Mcdonagh
4. Mats Zuccarello Aasen
5. Evgeny Grachev
6. Ethan Werek
7. Roman Horak
8. Dylan McIlrath
9. Carl Hagelin
10. Christian Thomas
11. Pavel Valentenko
12. Michael Sauer
13. Chad Johnson
14. Tomas Kundratek
15. Ryan Bourque
16. Dale Weise
17. Mikhail Pashnin
18. Andrew Yogan

HM: Scott Stacjer, Brandon Manning, Kelsey Tessier, Jyri Niemi, Cam Talbot

Details of the guys and why I put some where I did inside.

I did one of these on Blueshirt Banter after the HF list came out and for the most part the players are the same, but some of the positions have shifted.  Some of the shifts are large, some small, some due to injury and others either positive or negative signs in their play.  In that list I was tempted to make Derek Stepan the #1 prospect, but I resisted due to the sheer talent upside that Chris Kreider has.  That talent is still immense for Kreider and me putting Stepan 1 is a credit to him more than a slight of Kreider.  Stepan has shown himself tremendously through all the different level this summer; prospect camp, traverse city, training camp, preseason and now the start of the regular season.  To me more than 1 and 2, it is 1A, 1B.

Derek Stepan – When you watch him play the first thing I notice is how often he finds himself in the right spot, the idea that the puck finds him.  Do not mistake me; he has tremendous vision, excellent passing skills, a good shot, all offensive skills you want in a top 6 forward.  With Stepan though you do not have to worry about the other side of the puck as he will play in his defensive zone, while also showing what might be for some unexpected feistiness in standing up for himself and teammates.  Add all of that to the leadership skills and you have a special package.  Only question left is if he is truly a #1 center in his future.  I know after seeing his hat-trick debut all Ranger fans are in love with Stepan and expecting him to be the next big thing.  He will produce, he will play well, he will one day wear a letter on his jersey but I don’t expect huge totals at least not in the goal department.  Personally I see him as #2 behind Artem Anisimov.

Chris Kreider – At 19 he has the physical presence of an NHL guy and all the tools of the prototype power forward.  The first thing that most cite when talking about Kreider is his speed which he showed off in spades last year, but what he proved last year was he could produce against the top competition as he played his best during the 2010 World Junior Championships and from then on to close his Freshman year at BC.  Do no discount the fact he is a winner either since he has a World Junior gold and NCAA title in a year.  This should be his last year at BC with him likely making the Rangers next fall and being a top 15 prospect in the league before next year.  Clear 1st line wing talent.

Tough to Order

After Stepan and Kreider the list becomes a little tricky because it all depends what things as the list maker choose to focus on in terms of comparing them whether it be upside, highest floor, closeness to NHL and so.

Ryan McDonagh – I take Ryan McDonagh as the 3rd best prospect because of all the guys in Hartford right now he is NHL ready, especially on the defensive side.  When you watch McDonagh if you are looking for flashy plays, then you are probably going to be disappointed because while he does take the body, clear the crease and have the ability to chip in some offensively, the best parts of his game are things that defy flashy.  I watch McDonagh and I see a player who is rarely ever out of position, one who never panics with the puck in his own end and one who makes the simple plays, the right plays.  I envision him as a very solid 2nd pair defensive first d who will chip in points at times.

Mats Zuccarello – Zuccarello is a small, speedy winger who has a lot of fight in his game and personality.  He was a huge contributor in the 2nd best league in the World a year ago, while also playing well in the Olympics.  In preseason this year he flashed the passing and creativity skills necessary to play at an NHL level, but his size and strength really seemed to limit his effectiveness.  He has gone down to Hartford and been one of their best including goals in back to back games as of writing this so combing that with the Ranger injuries I would expect he gets a callup soon.  For now a 3rd line wing who has 2nd line talent.

Evgeny Grachev – One of the most exciting and maybe the most frustrating of the Ranger prospects has all the physical tools to be a great player at the NHL level, but is having trouble putting all the skills together.  Last year a struggle was probably inevitable and I would argue he should have spent another year in Juniors working on the rest of his game and his work habits under Stan Butler.  Some will disagree with that saying he had nothing to gain as he dominated, which is an opinion they are entitled to.  When you have questions about your work ethic the last thing that kind of player needs is to struggle because generally the response will be to crater production wise.  I have hope the talent will get put together this year because the talent is still immense, but what worries me is I saw less impact and drive from him this year in preseason that even last year.  The key for Grachev will be getting off to a good start and rebuilding his confidence.  Has 1st or 2nd line talent/potential, where he ends up, I am not as sure.

The Unheralded/Forgotten Prospects

Ethan Werek - Ethan is another guy who would fit into the power forward type description in how he is not afraid of contact, loves the front of the net, bangs on the boards and now he does that with an understanding of both sides of the ice.  Werek had a great year last year improving significantly on his weakest areas and he seems as driven as any prospect I can remember to put on the Ranger sweater.  In defense of all prospects I might have slighted I have not been paying attention to the prospects for all that long.  Coming into camp Werek was fully recovered from the knee injury he suffered at the end of last year and I expected him to make a push, but not earn a spot.  A knee injury in camp put an end to all of that and he was sent back to Kingston, which is not a bad thing seeing as he gets another year under the tutelage of Doug Gilmour.  To this point Werek is showing no signs of being slowed by any injuries of the past as he has 6G 4A in 6 games so far this season.  Werek has 2nd line potential probably on the wing.

Roman Horak – This player is one that from the moment he was drafted in the 5th round of the 2009 draft I had a good feeling about and was intrigued to see develop.  In his play last season he showed at worst he was an excellent faceoff man who was a protypical checking line center that could not only kill penalties but be a threat going the other way.  He scored last year in the WHL, but it was the types of goals he scored that were impressive in scoring short-handed and game winning goals.  To start this year Horak got off on a torrid pace and so far thru 8 games he has 6G and 7A while playing as a first line center in the WHL.  Horak is showing that assuming him to have a ceiling as a 3rd or 4th line center will be to undervalue you him.  He is showing potential to be a 2nd liner and he is far and away the best faceoff man at all associated with the Rangers.  For all those clamoring for the Rangers to go out and sign or trade for a #1 center now or this summer, realize that in a year or two we will have 3 excellent centers in Anisimov, Stepan and Horak as a tremendous home grown trio.

Carl Hagelin – Yes I know McIlrath is next on the list, but he wouldn’t fall into the unheralded/forgotten prospect mold as Hagelin does so Hagelin gets written up first and then we will get back to truck.  With the right now and big name approach to following the Rangers that many have Carl Hagelin is a name most either have never heard of or don’t know much about at least up until his Junior year where he put up 19 G and 31 A.  Hagelin the lone remaining viable prospect from the 07 draft will be a Ranger and he will eventually pair with Roman Horak as a PK pair that will kill penalties and kill other teams going the other way.  Hagelin has become an excellent skater who plays the game with a physicality you don’t always see or expect from Swedish players.  Has 1G 4A in 4 games this year.


Dylan McIlrath – Some might see it as a huge slight to have the 2010 1st rounder all the way down at 8th in the prospect rankings, and maybe it is, but I look at it as a compliment to the quality of the system right now.  The tools are there for Dylan to be a mean nasty first pair D, but it will take a few years to get there and as long as he is not rushed out of necessity as Del Zotto was to have a pp qb, then he will be fine.  Of all the higher level Ranger prospects he is the one who has struggled the most to start the year.  Part of that is probably team related, but also part of it might be seeking to live up to the selection of being the 10th pick by this organization.  I believe he will settle in, play his game and be here probably in 2013.

Christian Thomas – Excellent hands, tremendous shot, good skater.  Concern as always about the size seeing as he is only listed at 5’ 9”.  If there were one guy in the Ranger “pipeline” that the word sniper fit perfectly, it would be Christian Thomas, who potted 41 last year for Oshawa.  As scary as it sounds opponents right now are praying he stops at 41 seeing as he has 10G 5A in 7 games which is good for 8th overall in the OHL in scoring, but 1st in my calculations of points per game among the league leaders.  He will likely use his remaining Junior time, but as the NHL shows over and over if you can score you get a spot somewhere.  This appears to be another 2nd round winner for Gordie Clark and crew.


Pavel Valentenko – showed his nasty/physical side in camp along with huge shot.  Main question mark for me is his speed.

Michael Sauer – Defensive defenseman who is showing he is an NHL caliber D man right now.  Not a lot of upside to be ranked higher.

Chad Johnson – Excellent season a year ago in Hartford along with very solid work when given chances at NHL level.  Seems slightly off in preseason as if he was either lacking some confidence or thinking too much.  Will be very capable NHL backup, could start possibly for some teams.

Tomas Kundratek – Very talented two way D who takes the body and can contribute offensively as has a good shot.

Ryan Bourque – Very talented passer, playmaker and ability to finish.  Feisty player who seems to develop chemistry with line mates very well.  Off to an excellent start this year before being hurt once again.  Question is injuries as much as size, though on some of them the two are interrelated.

Dale Weise – Player I honestly did not think a whole lot of before last year, but has developed into a player with a legit chance to be an NHL contributor.  Call up option with some of the current injuries.

Mikhail Pashnin – 2009 7th round somewhat flyer because there was no guarantee he would ever come over, but seems to have a desire to play in North America.  Likes to take the body even with smallish size.

Andrew Yogan – Very talented 4th round pick in the 2010 draft who seemed to be performing well in the camps until a shoulder injury took him out requiring surgery.  If healthy likely higher up on this list due to talent upside, as his size, enjoyment of contact and skating probably make him a wing down the line.


Scott Stacjer – One of two HM I will talk about in any depth to say that two months ago the talk about Stacjer was if he would be Lafleured and instead he has shut me up at least to start the year by going 7-0 with a 1.86GAA and .943 SV%. If numbers remain anything like that he will climb this list for me.

Brandon Manning (tryout)– Two way, but more offensive defenseman the Rangers brought in as a tryout player this year and attempted to sign to an AHL contract.  Jess over at TheProspectpark has more details on exactly what went down, so check those out, but regardless the Rangers need to get this guy under contract and not let him slip away.  He has 3G 9A in 7 games as a defenseman playing with Roman Horak for the Chilliwack Bruins of the WHL.  IF he was signed he would be much higher on this list.

I am by no means an expert on prospects, this is just my take on them, people like Jess are much more versed in it, but leave your thoughts and maybe he will school me in his as well.  I will update my rankings on the Rangers prospect page probably once a month, but the scoring totals at least once a week.  For the daily recap of performances is where I go myself.


  1. Thanks a lot Mike for the kind words but your list is also points out why these kinds of ranking lists are unfair to use.

    Prospects are all at differing stages of their development so there really is no fair and objective way to view a prospect who is playing in Hartford with someone who is playing in the CHL or measure someone who is playing in the CHL vs someone in the NCAAs.

    Even harder is to say this prospect is better because............. a prospect who has been drafted in 2010 does not have the same tools that one drafted in 2008. The teaching, the speed and the level of opposition changes with each move up the ladder.

    Perhaps a list that takes into account the level of competition one plays in, the envoirnment he comes from and his time as a Ranger prospect would be a more accurate listing of which prospect is better.

    Or maybe one that takes into account how importance his potential is to the future of the Rangers.

    But that is just me.

  2. On the kind words, no thanks are required because it was not intended to be kind just an honest assessment of how I see things while respecting the time and effort you put into your craft to which I think more respect is deserved.

    The rest of your post speaks to why what I said is true because the honest assessment of the flaws you see in the methodology is the same honest assessment I expect when I either ask you a question about a prospect or read your reviews of their play.

    The ranking system felt natural or maybe customary is more accurate because things can feel easier to understand when there is an "order" to them. I understand and share your concerns about how different leagues, years and points of development probably make any such list in a sense a fool's errand. In my attempt at the list I tried to factor in many of those things, some possibly better than others, though potential/upside garnered more mental focus unless it was a close call and then proximity to the "bigs."

    One clarifying I wish I had made was to say that whatever the rankings were it was in no way a guide to the actual impact a player might have down the line for the Rangers. I am brought to think about the highly thought of guys who busted and then guys like Girardi who never makes a list, but has shown his value where it matters most.

    Each player on or not talked about has their strengths and weaknesses as does the club they play on and the ones they will advance to. It is why some players are rushed to fill a need on a club, while others are allowed to develop longer or even blocked if the need is not there. It is also the different strengths and the voids they could potentially fill on the club that makes comparing them directly difficult because it leads to a subjective assessment of which need is greater.

    Maybe a grouping system based on strengths without numerical rankings would be better or maybe scrapping that idea altogether now that an overview understanding of players "in the system" exists what should follow in the future would be individual profiles that see where a player is, where they have come from in development, where they still have to get better and what that might say about where they could end up.

    Thanks for the perspective, appreciated as always.