Over the past few years the New York Rangers have committed to rebuilding their prospect system and created a more homegrown team. You see the fruits of that labor at the NHL level of course, but you get a glimpse of the future when your organization plays in a tournament like Traverse City, which kicks off today. The work rebuilding the prospect pipeline has been done through drafting, trading and developing prospects. At the NHL level the team has already seen players like Marc Staal, Ryan Callahan, Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, Derek Stepan and Ryan McDonagh. That list alone is an impressive young group, but there is plenty more to come and soon.
After a season in which the team incorporated rookies like Stepan, Michael Sauer, McDonagh and Mats Zuccarello into the lineup it would be understandable to be down on talent for a tournament like this. The New York Rangers do not have that problem and should be amongst the best teams in the tournament. That fact is thanks to the organization has done rebuilding the system. The Rangers roster boasts all sorts of players that are capable of and willing to play whatever role the team needs from them.
The team has high end prospects in Tim Erixon, Christian Thomas, Dylan McIlrath, and J.T. Miller. There are organizations with more guys that have high ceilings or even players deemed to be better prospects than what the Rangers can put out there, but few have the depth within their ranks that New York possesses. What makes collection of prospect talent even more impressive is that Chris Kreider, Jesper Fasth and Oscar Lindberg aren’t even playing in the tournament.
The squad for this tournament is filled with players that have different individual goals this week, but all have the ultimate goal of becoming New York Rangers as quickly as possible. For prospects like Tim Erixon, Christian Thomas and Carl Hagelin the goal is to plant the seed in the coaching staff’s mind heading into training camp that they will compete for spots on the opening night roster. For Dylan McIlrath it is to continue to show the improvement he has made since last year and prove he was the right choice for the Rangers despite the doubters. For J.T. Miller and his fellow 2011 draftees the tournament is the next step in understanding how tough it is to make it to the NHL as the quality of competition ramps up to another level.
While much of the summer talk involving the New York Rangers and whether they are relevant title contenders again has focused on the acquisition of Brad Richards, the fact remains that without the rebuilding of the prospect system to the point it has been done, signing Richards this summer would have been useless. Richards is an important piece, but the foundation of this team now and for the future is in the prospects and that is what makes a tournament like Traverse City so fun to watch. Enjoy the glimpse of the talent that is to coming into the Rangers organization over the next few years as this new group looks to build their own NHL careers and eventually crack the core of the Blueshirts roster.