Thursday, May 19, 2011

Rangers Seventh in Hockey's Future Organizational Rankings

Over the past few seasons the New York Rangers have shown on the ice that their system has gotten better both in drafting and developing prospects with the likes of Anisimov, Stepan, McDonagh, and Sauer joining the NHL regulars.  Respect for what in the system continues to grow as well.  Hockey’s Future put out their annual Organizational Rankings, and the New York Rangers were ranked at 7, which is an improvement from last year’s number 9 position.  What makes the improvement in the rankings even more impressive is that Stepan and Sauer are no longer in the rankings, though McDonagh and Zuccarello are still eligible to be ranked given games played.
In the rankings HF had the following to say about the Rangers system…
Strengths: The Rangers have excellent forward prospects, led by 2009 first round draft selection Chris Kreider. In addition to three diminutive snipers, including Chris Thomas, Ryan Bourque and Mats Zuccarello, the Rangers also have Carl Hagelin and Roman Horak, each of whom is expected to be a third-line contributor. New York's recent drafting and one trade with Montreal in 2009 have also brought some excellent defensive prospects into the organization, with Ryan McDonagh already contributing at the NHL level, and Pavel Valentenko and Tomas Kundratek no more than a year away. 
Weaknesses: The Rangers are weak in goaltending prospects, with only two free agents and a junior netminder in the organization. None of those netminders projects to be a number one goaltender in the NHL, and there are questions whether any of them will even be able to serve as an NHL backup in the coming years.
With the Rangers offensive inconsistency it is encouraging to see their forwards listed as the strength of the prospect core.  Chris Kreider, who was ranked first, and Christian Thomas, ranked third, are the only two of the group that are likely to be consistent top six forwards in the NHL, but there are plenty of other forwards that can be solid NHL contributors for the Blueshirts.
The goaltending prospect issue is somewhat of a concern for down the road, but Talbot and Stajcer have potential and the problem is not likely to be an issue until after next year when Biron is a free agent and the Rangers possibly need another backup goaltender.

Rangers Sign Christian Thomas To 3-Year Deal

The New York Rangers continue to sign their young prospects to entry-level contracts by adding another to the fold.  According to Nick Kypreos via twitter  the latest prospect to sign with the Rangers is 2010 second round pick Christian Thomas.  I predicted that Thomas would get signed two months ago when I posed whether he could be in the NHL as early as next season.  Thomas was utterly dominant in the OHL this season for the Oshawa Generals where he recorded 54 goals, 45 assists in just 66 regular season games.  If possible he raised his level even more in the playoffs with nine goals and 10 assists in just 10 games.

With the Rangers lack of snipers on the roster do not be at all surprised if Thomas is given every chance to make the club this fall.  The combination of having nothing to prove in Juniors and the Rangers need for offensive weapons gives him a good shot at the team.  If he is not ready, then he will go back to Juniors because he is not eligible to be in the AHL next season.  Given that he is ineligible for the AHL next year, the decision to sign him was a no-brainer for the Rangers as he would not count against the contract count or lose any years on his entry-level deal if he goes back to the OHL.