The New York Rangers have been a team that has been chasing a Stanley Cup the last several years with Henrik Lundqvist as the backbone of the team. The Rangers had several good runs but came up short on Championships, and fuelled these runs with trading away draft picks and prospects to help bolster the roster with veteran help.
This year the Rangers took the opposite approach at the trade deadline as they took the role of sellers and added picks and prospects. Heading into the 2018 Draft, they own three first-round picks and have two picks in the second and third round with a total of ten picks.
The added prospects shake up the ranking and with current youngsters graduated from prospect ranks such as Pavel Buchnevich, Jimmy Vesey, Brady Skjei, and Anthony DeAngelo.
There are young player in the system and the Rangers continue to build to replenish the pipeline further. While the immediate future may be one step back, the long-term future looks more like two steps forward.
2017-18 Top Ten New York Rangers Prospects
1. Lias Andersson, C – Hartford (AHL)
Drafted: Seventh overall in the first round of the 2017 draft by New York
Perhaps the Rangers future Captain, Andersson was the Captain for Team Sweden at the World Junior scoring six goals and seven points in seven games and leading Sweden to a Silver Medal, which he immediately threw away into the stands after being presented with it. His compete level and drive to win is commendable and translates into his game. Andersson may not have the elite high skill level many top-ranked prospects obtain, and his offensive ceiling may not be that high, but his path to the NHL could be as short as the start of next season.
2. Filip Chytil, C/LW – Hartford (AHL)
Drafted: 21st overall in the first round of the 2017 draft by New York
The Rangers picked two players in the first round of the 2017 Draft in Andersson and Chytil and both went straight to the AHL as rookies from the draft. Chytil has also made his NHL debut this season playing in two games, but his most impressive performance may have been with the Czech Republic at the World Junior where his line was dominant at times and he posted four points in seven games. Chytil has had an impressive development year posting 30 points as an 18-year-old AHL rookie and has added an inch and 12 pounds onto his frame since his draft measurements at 6-1 and 178 pounds. With the Rangers youth movement in full effect, look for Chytil to make the jump to the NHL as soon as the end of this season as Hartford is not a playoff bound team.
3. Igor Shesterkin, G – SKA St. Petersburg (KHL)
Drafted: 118th overall in the fourth round of the 2014 draft by New York
The future successor in the Rangers crease to Henrik is Shesterkin, who is dominating in the KHL. The 23-year-old was the backup for the Russian Olympic team winning Gold, and his season stats are incredible with a 1.7 GAA and a .933 SVS%. The problem is he signed a three year contract extension in 2016 that will keep him in Russia through the end of the 2018-19 season. That gives the Rangers on more year with Lundqvist as the incumbent, likely followed by a split season and then look for Shesterkin to take the reins.
4. Libor Hajek, D – Regina (WHL)
Drafted: 37th overall in the second round of the 2016 draft by Tampa
Hajek is a prospect that is trending up quickly. He finished last year in the AHL playing in eight games with Syracuse and carried that momentum into the Bolts rookie camp where he was a standout. His preseason play earned him consideration to make the NHL and forego his final year of junior. Ultimately he was sent back to the WHL and has been traded to the Memorial Cup hosts Regina Pats where he will have another opportunity to play in some big and meaningful games. Hajek continued his breakout with the Czech Republic at the World Junior where he was the top scoring defenseman in the tournament with eight points in seven games. Hajek will make his full time pro debut to start next season and likely breaks into the AHL as a rookie. Hajek should be viewed as a cornerstone prospect and future top pairing defenseman.
5. Brett Howden, C – Moose Jaw (WHL)
Drafted: 27th overall in the first round of the 2016 draft by Tampa
Another key player acquired from Tampa in the Ryan McDonagh trade, and a potential future Captain for the Rangers. Howden is having a tremendous season with the Warriors in the WHL posting 75 points in 49 games as team captain and another seven in seven games for Canada at the World Junior helping them to a Gold Medal. As Captain of the top team in the WHL, Howden will be looking for a long playoff run and hopefully a Memorial Cup appearance. Howden will be a rookie in the AHL next year as the Hartford should be receiving some talented reinforcements.
6. Ty Ronning, RW – Vancouver (WHL)
Drafted: 201st overall in the seventh-round of the 2016 draft by New York
The Rangers recently signed their seventh-round pick from the ’16 draft. The undersized winger and son of former long-time NHL player Cliff Ronning is having a breakout season in his final year of junior posting 61 goals and 84 points in 70 games for the Giants. The only knock on his game is his size. He plays a highly competitive game, with speed, smarts and skill. The Rangers found a great value pick in Ronning and he will be another player making the jump to the pro ranks next year in the AHL where he will try to translate his success in junior to the pro level.
7. Sean Day, D – Kingston (OHL)
Drafted: 81st overall in the third round of the 2016 draft by New York
Day has the ingredients to be a dominant NHL defenseman. He is a elite skater that has an explosive first step and superb mobility. Combined with his size he can carry the puck up ice in dominating fashion at the junior level and he has the skill and vision to carry that effectiveness to the pro level as well. His compete level can fall under question at times, as can his decision making as he is a high risk player that sometimes gets burned. Day was acquired last season by Windsor for their Memorial Cup Championship run and this season was dealt to Kingston where he will try to lead the Fronts to the Memorial Cup for the first time.
8. Ryan Lindgren, D – University of Minnesota (NCAA)
Drafted: 49th overall in the second round of the 2016 draft by Boston
Acquired in the Rick Nash trade, Lindgren gives the Rangers a potential future defensive defenseman. While the NHL is a home for offensive defensemen more and more, there is still a role for a solid defensive defenseman that can skate and has size. Lindgren was named to the USA World Junior roster for two seasons and won Gold in 2017. Lindgren gives the Rangers another character player and leader for the future. With two years of college eligibility remaining his resume is impressive enough to warrant serious contract offers from the Rangers to make the transition to the pro game sooner than later and avoid any potential loss to free agency.
9. John Gilmour, D – Hartford (AHL)
Drafted: 198th overall in the seventh round of the 2013 draft by Calgary
After playing out his full four years of NCAA eligibility with Providence College, the Rangers signed Gilmour as a free agent in 2016 and he played his rookie pro season in the AHL with Hartford. In his sophomore season he has been recalled to the NHL and played in a total of 18 games, posting his first four career points. Gilmour has been very impressive in his brief audition and the 25-year-old has not looked out of place either defending, or carrying the puck up the ice in transition. The departure of McDonagh and Girardi, the injury to Kevin Shattenkirk and some disappointing play of other veterans have opened the door for players like Gilmour and Neil Pionk, and they have not disappointed.
10. Vinni Lettieri, RW – Hartford (AHL)
Drafted: Signed as a Free Agent in 2017
A year ago the Rangers signed Lettieri as a free agent after he played out his four year NCAA career with the University of Minnesota. He played in the final nine games of the AHL season in Hartford with just one point. Playing those games may have prepared him well for his rookie season as he has been one of the Wolf Packs top players scoring 17 goals and 28 points in 44 games. His strong play in the AHL earned him a call-up to make his NHL debut in December where he scored his first career goal against Detroit. Lettieri is not likely more than a bottom six player with limited upside but he has proven to be a potential NHL player that is ready now.
Honorable mention to Neil Pionk, Adam Huska, Tim Gettinger, Ryan Gropp, and Yegor Rykov.