Under former GM Jeff Gorton, the New York Rangers enjoyed a rapid rebuild where the organization quickly reloaded the prospect pool. The team endured some losing seasons but got some lottery luck as well and selected Alexis Lafreniere first over all in 2020 and Kappo Kakko second overall in 2019.
Outside of their two lottery picks, Gorton did an outstanding job of amassing draft picks. In the last five drafts the Rangers selected nine first round picks (four in the top ten), and 42 selections overall. Time will tell if the Rangers spent their draft currency well.
Despite the rapid rebuild, the Rangers failed to qualify for the playoffs in 2021 which resulted in a change in management and coaching. New GM Chris Drury made the team tougher in his first offseason but has embraced the youth movement with a young core around Lafreniere and Kakko, Norris Trophy winner Adam Fox and star goalie Igor Shesterkin. The young future core is supported by a veteran cast including Russian superstar Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad, and Chris Kreider.
The Rangers have recent graduates contributing to the roster as well with Filip Chytil, K’Andre Miller, and Julien Gauthier all getting regular deployment with the big club. While the early returns of top picks Lafrenière and Kakko have left fans and management wanting more from them, their future remains promising. The future stars should have plenty of support along the way from this young pool of prospects.
2021-22 Top 10 New York Rangers Prospects
- Nils Lundkvist, D Hartford Wolf Pack (AHL)
Drafted: 2018 round one, 28th overall by New York Rangers
After all the recent prospect graduations to the Rangers lineup, Lundkvist has moved into the top-ranking position. The Swedish defender nearly graduated himself after making the Rangers in his first season in North America, but after 25 games in the NHL, he has been moved down to the AHL for some more development time. Last year in the SHL with Lulea as a 20-year-old Lundkvist posted a league leading 14 goals by defenseman and won the Salming Trophy as the SHL Defenseman of the Year.
Lundkvist is a smooth skating offensive defenseman. He is quick to join the rush and can run a power play. He deploys a heavy, accurate shot and combines deception in his intentions well. Lundkvist fakes shots to open other passing or shooting opportunities effectively. He can stretch the ice well with long breakout passes to create offensive transition from his own end.
At 5-10 he is short, but not weak or thin as he has a 187-pound frame. Lundkvist could use some development in his defensive game and play a more physical role, but these deficiencies are minor and overshadowed by his offensive abilities.
The emergence of Adam Fox as a team leading scorer has allowed the Rangers to be patient with the development of Lundkvist, but potential of these two as the pillars on the blueline could be elite.
- Braden Schneider, D – Harford Wolf Pack (AHL)
Drafted: 2020 round one, 19th overall by New York Rangers
After a breakout season in the WHL, the Rangers selected Schneider with a late first round pick. Since then, his trajectory has skyrocketed despite the COVID shortened season. Schneider started his D+1 year at the WJC with Canada. There, he posted three points and 25 penalty minutes in six games as a physical defensive defenseman and helping Canada Win Gold. Following that, he returned to the WHL as Captain of the Brandon Wheat Kings and scored over a point per game with 27 points in 22 games in a short season.
Following the conclusion of his junior career, he signed a PTO to have a cup of coffee in the AHL where in two games he recorded his firs career pro point. Schneider finished the season winning Silver back with Canada at the World Championship. As a first-year pro he has been a force on the Wolf Pack using his size and skill to make an impact on both sides of the puck. His play in the AHL has earned him a four game NHL recall and he scored his first career NHL goal.
While Schneider lacks the offensive upside of Adam Fox or Nils Lundkvist, he brings a very valuable all-around game. His defensive play is excellent. He has size plays physically, but not recklessly. In time, Schneider should develop into a versatile middle pairing defenseman that can play a lot of minutes and play on the second power play unit as well as the PK unit.
- Zac Jones, D – Hartford Wolf Pack (AHL)
Drafted: 2019 round 3, 68th overall by New York Rangers
Jones is a rapidly rising prospect in the Rangers system. After being selected in the third round after a breakout season in the USHL with Tri-City Storm, Jones committed to the NCAA and tried to replace Cale Makar as the offensive leader on the blue line for the Minutemen. He was successful as he led the team in defense scoring with 23 points in 32 games as a freshman, and was named to the USA WJC roster. Jones stock continued to rise in his sophomore season scoring nine goals and 24 points in 29 games with UMass.
The Rangers signed him to his ELC after he helped lead his team to a NCAA Championship and he played well in ten games recording three points. Following the season Jones was named to Team USA for the World Championship where he recorded another three points in ten games helping USA win the Bronze Medal and being named a Top Three Player on Team USA. In his first full pro season Jones began in the AHL but has recently enjoyed a three game NHL recall before returning to the AHL.
Jones is a very effective offensive player that can create transition and quarterback a power play. The left shot defender is a little undersized, which can be a liability defensively, and his skating is average at the NHL level. With Adam Fox, Nils Lundkvist, Jacob Trouba, and K’Andre Miller all vying for ice time the competition for offensive minutes will be tough.
- Brennan Othmann, LW – Flint Firebirds (OHL)
Drafted: 2021 round one, 16th overall by New York Rangers
With no OHL to play in his draft year, the dual Canada and Swiss citizen found ice time in Switzerland in the SL men’s league. In 34 games with EHC Olten, he scored seven goals and 16 points. His performance with Canada at the U-18 was impressive as was reunited with his Don Mills Flyers center Shane Wright in a top-six role. He posted six points in seven games to help Canada to the Gold. Back in the OHL for his D+1 season, the Scarborough native has been dominant with 27 goals and 53 points through the first 33 games while sporting the “A” on his jersey.
Othmann is a throwback power winger. He uses his size to drive the play to the net and is a high-volume shooter. Since his draft his game has developed from a supporting offensive scorer to a more complete offensive player. His passing and offensive reads have seen marked improvement. His skating has also improved, but still needs development to be average at the NHL level. The big winger plays with a high compete level, plays physically and is projecting as a top-six winger. His floor is likely only as low as a middle to bottom six winger, but is trending towards a NHL player either way.
- Vitali Kravtsov, RW – Traktor Chelyabinsk (KHL)
Drafted: 2018 round one, 9th overall by New York Rangers
Kravtsov has become a divisive prospect in the Rangers system. Since his draft his stock has risen and fallen as he bounces back and forth between the KHL and North America. The late start to the 2020-21 season worked in his favor as it allowed Kravtsov to return to the KHL with Traktor where he played well with 16 goals and 24 points in 49 games. When his KHL playoffs ended, he was recalled to the NHL where he played 20 games but only managed four points in a middle six role with limited power play time.
Heading into the 2021-22 season it was expected he would take a step up the depth chart, but rather he requested a trade and was loaned back to the KHL. Kravtsov has proven to be a consistent KHL scorer but has failed to find success at the NHL level.
He has good size and strength, above average puck skills and his best weapon is his shot, particularly his one-timer. Where he lacks is his skating. He’s an average skater that lacks separation speed. Kravtsov’s reads seem to be reactionary or even slow for the NHL pace. A future trade to a new organization may be the opportunity he needs for a fresh start and a second chance to realize his potential as a top-six offensive winger.
- Matthew Robertson, D – Hartford Wolf Pack (AHL)
Drafted: 2019 round two, 49th overall by New York Rangers
The Rangers pipeline is flush with defenseman, but many of the are offensively natured. While Robertson offers some offensive upside, as he was a point per game player in his final season in the WHL with the Edmonton Oil Kings, his forte is on the defensive side of the puck.
Robertson is an advanced defensive player for his age. He combines heady reads and anticipation with his mobility, reach and size to great effect. The Edmonton native defends well on the rush by denying lanes to the net and forcing attackers wide. He plays a physical game but does not chase hits putting himself out of position. In zone he anticipates passes and denies lanes with an active stick and is not averse to blocking shots.
Robertson is making his pro debut in the AHL as a rookie with six points through his first 30 games. He projects as a probable NHL defender despite the Rangers depth on defense. Robertson may never be an offensive contributor at the NHL level, but his defensive game suggests he could be a regular bottom-six player.
- Will Cuylle, LW – Windsor Spitfires (OHL)
Drafted: 2020 round two, 60th overall by New York Rangers
After a monster OHL rookie season where Cuylle scored 26 goals and 41 points in 63 games with 50 penalty minutes, he was a top prospect for the 2020 draft. His second season failed to see much development which was a bit of a red flag and had him eventually drop to the second round where the Rangers snagged him with a late pick at No. 60.
With no OHL to play in for his D+1 season he was limited to just 18 games in the AHL where he posted five points in what was a bit of a wasted development season. With his stock falling he has rebounded well back in the OHL for his final season in Windsor. The Toronto native has 23 goals and 37 points in 27 games and has been named team captain. His strong play earned him a roster spot with Canada at the WJC where he played a physical energy role and managed two points in two games before the cancellation of the tournament.
Cuylle uses his advanced size and strength to enforce his will on the play, that advantage will not translate to pro hockey as the competition will be as big and strong as he is. Cuylle has an arsenal of shots that are all dangerous. He can shoot from range and is dangerous in close as well. He can snipe a quick wrister from the slot, or bang in greasy goals as a net front presence. Cuylle plays a very physical game and forces the opposition to take notice when he is on the ice. He has the upside to be an impactful power winger with offensive upside or be an effective checking line winger as a floor.
- Brett Berard, LW – Providence College (NCAA)
Drafted: 2020 round five, 134th overall by New York Rangers
The Rangers may have drafted a first or second round talent in fifth with Brett Berard. The highly skilled offensive winger was third in team scoring in his draft year on the US National team behind Thomas Bordeleau and Matthew Beniers with 34 points in 41 games.
Since his draft he has committed to Providence in the NCAA. As a freshman he played in a top-six role while producing good, but modest point totals with 10 points in 19 games. His play earned him a roster spot with Team USA at the 2021 WJC and he produced five points in seven games helping win the Gold Medal. Back with the Friars as a sophomore, he has started to dominate offensively with 13 goals and 28 points through the first 25 games.
So why did he fall so far on draft day? He is very small. Not just short at 5-9, but he is also very slight weighing only 154 pounds. His skating is good but not very explosive or fast. The size is proving to be less of an issue in the NHL these days, and his skating is showing improvement. Berard has a high-octane motor that drives his game offensively and defensively. He drives puck possession and is a duel offensive threat to make plays or score goals.
If he makes the NHL, it will be as a high impact top-six winger, as he would not be a good fit for a bottom six role. He may need a few more years of development in the NCAA and the AHL before he is a legit contender for a roster position with the Rangers.
- Morgan Barron, C/LW – Hartford Wolf Pack (AHL)
Drafted: 2017 round six, 174th overall by New York Rangers
The Rangers have been patient slow cooking Morgan Barron since his draft in 2017. Barron spent three seasons at Cornell University in the NCAA and showed steady development during his career. His final season was as team captain, and he recorded 14 goals and 32 points in 29 games with Big Red.
2020-21 was his rookie pro season and he had a great debut in the AHL scoring 10 goals and 21 points in 21 games. He even earned a up of coffee in the NHL with a five-game glimpse and recording his first career NHL goal. Barron has seen his offensive production slide as a sophomore with 12 points in 20 games with the Wolf Pack but earned another NHL recall.
The big forward is close to NHL ready but likely is destined as a bottom six forward. Barron is a bit of a jack of all and master of none. His shot is hard, but he lacks NHL quickness. He has enough offensive skill to be a complimentary player and adds value as a defensively capable player that can kill penalties. His versatility should earn him a regular NHL job in the near future.
- Dylan Garand, G – Kamloops Blazers (WHL)
Drafted: 2020 round four, 103rd overall by New York Rangers
With Igor Shesterkin just beginning his reign as the Rangers franchise starting goalie, the road to the NHL will be a long one for Garand. Last year Garand moved the needle in a positive direction in his prospect stature and development. Starting his season with Canada at the WJC, he only played in one game, but making the team is a feather in his cap to be sure.
When the WHL resumed he posted strong numbers with the Blazers with a 15-3-0 record and 2.15 GAA and .921 SV%. When his WHL season ended, he signed a PTO with the Wolf Pack and played in two AHL games. Garand was again named to Team Canada at the 2022 WJC and again only played in one game before the tournament was cancelled.
In his final junior season, his numbers and play have improved and so his stock has risen accordingly as the organization’s top goalie prospect. Garand lacks the size NHL teams covet in a goalie, but at 6-1 it is not a hinderance. He is a sound positional goalie, with excellent rebound control and composure.