The New York Rangers announced three seasons ago a commitment to rebuild and finish second on my top 31 list shows they have truly seen the rebuild through. The Rangers also jump-started their rebuild by adding the likes of Jacob Trouba and Artemi Panarin, making them a potential competitor for an NHL playoff spot this season.
A handful of the Rangers’ top ten prospects began this season in the NHL, with the top three already looking like regulars. The Rangers were very close to finishing first on my list and barely missed the cut-off in my ranking system by just a few points. Without further ado, here are my top 10 New York Rangers’ prospects.
1. W Alexis Lafreniere 6’2 193 NHL 10-1-0-1-2
Lafreniere has had a bit of a rough start to his season. He has shown flashes of the brilliance that made him the first overall pick in the draft, but at times has struggled with transitions and the change in speed between leagues. That being said, there is no doubt in my mind he is an elite talent and will eventually grow accustomed to the NHL. He is a top-line, play-driving winger who will likely be a point-per-game player sooner rather than later.
2. G Igor Shesterkin 6’2 182 NHL 7 2.35 GAA, .913 SV%
The Rangers’ have struggled as a team this season, and so has Igor Shesterkin a bit after he took the league by storm last season. Regardless, there is little doubt about Shesterkin’s talent. After tearing up the KHL, Shesterkin has shown elite reflexes and positioning, which led to his early success in the NHL last season. Shesterkin is both the goalie of the present and the future for the Rangers. He will be a bonafide, number one goalie at the NHL level by season’s end and could find himself in the Vezina conversation in a few seasons.
3. D K’Andre Miller 6’5 210 NHL 10-1-3-4-4
Miller was the surprise of the Rangers’ camp and hasn’t looked out of place, scoring his first NHL goal recently. At over 6’3, Miller uses his size well to protect the puck and has a great active stick. What makes MIller’s game stand out the most is his speed, in particular his top speed. Miller can fly and has an effortless stride. He looks like a potential top-pairing defender at the NHL and he is already playing top-four minutes for the Rangers.
4. D Nils Lundkvist 5’10 174 SWEHL (2021 stats) 39-9-14-23-16
Lundkvist may have a higher ceiling than Miller, but he is likely a year away from NHL duty. Lundkvist scored 11 goals in Sweden’s top league last season, an amazing feat for a player of his age. He is an excellent puck mover and can quarterback a powerplay. While small in stature, Lundkvist uses his speed and quick stick to break up plays and is decent at positioning in the defensive zone. He does need some work on defensive awareness. He is likely a year away at minimum from NHL duty. He projects as a top-four defender at the NHL level and will play in all situations.
5. W Vitali Kravtsov 6’3 190 KHL (2021 stats) 45-15-8-23-12
Kravtsov has been hard to evaluate at times. He has played in many leagues over the past two seasons, and his offense has struggled in both Russia and the AHL. During his draft year, Kravtsov looked like he had a high offensive ceiling, but there have been some questions of that lately. Overall, Kravtsov is a highly skilled complementary scorer. He may not drive a line on his own, but he has the talent to contribute in the Rangers’ top six. He will likely start next season on the Rangers in a support role.
6. D Braden Schneider 6’2 202 WHL (2019-2020 stats) 60-7-35-42-42
I questioned the Rangers’ pick of Schneider at 19 in the 2020 draft, but after a great World Junior Championship, Schneider showed he may have a higher ceiling than I previously thought. More of a throw-back, stay-at-home type, Schneider looked limited offensively and at times struggled last season in transition with the puck. Though he hasn’t played this season outside the World Junior Championship, Schneider showed a strong two-way skill set and didn’t look out of place handling the puck. Schneider is unlikely to be a 40 point player at the NHL level, but he does look like a solid second-pairing option who will thrive on the penalty kill. He is likely three years away from NHL duty.
7. D Zac Jones 5’10 172 HE (2021 stats) 19-5-11-16-4
Hailing from Virginia (a rarity for NHL prospects), Zac Jones has had a stellar start to his NCAA career. After posting 23 points as a freshman last year in HE, he is averaging just under a point-per-game this season. Jones is a pure offensive defenseman. He thrives on the powerplay and possesses an excellent first pass. Jones makes up for his lack of size with excellent positioning and awareness. He projects as a second-pairing defender at the NHL level. He is likely two to three years away.
8. D Matthew Robertson 6’4 201 WHL (2019-2020) 60-13-34-47-52
Robertson, a second-round pick in 2019, is a two-way defender who uses his frame and size well. Like Schneider, Robertson high-end offense, but he does possess excellent defensive zone coverage and a quick stick, which he uses to break up plays quickly. Robertson’s overall upside is lesser than Schneider’s and is a potential second-pairing defender at the NHL level who will excel on the penalty kill. Robertson will need at least two to three seasons of seasoning before making the NHL jump.
9. W Brett Berard 5’9 152 HE (2021 stats) 10-2-2-4-12
Berard, a fifth-round pick in 2020, had a stellar World Junior Championship and has had an excellent start to his freshman year at Providence College. Berard is a tenacious forechecker and tracks the puck extremely well in the offensive zone. He is an excellent skater and through his aggressive play, creates turnovers in all three zones. Berard has shown in the past he can put up numbers offensively, though it may take a season for two at the NCAA level for the numbers to progress. Berard projects as a middle-six forward, who can move up and down the line-up relatively easily. He reminds me of Zach Hyman on the Toronto Maple Leafs and will play a special teams role whenever he makes the NHL jump. Berard is likely three years away from NHL duty.
10. C Karl Henriksson 5’9 174 SWEHL (2021 stats) 32-0-6-6-16
Henriksson is a bit of a project player, though he is highly skilled and has shown a penchant towards offense in the past. Yet, he has struggled somewhat this season in Sweden’s top league, drawing some questions about his overall upside. Henriksson managed 3 points at the World Junior Championship against his peers, but overall he had a pretty quiet tournament and left me desiring more from his overall game. When at his best, Henriksson uses his quick feet and edges to create space for himself and his teammates. He projects more as a playmaker than a goal-scorer at the NHL level and will most certainly need some seasoning. I expect him to play at least one more season in Sweden before making the North American jump. He is likely three to four years away from NHL duty.