Yesterday, Hockey’s Future published the Fall Top 20 of Rangers’ prospects (find it here: http://www.hockeysfuture.com/articles/13249/erixon_and_miller_join_a_talented_group_of_prospects_for_the_new_york_rangers/), and I noticed that there has been very little discussion of it. So, I wonder are we all basically in agreement or am I so far off base in everyone’s mind, they are not even bothering to comment.
The blog gives me the opportunity for some explanations, so I thought with a slow news day, I would throw a few thoughts out there.
First, Ryan McDonagh and Mats Zuccarello are prospects by HF’s standards, so even though they have played quite a few game sin the NHL, they remain eligible for the list. The will remain eligible until they each have appeared in 65 NHL games.
I struggled with several of the top players. In my mind, Kreider is hands down the organization’s number one prospect. After Kreider though, things are wide open. Thomas is ranked number two, because he has first line potential, but he is far from a certainty in that role. At this point, he can be anywhere from an elite player to a minor leaguer. But after Kreider, Thomas has the highest upside in the organization, which is why he is ranked second.
Tim Erixon is ranked third, but really Erixon may not turn out to be as much of an asset on defense as McDonagh is. McDonagh is two years older though, and Erixon, at 20, has already played three years of SEL hockey very successfully. So, I went with Erixon over McDonagh. It’s really hard to tell at this point though which of these two will be more successful in the NHL. Add in McIlrath and the Rangers future on D looks tremendous. I was a little skeptical of this pick in the summer of 2010, and maybe more so after last Fall, but McIlrath has grown in his game so much over the past year, its almost scary. We have Dylan rated this year as a 7.0C (which is why he is ranked sixth), but that might actually be a bit low at this point. McIlrath may really be a 7.5, which would put him in the McDonagh and Erixon category. To say that I have been impressed with McIlrath’s growth would be an understatement. He still makes lots and lots of mistakes, and is not ready for NHL play, but its the growth that really is astounding. What a luxury, to try to decide which of these three deserve to be called the top defensive prospect in the organization.
I have also been very impressed with the play of JT Miller since he was drafted. From what I heard, he was one of the better players on the ice this summer in Lake Placid, then he had an excellent Traverse City, and was impressive in training camp. He has done everything right, and, if he continues on this trajectory, he will be spending only one season in the CHL before he plays in Connecticut. He could be a pro shortly after his 19th birthday, and the Rangers have not seen this from a first round pick in a long time.
Moving quickly up the list was Jesper Fasth, who put on a show in development camp this summer. Great hands, hockey sense, combined with speed was what we saw over and over again from Fasth. I see him as a second line winger, about two years away from NHL play. The question is whether there will be room for him, but he’s the kind of player, you make room for–he’s that good.
Andrew Yogan also made a big leap on the list, and I have to say that my eyes widened at times watching him play. I love his size and the physical game he has started to play. Going to the net, with a nice shot and good hands, Yogan is impressive. Now in Peterborough for an overage OHL season, he is a Rangers prospect to watch, because he could be a perfect power forward on the second line in years to come.
Ryan Bourque is a player that I am very uneasy about. Will he find a place on this team? On the positive side, I see a little of Ryan Callahan’s effort and more offensive upside than Callahan. But on the downside, I am not sure that the body will hold up under the type of game Bourque plays. We will have to see with him, but Bourque deserves his spot in the top 10 of the organization.
Some other notes:
1. Hockey’s Future requires its writers to rank each organization’s 2011 draft picks according to the order in which a player is drafted. This required me to put Shane McColgan beneath Steven Fogarty and Michael St. Croix, but I honestly would have him ranked higher than either of the other two if I had my choice. He had a great development camp, an exemplary Traverse City, and a very good main camp. In my mind, McColgan is about 15 on the list and trending upward.
2. Honorable mentions go to Danny Hobbs, who had a very good season at UMass during 2010-11 and is returning for his senior season as captain of the Minuteman. And Blake Parlett, a free agent signing last May, who is beginning his second professional season. Currently sidelined with a knee injury, Parlett was very steady and mature on the ice before he suffered the injury at the Traverse City rookie tournament.
3. Mikael Pashnin was dropped off the list, because instead of signing with the Rangers for the 2011-12 season, he decided to continue playing in Russia. It is not clear when he is coming over to North America to play hockey.