Which Prospects And Young Guns Need To Step Up Next Season For The New York Rangers?

Mar 27, 2012; St. Paul, MN, USA; New York Rangers forward Derek Stepan (21) against the Minnesota Wild at the Xcel Energy Center. The Rangers defeated the Wild 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-US PRESSWIRE

The offseason is always a fantastic time to take an in-depth look at different changes the New York Rangers can -- and sometimes should -- make.

One of the ideas that has been floated around this site recently has been about trading Derek Stepan. Or, more specifically, who you would rather keep if a potential trade partner wanted Artem Anisimov or Stepan. The answer surprised me, many of you would keep Anisimov.

Now, I'm not saying it would be an easy choice at all. It wouldn't. Both bring different things to the table, and both are remarkably integrated into the core of this team despite being so young. But if you were to make me choose between the two, I would rather keep Stepan. In fact, it wouldn't even be that hard of a decision for me (if I had to chose between the two -- if I had my way I wouldn't move either of them).

Why do I feel this way? Join me after the jump to find out, and see where other younger players and prospects stand.

Here is my scale for prospects/young players:

Absolutely Untouchable: Players who have an unlimited ceiling, are already playing vital role for the team (or will be shortly) and seem to be on the cusp of something special. On this Rangers team, only two players come to mind: Chris Kreider and Ryan McDonagh. If I were to move either of those players, it would be for a Steven Stamkos or a Patrick Kane. Anything else? No way. Is Kreider better than Stamkos or Kane right now? No. But his potential is out of this world high, and unless the Rangers are getting similar talent and youth back, it makes no sense to make a move.

Basically Untouchable: Players who are big parts of the team, have a very high ceiling and also have the ability to do something special. Think Michael Del Zotto, Tim Erixon and Derek Stepan. Maybe even Carl Hagelin. If I'm going to move any of these players it's going to be for a guy like Bobby Ryan. A young game-changer who isn't on the level of a Stamkos or Kane but is young and certianly one a hell of a player.

***This is where I have Anisimov and Hagelin. Between the "Basically Untouchable" group and the "Wouldn't Be Easy To Move" group. Both are better then the players below and both are just as important as the players above (in their own way). But with Hagelin's lack of consistency (poor playoffs) and experience (just one year in the NHL), he doesn't hit the top group yet. Although I would be lothe to trade him now with all his potential. For Anisimov, he needs to take the next step with his offense and he really needs to find consistency in that part of his game. Especially since he has the ability to be a 25+ goal scorer in this league. So they find themselves in a middle ground. Another good year from Hagelin next season bumps him up. A good year for Anisimov would do the same.

Wouldn't Be Easy To Move: Players who, when added to a package by an opposing general manager, would give me some hesitation on a deal depending on who was coming back. Here is where I have Dylan McIlrath, J.T. Miller, Michael St. Croix, Jesper Fast and Steven Fogarty. The issue with this group, in my mind, is it's littered with young prospects who have taken steps to prove they can be NHL players (potentially good NHL players) but -- for the post part -- haven't done it at the professional level yet. These are the guys who I would have some issues trading, but understand their value on the market as well. If I'm going to move these players it's going to be for a guy like Rick Nash. Not Nash specifically (because of his contract) but a player of his caliber.

The "Anything Can Happen" Group: This is a group for players who have been in the system and are either close to opening eyes or need to take a major step if they want to be NHL players. Think Andrew Yogan, Marek Hrivik, Ryan Bourque, Oscar Lindberg, Shane McColgan. Guys who might be moved or might be kept if Gordie Clark and his crew like the direction they are heading. Basically, anything can happen to these players. Which is why they're in this group.

The "Who?" Group: Here are a few names for you: Lee Baldwin, Roman Psurny, Danny Hobbs. How many of you knew they were prospects? My guess is not many of you. And that's OK. Every organization needs players who end up being role players for the organization's ECHL and AHL teams. Then again, I'm betting Marek Hrivik was on this list too until his playoffs with the Connecticut Whale. Again, things can change quickly for a prospect.

So, with all this in mind, which young players/prospects do you think need to take the next step for the Rangers? Would you include Stepan? I wouldn't. But I have a feeling everyone's answers will be different.

Thoughts guys?

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