2014 World Junior Championship: New York Rangers' Prospects To Keep An Eye On

Frederick Breedon

Here's who to watch (there aren't many) in this year's WJC.

The New York Rangers have a pretty good history (at least recently) in terms of the World Juniors. Derek Stepan lead all scorers in 2010 with 15 points in seven games (the USA won gold that year). Chris Kreider had back-to-back impressing showings in 2010 and 2011. And most recently J.T. Miller helped the United States win gold again in 2013 with nine points in seven games.

This year the Rangers have two prospects in the tournament. Pavel Buchnevich (RUS) and Brady Skjei (USA).

Buchnevich 2013 3rd Round (75th overall):

Buchnevich is currently playing for Severstal of the KHL. In 31 games so far the 18-year-old has six goals and six assists for 12 points. Sometimes it's tough to judge an overseas prospect from his raw stats, especially when a kid is playing in a men's league -- which is obviously the case here. It's much more important to look at his minutes, how the team is using him, if he's doing the things he's supposed to be doing and who he's playing with/where he's playing.

Residential Blueshirt Banter overseas prospect guru (Alex Nunn) follows all of these players on a game-by-game basis and sees the makings of a special player. Click the link above to get to his twitter and give him a follow if you're not already. He'll give you all the good stuff on the Rangers "out of town" prospects.

One of Buchnevich's biggest talking points when the Rangers drafted him was his brilliant U-18 campaign for Russia in which he posted five goals and six assists for 11 points in seven games. This year, Buchnevich is slated to play with Anton Slepyshev (Edmonton) and Mikhail Grigorenko (Buffalo) on Russia's first line in the World Juniors. He should be fun to watch.

Skjei 2012 1st Round (28th overall):

Skjei is steadily becoming one of the best prospects in the Rangers' farm system. After not making the cut for the United States last year (and having a "rocky" freshman campaign at Minnesota) Skjei has taken major strides this year to improve all aspects of his game.

This is a really good article to read if you haven't already. It explains how Skjei is looking for redemption at this year's World Juniors and how much better he's been in his sophomore season. Skjei had a solid first year with Minnesota (his numbers don't blow you away, but it's tough to hit expectations as a freshman defenseman on one of the best teams in the country) but is really stepping it up so far this year. It will be fun to see if his improvements translate to the international stage.

So far in 16 games with Minnesota he has two goals and three assists for five points. Last year he had a goal and two assists for three points in 36 games.

The Rangers do have two prospects who didn't make their respective teams, which was something of a surprise as well.

Cristoval "Boo" Nieves 2012 2nd Round (58th overall): USA

Nieves was a surprising omission this year for the United States. I personally believe his omission says more about the United States collective improvements than it does about the player, but it has to be mentioned that Nieves is struggling a little in his sophomore season with Michigan.

Last year Nieves posted eight goals and 21 assists for 29 points in 40 games with Michigan. This year he has a goal and seven assists for eight points in 14 games. Some of his issues are coming from a bit of puck luck (what Ranger isn't being impacted by puck luck these days?) but it's not unnatural to see a prospect struggle out of the gate his sophomore year.

The good news? Nieves has most of the season left to improve, and he's succeeded on this level before. No need to panic here.

Anthony Duclair 2013 3rd Round (80th overall): CAN

Duclair is one of the brightest prospects in the Rangers' system right now. After falling to 80th overall in the 2013 NHL Draft, Duclair has done his best to make every team feel a pit in their stomach for passing on him. In 35 games so far for the Quebec Remparts of the QMJHL Duclair has 29 goals and 22 assists for 51 points. That total already surpasses his season last year when he scored 50 points in 55 games -- although it should be noted that Duclair was injured for part of the year and didn't truly recover until later in the year.

The most impressive thing about Duclair's numbers? He's scoring NHL level goals and making things happen whenever he's on the ice. Sometimes the QMJHL can be very high scoring (so the raw numbers might be deceiving) but 29 goals in 35 games is nothing to scoff at.

Of course, Duclair is Canadian, so he's trying to make the deepest and most talented team in the tournament. It also serves to note that many were surprised he wasn't at least invited to tryouts. Either way, he's been as impressive as you could hope for as a Rangers fan.

Well, those are the guys to keep an eye on. Maybe the duo who didn't make the cut will reach another level because of it. As for the two who are there? We wish them the best.

Also, go USA!

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