Like most Ranger fans I am very curious about which prospects will make the most noise at training camp and where some of the more noteworthy Rangers prospects are in terms of development. For me, when it comes to analysis on Rangers prospects I go to Jess Rubenstein from The Prospect Park who covers prospects for the Rangers and the Islanders.
Jess was kind enough to take the time to answer a few questions I had about Rangers prospects and I wanted to share them with you guys today so we could talk about something other than the Derek Stepan contract for a few hours. So let's jump right into the six questions and hear what Jess has to say.
1. What are your thoughts on the Danny Kristo for Christian Thomas trade? You called it a "wash" in terms of talent on The Prospect Park but what do you think Kristo can bring to the team that Thomas potentially couldn't have?
To be honest, I think both players were as close to equal in terms of talent as you can get. Thomas's size is what will always have coaches worried that he can't handle the physical play. Kristo playing at North Dakota had 3 years of playing against the bigger bodies at the NCAA level which helps his cause despite being 5'11.
I also think Kristo will be more of a finisher especially on the power play.
2. Speaking of Danny Kristo, what do you think of all the Americans in the Rangers prospect pipeline (Pros/Cons)?
I don't think there is a pro/con answer here because Gordie Clark doesn't look at where a player is from as I am sure if a space alien could skate and play that Clark would sign him. And I think the gap between the Canadians and Americans is closing with each passing year thanks to the investments made by USA Hockey.
Coming up with the USNTDP (United States National Training and Development Program) is why we are seeing American born players improving as they have.
3. Which five prospects should Rangers fans keep an eye on in this year's training camp and why?
Dylan McIlrath- I still think he is another year away but you will see the potential coming out of the Truck. He is just 21 and a full year with Jeff Beukeboom will speed up that development. Adding an Ulfie Samuelsson will be a big help as well to helping the Ranger prospects.
Michael St. Croix is another who I think will get a long look just because of what he can do on the power play. He needs a lot of work improving his body but his offensive skills are legit as he has a way of piling up some points.
J. T. Miller is going to be the breakout prospect this year. Miller is one of the hardest working prospects the Rangers have and I think this year he will force his way onto the roster with his play. It doesn't hurt his cause that Callahan and Hagelin will not be at 100% but Miller has a great opportunity here and I believe he will take advantage of it.
I don't have 5 kids for training camp but I would say to the Ranger fans to keep their eyes on Cristoval Nieves of Michigan and Mackenzie Skapski of Kootenay as I think those 2 will have breakout seasons.
4. Where is Dylan McIlrath in terms of his development and what should Rangers fans expect out of the hulking blueliner?
McIlrath is just 21 and this is just his second year as a professional. Most really good defensive prospects start to reach their potential when they are 23-24. Having Beuk and Ulfie as mentors I think will speed up his development but for sure you have a shutdown defender in McIlrath. With an 84 inch wingspan, it is going to be hard for players to get past McIlrath and McIlrath will punish you physically too.
On offense, McIlrath has a cannon ball of a shot that will hurt anyone trying to block it. Moose Jaw used McIlrath as a body in front of the net on the power play something the Rangers might want to consider.
5. Which Rangers prospect is the one that no one is talking about but has a great chance of having a career in the NHL?
I want to see how Steven Fogarty develops over the next 3 years at Notre Dame. He has good size 6'3 200 and flew under the radar last season because he was a freshman. Fogarty is a very smart person whose defensive game reminds me of Craig MacTavish but the offensive side has to show me more.
He needs work on his skating but bigger players have that issue for the most part. I think he can develop into a solid 2 way player with the chance of becoming a 2nd line player.
6. Which player(s) currently in the system that have fallen from grace in your opinion or haven't been developing like they were "supposed to"?
If you look at the Ranger's prospect page for the upcoming season, you will see that the Rangers did a lot of housecleaning after last season. I won't say fallen from grace but I will say that Ryan Bourque and Andrew Yogan are the two prospects who need to have a big season or else they might not remain with the Rangers.
For Bourque it is a matter of staying healthy and showing forward progress while Yogan's skill set is one of the best among the Ranger prospects. The problem with Yogan is he has hurt himself by poor decision making, playing a 1 man game, and at times forgetting to play defense.
If Yogan decides to put things together then the Rangers will have a very dangerous player as there is no doubting that Yogan's talent is first rate, it is everything else that Yogan does that has people doubting him.
So what do you guys think?
Which Rangers prospects are you most excited about and which ones do you think have the best chance of being called up during the season or even making the team out of training camp? Which player in the system are you starting to give up on and why? What do you guys think of Jess saying that J.T. Miller is THE guy to keep an eye on this season? Let me know what you think in the comments guys and girls!
Special Thanks to Jess from The Prospect Park for taking the time to answer my questions. Please go visit his site for outstanding coverage of Rangers and Islanders prospects and great hockey talk and analysis.
Let's go Rangers!