The New York Rangers made their most recent round of cuts on Wednesday, sending higher profile players such as Danny Kristo and Dylan McIlrath to the AHL. This, of course, has lead to many people labeling the duo as busts. Some of that has to do with their age (Kristo is 23, while McIlrath is 21) while some of it has to do with their "developmental arc."
The problem is, those aren't exactly fair expectations. Or at the very least, you can't put a prospect's developmental arcs into such restrictive confines.
Let's start with Kristo, since there was a level of expectation that he might make the team out of camp this year. Kristo spent four years in the NCAA, which annoyed the Montreal Canadiens enough that they were willing to ship him to the Rangers for Christian Thomas. Kristo spent nine games in the AHL last year tallying just three assists, and now that he's been cut from this year's training camp people are automatically assuming he's a bust.
That's not the case.
First of all, take the age out of the equation. Prospects who come from the NCAA (especially those that stay in the NCAA for all four years) typically need some time to season in the AHL. I don't care that Kristo is 23 and "players that old shouldn't need seasoning." When the player comes from the NCAA it doesn't work that way. Derek Stepan came right up and contributed. Carl Hagelin and Ryan McDonagh spent some time in the AHL before coming to the Rangers. Chris Kreider was a different situation altogether so throw him out the window on this one.
My point is that Kristo isn't "behind" in terms of developing. He's obviously on the older side for a prospect, but age really can't be factored in for a player in his shoes. He was one of the best college hockey players in the country last year and he's done well internationally, give him some time to season. It doesn't mean he's a bust and it doesn't mean we won't see him again this year -- I honestly believe that we will. It just means he's not ready right now.
As for McIlrath, well, this is a fight we've been fighting since the Rangers drafted him. People seem to forget that McIlrath suffered a knee injury so serious he missed all but five games last year. That alone puts McIlrath a year behind where he's supposed to be.
Yes, it was quite clear from his preseason games that McIlrath wasn't ready for the show, but it wasn't like he was an unmitigated disaster. There's work to be done, and Hartford is the perfect place for that to happen. He'll learn the game from the professional level (remember, last year was supposed to be his first year in the pros) and he'll adjust.
My overall argument? Next year is when you can really judge Kristo and McIlrath. Next year is when you can make the call that there's a problem in their developmental paths. Not this year.
Let's try to be patient on these two. It's not too much to ask.