The Rangers will soon make official the signing of NCAA forward Vinni Lettieri, according to the Star Tribune’s Michael Russo.
Vinni Lettieri closing in on a 2-yr deal w/ the #NYRangers. Will be in Hartford Tues. to play final 8 games after breakout year w/ #gophers— Michael Russo (@Russostrib) March 27, 2017
The Rangers have since made the signing official.
Lettieri, 22, just completed a breakout senior season with the Minnesota Golden Gophers, scoring 19 goals and adding 18 assists in 38 games. It is hardly a surprise that the Rangers landed him, as there is a relationship on a number of levels. Lettieri attended the Rangers’ prospect camp in both 2014 and 2015. He is the cousin of Rangers’ prospect Tyler Nanne and was teammates in Minnesota with Brady Skjei. Russo reported that Skjei (and Minnesota-native Derek Stepan) made pitches to Lettieri. Finally, Rangers’ President Glen Sather has a long-time relationship with Lettieri’s grandfather, Lou Nanne.
Lettieri is a matured player with enough upside to make signing him a reasonable decision. He’s capable of playing, and excelling at, both the wing and center. This year he started on the wing but moved to second-line center once Nashville prospect Tommy Novak went down with an injury. He’s a speedy skater whose offensive instincts progressed at a steady rate year-by-year at Minnesota. He improved his shot and showed an ability to get more pucks on net (stick tap to Minnesota reporter Nate Wells for this particular insight). Lettieri was one of the better defensive forwards in the NCAA due to his speed and instincts, and I think those skills translate to the pro level. The question is whether he can continue his offensive progression. It shouldn’t take too long for Lettieri to be a contributor at the AHL level, and with some development he could become a versatile bottom-six forward who features on the penalty kill.