In the past, I have done midseason prospect rankings to check in on how everyone has progressed since my summer evaluations. I did not do that this past winter. This was partly because of other things going on in my life. A major contributing factor, though, was the fact that the rankings would have been bleak and discouraging. Four years of no first-round picks and many other picks traded as well finally caught up to the Rangers. Hartford finished the season dead-last in the
NHL AHL and almost every player on the team was underachieving. Prospects are fun to cover for a lot of reasons, but mainly because they are synonymous with hope. There was very little hope last year, though. Instead, mostly sadness.
Credit to the Rangers for blowing things up at the prospect level. Coaching and management changes were made in Hartford. They have been ferociously aggressive on the free agent market since March, signing an incredible seven undrafted prospects. They traded for the seventh-overall pick in the 2017 Draft, kept their own first-rounder for the first time since 2012, and traded down in the fourth-round to add an additional sixth-round pick. They added two prospects to the pool via trade.
That adds up to a total of 16 prospects who have been added to the organization in the last six months. Meanwhile, the following players from last summer’s rankings are gone from the organization:
Mackenzie Skapski (ranked 8th), Brad Morrison (16th), Michael Paliotta (18th), Magnus Hellberg (22nd), Marek Hrivik (23rd), Mat Bodie (26th), Calle Andersson (30th), Tommy Hughes (31st), and Troy Donnay (32nd)
In addition, Brady Skjei and Pavel Buchnevich, last summer’s top-two prospects, have graduated to the NHL. Jimmy Vesey signed after my rankings were published, and has also since graduated.
In a short time span, the Rangers have completely overhauled the look of their prospect pool. They’re still lagging behind many other teams, but for the first time in years, they simultaneously have both legitimate high-end talent for as well as quality depth deeper into the prospect pool with realistic NHL upside. A lot of dead weight has been removed and a number of fresh, intriguing faces have been added. The majority won’t make the NHL, but almost all do have a chance. Last summer, almost everyone beyond the top-10 was a fringe prospect. This year, there are players who couldn’t even break into the top-20 that I find worthwhile. Once again, there is hope.
I will begin publishing my ranking of the 38 prospects currently in the Rangers’ system next Monday. In the meantime, you might want to check out my Summer 2016 rankings. I plan on doing a post-rankings Q&A or sorts, so please leave any prospect-related questions you might have in the comments.