Ever since I started putting together these prospect rankings - first in the summer of 2014 - it was simply a small part of the puzzle. There were certainly prospects that mattered. Some have graduated to the Rangers, including Pavel Buchnevich and Jesper Fast. Some were important pieces in trades, such as Anthony Duclair and Aleksi Saarela. But the prospect pool was mostly a complementary aspect of an organization whose modus operandi was to Win Now At (Almost) Any Cost.
The Rangers made a few moves last summer to which foreshadowed a change in course, but it has been recent months which have completely flipped everything upside down. The prospect pool is now the focal point of the organization. It is a forge in which the next window of opportunity will be created.
Do they have their cornerstone yet? It doesn’t appear so. There is no Connor McDavid or Victor Hedman waiting in the wings. Rebuilding is a process that takes time. The signing of John Tavares officially makes the Leafs a long-term contender, but their ascent started at the 2014 NHL Draft when they selected William Nylander at 8th overall. And of course, a number of intermediary steps occurred in-between.
So it is okay that the Rangers do not have everything sorted right now. That may not be music to the ears of people who wanted a quick turnaround, but that was never realistic to begin with. Patience is a virtue, and the Rangers will have plenty of time to progressively build a team and find the multiple marquee players they will need; whether that comes through the draft, free agency, or trade is yet to be seen.
For now, it’s enough to say that this is the best prospect pool the Rangers have had in some time. That is not a particularly high bar to clear, but nonetheless it ranks very high among the 31 NHL teams. There is a quality combination of players with tremendous upside as well as a decent complement of potential depth options. It’s a good beginning to what will be a gradual - and at times trying - but hopefully rewarding process.
Let’s do some housecleaning. The following players from the 2017 Rangers Prospect Rankings have been removed from this year’s iteration, with all but Nicklas Jensen no longer a part of the organization.
Over the next few weeks, we will be ranking the Rangers’ 47 (!!!) prospects. These rankings are not based on team need, but they do consider almost everything else; age, statistics, games watched, conversations with scouts, likelihood of success, and upside.