Lottery luck has been kind to the New York Rangers these last couple of years, and with this luck came some highly touted prospects who have since made their debut on Broadway. The team, however, has also managed to make some good draft decisions in the later rounds or in a year where they weren’t blessed with a top two pick. Many of these players have signed with the team as well and are currently on the Rangers roster or learning and adapting to the professional pace of the game with their AHL affiliate, Hartford Wolf Pack. Those players get most of the limelight when the Rangers’ prospect pipeline is discussed, so let’s take a look at some of the team’s major prospects outside of the AHL.
Brennan Othmann (LW) - 16th overall in 2021
If you haven’t heard of this young player yet, it is time to learn his name. There were a lot of doubters when the Rangers held on to their first-round pick, neglected to pick a center, and then took a left wing instead this past draft, but Othmann is here to prove all the non-believers wrong.
This young winger is scoring in bunches this season. Not only does he have 19 goals and 36 points in only 23 games, but he is involved with over 40% of his team’s scoring this season. He currently sits in the top ten of goals scored and points produced in all the OHL. Heck, it’s likely as this is being written he has scored another goal. Othmann is proving he can do it all and is doing so on a weak Flint Firebirds team. The player with the second most points on his team has fifteen less than he does. That may be one of the most exciting aspects of his current production, the fact that he is doing it quite independently. He has now surpassed his previous OHL highest point total in 33 less games.
Othmann was scouted for his ability to score, and he is making the Rangers scouting staff look brilliant. His shot is elite, and he can score from a distance, regularly making him a threat no matter where he is in the offensive zone. There were concerns about his skating and ability to separate himself, but in multiple games this year he has displayed acceleration that enabled him to get a scoring opportunity.
Somehow, some way, Canada saw Othmann’s dominant season and made the decision to leave him off their WJC roster. It’s very likely they will regret this decision, as the young forward is proving he cannot be stopped. Having displayed nothing but a great attitude when he was with the Rangers in Training Camp, it’s expected Othmann will take this snub as motivation to continue scoring willfully. While the development of any prospect is never a guarantee, Othmann absolutely has NHL caliber skills that could see him successfully join the big league in a few years.
Brett Berard (LW) - 134th overall in 2020
You may remember Berard for his WJC heroics—he was visibly one of the better skaters for the Gold Medal USA team. He plays a tenacious style of hockey, constantly forechecking and getting in the way. This, combined with his skilled hands, sneaky good shot, and always moving feet, is starting to appear as quite the steal for the New York Rangers.
Berard had an okay freshman season with the Providence Friars in the NCAA, but he has been absolutely lights out his sophomore year. Putting on a little bit of weight, the small forward who was last listed at 5’9” can be seen flying all over the ice, frequently taking over games. He currently leads not just his team but the whole Hockey East in the NCAA in points scored. This includes known powerhouses Boston University, Boston College, and the list goes on. The young forward was named the November player of the month as he had ten points in eight games played.
Berard was recently added to the USA WJC team and will have another opportunity at playing a big role for the team in their pursuit of consecutive gold medals. There is always concern of smaller stature players not being able to acclimate well in the NHL, but Berard has the speed, tenacity, and scoring touch to one day become a contributing NHL player.
William Cuylle (LW) - 60th Overall in 2020
Cuylle was the player the Rangers drafted with the pick they received from the Los Angeles Kings when they offloaded Lias Andersson. The young 19-year-old is known for his shot, which is already considered to be NHL caliber. His release and the sheer power behind it has been able to beat goalies in the OHL easily when he’s been able to get it off cleanly. Listed at 6’4”, he’s a physically imposing player and goes to the front of the net and into the corners and is never afraid to throw his weight around. However, there have been concerns on whether he has enough skill to succeed aside from the aforementioned traits. Before this season, he had yet to be a big play driver and has at times struggled to carry the puck, needing his linemates to often set him up for an offensive opportunity. While his coaches have previously lauded his defensive ability, if Cuylle is able to add a play driving, creative element to his game, he could end up being a major contributor all over the ice.
With the OHL’s canceled season last year, Cuylle got the opportunity to join the Hartford Wolf Pack for eighteen games. He was able to put up five points but also had thirty-five penalty minutes. It was an eye-opening experience for the young winger, as he began to understand what it takes to play the game professionally. He trained with NHL players in the offseason and made a good impression in the New York Rangers Training Camp but was eventually reassigned to the Windsor Spitfires in the OHL.
The experience Cuylle had with the Rangers has clearly done wonders for his game. The Spitfires named him team captain and his game play has been brimming with confidence—he’s put up eighteen goals in twenty-two games. He has officially been named to the roster for Canada’s WJC team and we can hopefully see him take on a big role with the team this winter.
Dylan Garand (G) - 103rd overall 2020
There have been numerous times the Rangers’ strategy of drafting a goalie in every draft has turned out to be a poor decision in a short amount of time, but the decision to draft Dylan Garand has so far paid off. The young goaltender has at times appeared unbeatable this season for the Kamloops Blazers. He leads the WHL in Goals Against Average, Save Percentage, and Wins. Posting elite numbers across the board, he has once again been named to the WJC team for Canada and will more than likely play a back up role to Sebastian Cossa. He got a small taste of AHL hockey last season and if all goes well will be back with Hartford at the end of this current season.
The development of goalies is always incredibly hard to anticipate. A lot of the NHL’s top goalies joined the league a bit later than their skating counterparts. So, best case scenario for both the Rangers and Garand would be for him to succeed and learn more this current season, and then marinate and acclimate in the AHL for a couple years. While it’s still too early to tell, he very well could be part of the Rangers’ future in the crease.
Ryder Korczak (C) - 75th overall 2021
Korczak is an unbelievably skilled player and his moves, when successful, are often highlight reel goals. With some of the best puck handling skills in his draft class, he may just force himself into an NHL contract someday based on sheer skill. This season he is currently a point per game player for the Moose Jaw Warriors with eight goals and twenty assists in twenty-eight games.
One of the bigger concerns for Korczak is his perimeter play. The young center is a good enough skater in the WHL but will often make a play or shoot the puck from a low-level scoring position. While his release is decent, it is not good enough to be a threat outside of the slot area. Considered to be more of a playmaker, even when he’s in close, he will opt to make a play instead of driving to the net or taking a shot. Korczak is more of a long-term project for the Rangers, but the return could absolutely be worth it if he is allowed time to add muscle and get comfortable shooting the puck harder and more frequently.
Oliver Tärnström (C) - 92nd overall 2020
Tärnström seems to fly under mostly everyone’s radar. He is in the middle of a great season right now playing in a junior league in Sweden. Up until this year it has been a bit difficult to measure his progress due to the ridiculous amount of jumping around he had to do to play hockey because of COVID-19, but with fourteen goals and sixteen assists, he is just four points away from matching his previous highest point total in fifteen less games. His style of play isn’t ever going to be the most dynamic or the most physical, but he is an intelligent player that has consistently made those around him reach a higher level. While there may be concerns since he hasn’t made the full time jump to a professional league in Sweden yet, they’re a bit too premature, especially when factoring in what a nightmare prospect development became because of the pandemic. If the Rangers can practice patience with the young forward, Tärnström could end up as a dependable two-way center in the NHL.
Karl Henriksson (C/LW) - 58th overall 2019
It’s easy to look at Henriksson’s stats the last couple of years and write him off as an impact player, but a lot of people involved in his development would disagree with you. He is a swift skater and opts to pass more than shoot, and it was this playmaking ability that had him set to center the top line for Sweden’s WJC team last year. This could have been an immense boon for his development but unfortunately, Henriksson tested positive for COVID-19 and did not play. Several players argued this was an enormous loss for Team Sweden.
He is currently with Frölunda in Sweden’s professional hockey league and has so far scored six points in seventeen games this season. While it also is up in the air as to whether he will play center or on the wing once he makes the jump to North America, it is a fact Henriksson needs to take the next step to display the ability the Rangers thought they saw in him when they took him with their second-round pick two years ago. The young Swede has the tools and the commitment to become an impact player for the Rangers but has been a bit of an enigma at times with his lack of contribution and it’s these extended periods of inconsistency that have allowed him to continue to drop on the Ranger’s prospect depth chart.
Evan Vierling (C) - 127th overall 2020
Vierling currently has seventeen points in twenty-two games for the Barrie Colts. He’s an excellent two-way player who consistently back checks to break up plays and then turns right around to fly back up the ice with the puck. He’s the type of player who is constantly moving and has a built-in motor that never gives. While some others have reported his skating to be a flaw, this season he has looked faster and more agile than ever—often catching up to plays to be the extra man in or to stop a defensive breakdown.
He is outskating players in the OHL, but Vierling is easily knocked off the puck once caught. If he is going to be an impact player beyond the junior leagues, he needs to improve his strength.
Simon Kjellberg (D) - 163rd overall 2018
This draft pick at the time was considered by most to be a reach or a product of nepotism due to his father being a scout for the Rangers, but Kjellberg has done a good job of putting those concerns to rest. Growing up in Sweden he began playing in the Swedish Junior Leagues but made the decision to take the collegiate path in the United States. He ended up playing for the little known RPI Engineers, who are a D1 hockey team in the ECAC. Even though a defenseman, Kjellberg is second on the team in points with eleven this year. He has proven himself a skilled enough player to contribute and take on a major role often carrying the puck out of his zone.
It will be interesting to see if Kjellberg has what it takes to get to the next level, but the Rangers at the very least should offer the big defenseman a contract to see how he can do in the AHL. It’s never a guarantee that the players you draft will reach their potential, but Kjellberg has lived up to any expectations for a prospect taken in the sixth round.
Stats via Elite Prospects