When a team has had as much success as the Rangers have had since the 2011-2012 season, it can be tough to develop and acquire top prospects. This is especially true when the team is in “win-now” mode as, GM Glen Sather declared to the hockey world on March first.
The Rangers acquired Keith Yandle, Chris Summers, and a fourth round pick in 2016 for the teams’ best forward prospect Anthony Duclair, current NHL defenseman John Moore, a 2015 second round pick and a pending first round pick in 2016. The team has not made a first round selection since 2012 when they selected Brady Skjei.
The Rangers 2014 and 2015 first round picks were sent to the Tampa Bay Lightning in March of 2014 when the team traded Ryan Callahan for Martin St Louis. The Rangers are for certain trying to win a championship in the next two to three seasons while the core is still young and Lundqvist is still in his prime.
Despite not making a first round selection in a few years, the Rangers are still a relatively young team at the forward position. Players such as JT Miller (22), Kevin Hayes (23), Jesper Fast (23), Emerson Etem (23), Chris Kreider (24), and Derek Stepan (25) are good young talent. The acquisition of Hayes last summer was huge for the organization in acquiring a young talented forward with a ton of upside.
Are there any New York Rangers in the system that can make the club this year? Unless a player makes the team out of nowhere with an amazing training camp and preseason, I can think of a couple individuals that have a chance to be on Broadway this fall.
1) Oscar Lindberg
This is the year for Oscar Lindberg to claim a starting spot on the New York Rangers. The 23-year-old Swedish center was acquired by the organization in 2011 in a trade for Ethan Werek and was selected in the second round of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft by the Phoenix Coyotes.
Lindberg recently signed a two-year-deal worth $1.3 million over the two years. Lindberg had a successful season last year in the American Hockey League, scoring 28 goals, 28 assists, and 56 points in 75 regular season games. Lindberg went on to tally 16 points (3g, 13a) in 15 Calder Cup Playoff games.
Lindberg can be a solid two-way third line center for the team if he is able to make the NHL jump next year. Kevin Hayes and JT Miller are both candidates to center the third line, but may be better off playing the wing. If Kevin Hayes has a dominant camp and finds himself on the second line wing than it could open up an opportunity for Lindberg to claim the third line center spot, if head coach Alain Vigneault does not feel comfortable with JT Miller as the third line center. Kevin Hayes played the middle of the ice last season more than JT. Can Lindberg make the jump to the Blueshirts this fall? It will take a dominant training camp and preseason.
2) Dylan McIlrath
McIlrath was recently signed by the Rangers to a one-year-deal worth 600K. The 23-year-old was a 2010 first round pick by the Rangers and selected tenth overall. McIlrath has a reputation as a bruising defenseman that is a good defender and a tough player that can be an intimidating presence and make opposing forwards honest.
McIlrath, is going to have a tough time getting regular minutes if he does make the club. The top six is already set and the signing of Raphael Diaz will make McIlrath an eighth defenseman that will be in the press box most nights unless needed.
If McIlrath goes back to the minors and does not make the team he must clear waivers and the Rangers may not want to take the risk in case the player can finally show some promise this year. Is this the year McIlrath makes an impact for the Rangers?
Honorable Mention – Brady Skjei
Brady Skjei is the Rangers top defensive prospect and was their first round pick in 2012. Skjei is regarded as an amazing skater and big mobile defensive defenseman. Skjei just finished three successful seasons of NCAA hockey at the University of Minnesota and signed his first pro contract in the Spring of 2015.
With the New York Rangers blue line stacked for this season, it makes more sense to give Skjei a full season of professional hockey in the AHL to develop his game. If Skjei has a dominant camp, it will make things interesting for certain.