At this point, everyone knows the household names of New York Rangers prospects. Their elite prospect pool is no secret. The likes of Kaapo Kakko, Vitali Kravtsov, Adam Fox, Igor Shesterkin and Yegor Rykov highlight what could be the most exciting team the Rangers have ever put together for the Traverse City Tournament. However, there are 24 players on the roster and each have their own paths to shape to the NHL. Many of which will be donning the Rangers uniform for the first time in their young career.
When the tournament kicks off on Sept. 6, all eyes will be on the premier prospects that have a good chance of making the roster right out of camp. That shouldn’t undermine the fantastic depth of talent the Rangers possess in their prospect pool. Between recent draft picks, college signings, and camp invitees, the Rangers will have talent across the board on what should be an very competitive Traverse City team.
Matthew Robertson (LD)
Robertson is one of the four 2019 draft picks that will be at the tournament. The second-round pick is unlikely to make the main roster or the Hartford Wolf Pack out of camp, but he certainly possesses the talent to become a staple in future lineups. He logged 33 points in 52 games this past season and added another 8 points in the playoffs with the Edmonton Oil Kings of the WHL. He was originally slated to go late-first round to early-second round, but dropped to 48th overall to the Rangers. Considering how far he dropped in the draft, it’ll be enticing to see if he can develop into a steal for Jeff Gorton and company.
Rykov should be the top left-handed shot on the blue line in Traverse City, but Robertson should still be a prominent force. Power play time will likely go to Rykov and Fox, but Robertson’s stay-at-home play should be enough to get him plenty of penalty kill minutes. The 18-year-old’s shutdown capability makes him a perfect candidate to eat up minutes in high-pressure situations. The biggest issue in his game is his two-way play and ability to break the puck out of his own zone. His play during the tournament will give excellent insight on his offensive ability and confidence with the puck.
Jake Elmer (RW)
Perhaps one of the Rangers’ more interesting prospect projects is Jake Elmer. The undrafted right wing signed with the Rangers this past March after coming into his own with the Lethbridge Hurricanes. After a 16-point season in 2016-17 then 37 points in 2017-18, Elmer’s game was looking far from NHL-caliber.
That is until he began skating on a line with 2019’s seventh-overall selection, Dylan Cozens, and finally found his offensive game. This past season Elmer logged 81 points in 68 games. His 39 goals led the Hurricanes but that’s as a 20-year-old in a league of teenagers. It’s tough to say whether his offensive abilities will translate against men, but his four points in five games with the Wolf Pack this past season shows that he has potential. Another season in the AHL will do Elmer some good, but he’ll need to showcase his talents in Traverse City first.
Patrick Newell (C/LW)
Newell was another mid-season signing for the Rangers after he emerged as a Hobey Baker Finalist for St. Cloud State University (SCSU). The left winger led the Huskies in goals (21) and and points (47) over a 37-game span. He averaged 24 points through the first three years at SCSU before exploding in his senior year. Part of that could be thanks to playing on a line with top NHL prospect, Ryan Poehling.
Newell’s frame of 5-foot-9, 161 pounds puts him on the smaller size by NHL standards, but he boasts strong speed and a decent scoring touch. In his six-games with the Wolf Pack last season, he managed only a single assist. Traverse City will give the 23-year-old plenty of time to showcase his abilities as he looks to translate his game into the AHL. His odds of making the NHL are slim, but his development begins with a strong showing at Traverse City.
Brett Kemp (C)
Former teammate to Robertson on the Oil Kings, Brett Kemp will be one of the six free agent invitees to Traverse City. The 19-year-old center was originally drafted by the Everett Silvertips in the 2015 WHL Draft, but then got traded to the Edmonton Oil Kings the following season. His stint with the Oil Kings didn’t last long as he got traded once again, but this time to the Medicine Hat Tigers.
This past season, he managed to score 33 goals in 64 games, setting a career high in the WHL. He added another three points in six playoff games for the Tigers before being eliminated by his former team, the Oil Kings. He will have the opportunity to shine as he joins a relatively shallow center pool for Traverse City. The Rangers’ center position is far from their strongest position at the tournament, allowing a lesser-known player to impress with the likes of Kakko or Kravtsov on their wing.
The Rangers haven’t won Traverse City since 2007 when they boasted a lineup consisting of Marc Staal, Lauri Korpikoski, and Brandon Dubinsky. This may be the best team the Rangers have put together for the tournament, so don’t be shocked to see some surprising names begin to pave their path to the NHL.