5 Rangers Prospects Most Likely to Crack Opening Night Roster

The New York Rangers have one of the deepest prospect pools in the NHL. However, they also have a solid core of young players who already have over 100 NHL games under their belts. Plus, they gained valuable playoff experience getting to the Eastern Conference Final last season.

It’s tough to break into the NHL and much tougher when you’re a prospect in the Rangers organization these days. I believe three prospects stand out above the rest, and another two are in the second tier. Let’s look at the Rangers’ top five who might stick with the big club when the 2022-23 season begins.

5. Brennan Othmann

Brennan Othmann will be looking to parlay his great 2021-22 Ontario Hockey League (OHL) season with strong showings at the Rangers’ prospect development camp and training camp this fall. He notched 50 goals (2nd in OHL) and 97 points, playing in all of the possible 66 games for the Flint Firebirds.

Brennan Othmann Flint Firebirds
Brennan Othmann of the Flint Firebirds (Terry Wilson / OHL Images)

The 6-foot, 179-pound forward helped the Firebirds reach the Western Conference Championship before losing to Will Cuylle’s Windsor Spitfires in seven games. He had nine goals and 24 points in 19 playoff games.

4. Will Cuylle

The fourth and fifth spots could be 4A and 4B at the end of the day. However, since Cuylle had such an impressive training camp with the Rangers before last season, we’ll slot him at No. 4. He is fresh off of a deep playoff run in the OHL with the Windsor Spitfires, as he notched 15 goals and 16 assists in 25 playoff games helping them to the final round of the playoffs, where they lost in seven games to the Hamilton Bulldogs.

Related: Brennan Othmann – 2021 NHL Draft Prospect Profile

During the regular season, Cuylle had 43 goals and 37 assists in 59 games with a plus-22 rating. The 6-foot-4, 209-pound forward went into the Rangers’ recent prospect development camp as one of the players to watch and one who has a shot at making the opening day roster.

Rangers’ director of player development Jed Ortmeyer said of Cuylle and Othmann after watching the final scrimmage at the player development camp, “They’re definitely taking that step forward and doing everything that we’ve asked them to do. They’re getting better, getting stronger, more mature. We’ll see how their play will dictate where they end up in training camp.” (from ‘Rangers development camp: Which prospects stood out at Friday’s scrimmage?,’ lohud, 7/15/22). Cuylle and Othmann are long shots to crack the squad, but you never know what will happen with Vitali Kravtsov.

3. Nils Lundkvist

Nils Lundkvist is probably a step behind Kravtsov and Jones. He played 25 games with the Rangers last season before being sent down to the Hartford Wolfpack so he could get more acclimated to the North American-style game. He had four points in those 25 games and was plus-4. He played 34 games in the American Hockey League (AHL) and scored 15 points while being minus-9.

Nils Lundkvist, New York Rangers
Nils Lundkvist, New York Rangers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Lundkvist’s mobility and puck movement from the backend should translate into being a solid top-four defenseman someday. But that may not be in the Rangers’ top four since they’re loaded at that position right now. As far as cracking the lineup this season, he’ll likely play on the left side; it will help his chances since there’s a log jam on the right with Adam Fox, Jacob Trouba and Braden Schneider. There’s currently one spot open on defense, and look for Lundkvist and Zac Jones to fight hard for it.

2. Zac Jones

Jones is close behind Kravtsov regarding NHL readiness, if not at the same level. He spent the bulk of last season with the Wolf Pack where he led all defensemen in scoring. He’s played a total of 22 games with the Rangers over parts of two seasons. The American-born defenseman was the Rangers’ third-round pick in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. At 5-foot-10, 175 pounds, he’s on the smaller side, but his vision and hockey sense make up for it.

1. Vitali Kravtsov

Vitali Kravtsov is a controversial choice, but he still has to be at the top of the list. He’s played 20 games with the Rangers, is the most NHL-ready of any of their prospects, and will most likely be on the opening night roster. He’s also spent the better part of the last three seasons playing against men in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL).

Vitali Kravtsov, New York Rangers
Vitali Kravtsov, New York Rangers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

While playing for Traktor last season, he had 13 points in 19 games and notched 10 points in 15 playoff games. He recently signed an extension to his entry-level contract (ELC) before becoming a restricted free agent (RFA). What happens next in his complicated journey remains to be seen. However, he could come into camp, be the player the Rangers have always wanted him to be, and solidify his spot in the lineup. Plus, he’s eligible for waivers, meaning another team can claim him if he’s sent to the minors.

Training Camp Is Around the Corner

Yes, it’s mid-summer; however, the Rangers’ 2022-23 Training Camp will be here in no time. The top three players on this list have a legitimate shot at making the opening day roster, and they’ll likely see games in the NHL this season, either with the Blueshirts or elsewhere. Numbers four and five are long shots; however, they may be battling one another for a spot in the lineup, as they both stood out in the prospect development camp and played against each other in the final scrimmage. The competition should be fierce during training camp between Jones and Lundkvist; and Cuylle and Othmann, and we’ll see if Kravtsov takes his spot or gets left out again come October.


Morning Skate newsletter Click To Subscribe