It’s no secret the New York Rangers have an abundance of talent in their system. Some would argue they have the best prospect pool in the entire NHL. Whether you feel that way or not, there’s no argument against them being loaded with up-and-coming future NHL’ers. With players like Vitali Kravtsov and Zac Jones, who were at the top of the prospect report month in and month out during the season and who subsequently cracked the Rangers’ lineup and contributed at some point, the Rangers have others who are poised to crack the lineup as well next season.
With players like Nils Lundkvist, Braden Schneider, Hunter Skinner and more; the Rangers front office and coaching staff will have some big decisions to make come training camp and over the next couple of seasons. Let’s take a look at this year’s prospects that made some waves as we head into the off-season.
Nils Lundkvist won the Salming Trophy as the Swedish Hockey Leagues’ (SHL) best defenseman. He led all SHL defensemen in goals with 14 and added 16 assists. The Rangers’ 2018 first-round draft pick is currently playing for Team Sweden in the 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in Latvia. Lundkvist has a goal and four assists in three games so far. Lundkvist is unsigned, but that will probably change soon.
Braden Schneider signed an entry-level contract with the Rangers near the end of a stellar WHL campaign with the Brandon Wheat Kings. The Blueshirts called him up, and he played two games with affiliate Hartford Wolf Pack and recorded one assist.
While playing with the Wheat Kings this season, he had 27 points in 22 games. Schneider is representing Team Canada at the World Championships. He’s played three games with no points as of yet, and Canada is 0-3 thus far.
Hunter Skinner, the 2019 fourth-round, 112th overall pick of the Rangers, made some waves while playing in the ECHL and earned himself an entry-level contract with the Blueshirts. Shortly after that, the 6-foot-3, 182-pound defenseman from Wyandotte, MI, found himself playing with the Wolf Pack. Since then, he’s played 10 games in the AHL, scoring a goal and an assist. He was also part of Team USA’s World Junior Championship team last December. Skinner was expected to start and play in the OHL this season or return whenever they got back up and running, but that never happened; the Rangers signed him and brought him to Hartford instead. The crazy 2020-21 season certainly worked out in his favor.
Matthew Roberston has climbed up the Rangers’ prospect chart as of late. Over the last couple of months, he’s been a mainstay in the top five. He helped the Edmonton Oil Kings win the WHL’s Central Division by scoring 22 points in 22 games while posting a league-leading plus-26. The 6-foot-4, 200-pound defenseman was the Rangers’ second-round pick in 2019 and should start the 2021-22 season with the Wolf Pack.
Lauri Pajuniemi is a 6-foot, 196-pound, right-wing playing for TPS (Liiga). The Finnish-born forward helped TPS get to the final series of their playoffs and recorded eight points in 13 playoff games.
Pajuniemi notched 38 points in 48 regular-season games. He was also plus-12. The 16 assists this season were a career-high for the Rangers’ 2018 fifth-round pick. He also added 38 PIMs (Penalty Minutes).
Ty Ronning had 10 goals and eight assists in 18 games this season with the Wolf Pack. Ronning, son of former NHL star Cliff Ronning ended up third on the team in scoring. He’s a smallish right-wing at 5-foot-9, 170 pounds, and was drafted in the seventh round by the Rangers. Ronning hails from Scottsdale, AZ.
Dylan Garand spent most of the 2020-21 season with the Kamloops Blazers of the WHL. He was 11-3 with a 2.48 goals-against average (GAA). The Rangers’ 2020 fourth-round draft pick also recorded two shutouts. He was called up to the Wolf Pack after the Blazers finished their season and appeared in two games while allowing five goals. He’ll most likely be back with Kamloops next season.
The Magnificent Seven
These four defensemen, two forwards, and goalie showed the Rangers’ scouts and front office their worth this season. With a productive off-season and strong training camp, we may see a few of them at MSG soon. Or some of them may be dealt to bolster the current lineup. Either way, all of these prospects made an impression this season and look to be in the NHL someday soon.
Scott Blair is an author and journalist from Los Angeles, CA, by way of Detroit, MI. Uniquely diverse experiences have shaped Scott’s life in both of those places he calls home. He is now traveling the world, learning and growing as a human and a writer. He was a professional hockey player and then turned to the arts, becoming an actor for about 15 years. His passions turned to poetry, prose, politics, and journalism when he got tired of the Hollywood machine and what it represents. Scott is available for interviews and welcomes questions and topic ideas.