The New York Rangers have one of the deepest prospect pools in the NHL, if not the deepest. After coming close to making the playoffs that most thought they wouldn’t, the Rangers are poised to hit the 2021-22 season with a full head of steam. With a roster that’s already full of solid to great players, and top prospects like Vitali Kravtsov and Zac Jones already making the jump into the lineup, here are the top five who have a chance to be regulars in the lineup next season.
1. Nils Lundkvist
Nils Lundkvist’s season ended a few weeks ago when Lulea lost to Skelleftea in the seventh game of the quarterfinal round of the Swedish Hockey League (SHL) playoffs. He had a stellar season with Lulea, leading SHL defensemen in goals with 14. He also added 16 assists while garnering almost 22 minutes of ice time per game.
Lulea showed how valuable Lundkvist was to them by giving him almost 25 minutes of ice time per game throughout the playoffs. This, no doubt, makes the Rangers front office happy and definitely has to move them closer to signing their 2018 first-round pick. Lundkvist’s 78 career points in the SHL rank him at the top of the all-time list when it comes to players at the Under-21 level or younger. His 30 career goals rank him second of all-time in that same U-21 category as well. He was awarded the Salming Trophy as the SHL’s best defenseman at the end of the regular season.
2. Morgan Barron
Morgan Barron actually cracked the Rangers lineup at the end of the 2020-21 season. He played five games with the Blueshirts and scored one goal. He averaged about 13 minutes of ice time per game, topping out at 18 minutes in the much anticipated “Tom Wilson” rematch on May 5 with the Washington Capitals, a game in which he scored his only goal.
The 6-foot-4, 220-pound center can bring some much-needed size up the middle should be become a regular next season. He’s still technically a “non-roster” player according to the Rangers salary cap chart. The 22-year-old, who’s in his first year as a professional, has the most points for the Hartford Wolf Pack in the American Hockey League this season with 21 in 21 games.
3. Braden Schneider
Braden Schneider, the Rangers’ first-round, 19th-overall pick, in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft signed his entry-level contract recently. He scored a nice overtime goal for the Brandon Wheat Kings of the Western Hockey League (WHL) helping them to the East Division title. It was his second overtime goal in three games.
The next night, he hit his career high for assists and points in a game (4) against Regina. The 6-foot-2, 210-pound defenseman was tied for 10th in points in the WHL this season with 27. The Wheat Kings’ captain was averaging 1.29 points per game and had a plus-21 rating. All of this prompted the Rangers to call him up to the Wolf Pack. His plus-21 was second in the WHL to Matthew Robertson, who’s another Rangers prospect. Schneider has played in two games and has an assist with a plus-2 rating thus far for Hartford.
4. Lauri Pajuniemi
Lauri Pajuniemi is a 21-year-old right-wing from Finland. He was a fifth-round draft pick of the Rangers in 2018. While playing for TPS (Liiga), he established career highs this season in assists (16) and plus/minus (plus-12). He had the sixth-most goals in Liiga this season while getting a point in 30 of his last 41 games. Pajuniemi had eight points in 13 playoff games, helping TPS get to the final series before losing three games to one to Lukko. He’s recorded 78 points in 97 games in his last two seasons in Liiga.
5. Tim Gettinger
Tim Gettinger came up and played two games with the Rangers to close out the season, but is also still considered a non-roster player. The 6-foot-6, 218-pound forward from Cleveland, Ohio, has played a total of eight games over three seasons with the Rangers and becomes a restricted free agent on July 28. He has one point over those eight games with a scarce amount of ice time. However, with the Rangers looking to add size, strength and grit, they could be in the market to offer Gettinger a one- or two-year extension. He’s second on the Wolf Pack behind Barron with 19 points in 23 games.
2021-22 Should Be a Great One
Whether one or all of these Rangers prospects are in the lineup next season, there’s no doubt the Rangers will be must-see TV. A Salming Trophy winner, World Junior champion and some guys that saw NHL action this year make for these five top prospects to make some noise in training camp.
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.