Welcome to the 2019 Top Shelf Prospects series. As we go through the Summer of 2019 LWOH will be featuring a team-by-team look at the top prospects in the NHL. We will be following the order of the first round of the NHL draft (as if there were no traded draft picks) and you can find all the articles here. Since we had an extensive NHL Draft preview, we will not be reviewing the players who were drafted in the 2019 draft, as there have been no games since then, and our reports on them will not have changed. Today we look at the New York Rangers Prospects.
What we will be doing is linking you to those articles, as well as taking a look at prospects that were acquired before this year’s draft; their progress, and their chances of making the 2019-20 roster of the NHL team in question. We will also bring you one sleeper pick – a player who was either drafted in the 4th-round or later, or was an undrafted free agent signing who we pick as our dark horse to make the NHL. For those wondering, the cut-off for what is or isn’t a prospect is typically about 50 NHL games played (including playoff games) or is 25 years old. These are not hard or fast rules though, and we may make some exceptions depending on the circumstances.
New York Rangers Prospects
The New York Rangers rebuild continued in 2018-19, finishing 7th in the Metro Division and over 20 points out of the playoffs. However, there were some bright spots. Mika Zibanejad emerged as a true top-line scoring threat with 74 points. Tony DeAngelo put up 30 points in 61 games on the blue line and Alexandar Georgiev put up a .914 save percentage.
It wasn’t good enough though, and the Rangers have spent the off-season accelerating the rebuild. They have beefed up the defence with the acquisitions of Jacob Trouba and Adam Fox. General manager Jeff Gorton also added the best free-agent forward on the market in Artemi Panarin. They also were awarded the second overall pick in the NHL Draft lottery and added an elite prospect in Kaapo Kakko.
2019 Draft Picks (Grade B+): Kaapo Kakko, Matthew Robertson, Karl Henriksson, Zachary Jones, Hunter Skinner, Leevi Aaltonen, Adam Edstrom, Eric Ciccolini,
2018-19 Graduations: Filip Chytil, Lias Andersson, Brett Howden, Neal Pionk (since traded), Brendan Lemieux, Boo Nieves,
Top Prospect: Kaapo Kakko
The Rangers drafted Kakko with the 2nd overall pick in this year’s NHL draft. Prior to the draft, we did an in-depth scouting report on Kakko. As no games have been played since that report; we will not repeat it. You can check out the report here.
#2 Prospect: Vitali Kravtsov
Right Wing/Centre — shoots Left
Born December 23rd, 1999 — Vladivostok, Russia
Height 6’4″ — Weight 183 [192 cm / 83 kg]
Drafted by the New York Rangers in the 1st round, 9th overall, at the 2018 NHL Draft
Kravtsov spent his post-draft season playing against men in the KHL. He put up eight goals and 21 points in 50 games. He also added two assists in four playoff games. Kravtsov played for Russia at the World Juniors, scoring two goals and six points in seven games, winning a bronze medal.
Kravtsov is an excellent skater. He has good speed and acceleration. He can take a defenceman wide off the rush and cut to the front of the net. His ability to change speeds is a weapon on the rush. It is also something that Kravtsov has taken better advantage of as he gains expereince and confidence. He can slow the play down to create space from defenders, and open up passing and shooting lanes, or get a step on a defender, drop his shoulder and cut into the front of the net. Kravtsov also has good agility and edge work. This makes him dangerous in one-on-one situations. He already shows good power in his lower body, as he is tough to knock off the puck, and can fight through checks.
Kravtsov is a skilled offensive player. He pairs his great skating ability with outstanding hands. He can stickhandle in a phone booth. This makes him absolutely deadly in one-on-one situations. The best part of his game is that he can make all these moves and handle the puck while moving at top speed. If defenders back off to respect his speed and stickhandling, he has a deadly arsenal of shots that he can put on the net. Kravtsov has a very good wrist shot and snapshot. Both shots feature a quick release. With the hands to also score in tight, he’s a natural sniper.
Kravtsov also has the vision and passing skill to be a playmaker off the wing, though he is more of a shoot-first player. If there is a criticism of Kravtsov’s offensive game, it is that he does not always make the best decisions with the puck. He can skate himself into trouble by trying to do it all himself or to dangle too many defenders at once. He could stand to smarter with the puck and keep it moving, utilizing linemates more effectively.
Kravtsov’s defensive game is good for his age. He works hard on the backcheck and tries hard to cover his man at the point and battle for loose pucks on the boards. Kravtsov brings backpressure and works to cut down passing and shooting lanes. When a turnover is created, he is quick to transition to offence and create chances.
Signed by the Rangers at the end of the KHL season, Kravtsov will head to training camp looking to make the team and he has a very good chance to do it. He is a huge part of the Rangers future and with fellow Russian players like Pavel Buchnevich, Vladislav Namestnikov, Panarin, and Alexander Georgiev on the team, it should make his transition from Russia a little easier. There has been some talk of trying Kravtsov at centre, however, he seems to play better on the wing.
#3 Prospect: Igor Shestyorkin
Goalie — Shoots Left — Catches Left
Born December 30th, 1995 — Moscow, Russia
Height 6’1″ — Weight 187 lbs [185 cm / 85 kg]
Drafted by the New York Rangers in the 4th round, 118th overall, at the 2014 NHL Draft
Shestyorkin continued his stellar play with SKA St. Petersburg last year, putting up career bests with a 1.11 goals-against-average and .953 save percentage. Both marks led the KHL. He was not quite as dominant but still very good in the KHL playoffs with a 1.95 goals-against average and .904 save percentage.
Shestyorkin is a smaller goaltender who relies on his outstanding reflexes to make saves. His technique is a little unorthodox but he is lightning quick. He never quits on a play and gets across the crease quickly to make a lot of very acrobatic saves. He tracks the puck well. His glove hand is outstanding, taking away the top of the net. He has improved his angles and challenging shooters more than he used to. However, compared to other goalies, Shestyorkin prefers to play deep in his crease. Over the last few years, he has improved his rebound control. Even when he gives up a rebound, Shestyorkin is good at staying square to the puck and being in a position to make the next save.
Shestyorkin has the mental make-up to be a goaltender on the big stage. He shakes off goals quickly and is ready to make the next save. Shestyorkin is not intimidated or distracted by traffic and chaos around his crease. He remains the calm port in the storm for his teammates in times of crisis.
Shestyorkin signed with the Rangers following the conclusion of the KHL season and is their goalie of the future. However, Henrik Lundqvist is still the King of New York, and Georgiev has played well as his backup. It might make sense for Shestyorkin to start his North American career with Hartford. He can learn the different angles of NHL sized ice and the adjustments he will need to make for a year at that level before the Rangers must decide on their goaltending options in 2020-21.
#4 Prospect: Adam Fox
Defence — shoots Right
Born February 17th, 1998 — Jericho, New York
Height 5’11” — Weight 185 lbs [180 cm / 84 kg]
Drafted by the Calgary Flames in the 3rd round, #66 overall at the 2016 NHL Draft
Acquired by the New York Rangers in an April 2019 trade.
Fox continued his brilliant college career with nine goals and 48 points in 33 games for Harvard. He was the ECAC Player of the Year, a First Team All-American (East), and a Hobey Baker finalist. After the season, he also played for Team USA at the Men’s World Championships and did not look out of place competing with and against NHL talent. Contract issues with the Carolina Hurricanes saw Fox traded to the Rangers. He quickly signed an entry-level deal after the trade.
Adam Fox is an undersized defenseman but an elite offensive producer. He has elite skating ability, moving around the ice with very good speed and acceleration. He can lead or join the rush or pinch at the blue line and still get back to defend his own zone as well. Fox has very good agility and edgework. He can weave in and out of traffic while rushing the puck up the ice, and use quick cuts to avoid opponents, be they forecheckers trying to pin him in his own end, or defenders against the rush. Fox got stronger through his college career. He will now see if his core strength will be enough to endure the rigours of playing at the NHL level. He may still need to add a bit more muscle to improve his balance and get stronger on the puck.
Fox has extremely good stickhandling ability. He shows poise with the puck at the blue line, being patient, and willing to use his agility to walk the line to open up shooting and passing lanes. Fox has outstanding vision and the ability to feather a pass through the tightest of openings. He can use this ability while quarterbacking the power play, carrying the puck on the rush, or in making a strong first pass to start the rush. He is especially adept at making long breakaway passes.
Fox’s wrist shot is accurate and features a quick release, but could use a bit more power. He has a knack for getting his slap shot through traffic and keeping it low and on the net, allowing teammates to get tip-ins and rebounds. He has decent power on his slap shot but it is not overpowering either. Fox could improve both shots with more upper body strength.
Fox uses his quick feet to keep attackers in front of him off the rush. He has good backwards skating and a quick stick and is tough to beat one-on-one. Fox’s size and strength become an issue in the defensive zone though. He can be overpowered in puck battles and has issues clearing the front of the net. This is the biggest flaw in his game, and the main question mark surrounding Fox.
After a stellar college career and a high-profile trade, Fox will be given every opportunity to make the Rangers out of training camp. If paired with a steady defensive partner who allows him to create offence and take chances he could make an impact as an NHL rookie.
#5 Prospect: K’Andre Miller
Defence — shoots Left
Born January 21st, 2000 — Hopkins, Minnesota
Height 6’3″ — Weight 206 lbs [191 cm / 93 kg]
Drafted by the New York Rangers in the 1st round, 22nd Overall, at the 2018 NHL Draft
Miller had a solid freshman season with the University of Wisconsin scoring five goals and 22 points in 26 games. His season was cut short by a leg injury suffered in February. He was the Badgers leading scorer at the time of the injury. Miller also played for Team USA at the World Juniors, winning a silver medal in the process.
Miller is an outstanding skater. His stride seems almost effortless but generates very good speed in both directions. He can rush the puck up the ice, or pinch at the blue line and still get back defensively. Miller has very good acceleration as he reaches that top speed very quickly. His edgework, pivots, and agility are top notch. Miller changes direction effortlessly. He also can make quick cuts, as well as transition quickly from offence to defence and vice-versa. Miller has a strong lower body. He is tough to knock off the puck. His balance and power are also effective in winning battles on the boards, and in clearing the front of the net.
Miller’s skating ability is combined with good puck handling skills. It is easy to see why he was a forward for so long. He can skate the puck out of danger, and start the transition game by leading the rush. He also makes a good first pass to start the transition game. If there is a criticism it is that Miller plays a game that is almost too conservative at this point. He picks his spots for when to get involved in the offence but seems to wait for a near perfect opportunity. There are times he could push the play more and does not. However, this is an area that has really improved.
Miller’s passing skills translate to playing at the point in the offensive zone. He has the vision and playmaking ability to set up teammates. Miller creates passing and shooting lanes with his quick feet and good agility. Miller’s shot is accurate and he has a good release on his wrist shot but lacks the power in his slap shot to be a big-time scorer from the point. He is more of a quarterback at the point than a trigger man.
K’Andre Miller is aggressive and physical in his own end of the ice. His skating allows him to maintain good gap control on the rush, and take his man out in one-on-one situations. When playing down low, there are still some issues with his positioning and instincts, but these continue to get better. The skills are there, but he will need to continue to refine his game. His defensive game has made great strides since converting from forward in the 2016 season but there are still areas that can be improved.
Miller should spend another season playing college hockey at Wisconsin. He should be healed up and ready to go for the start of the season. He will hope to pick up where he left off and continue to produce at the NCAA level. If he can do that, he might have a entry-level contract offer waiting for him after the college season ends. Millier likely needs a year or two before he is ready for the NHL, but his potential upside is very high.
#6 Prospect: Lias Andersson
Centre — shoots Left
Born October 13th, 1998 — Smogen, Sweden
Height 6’0″ — Weight 204 lbs [183 cm / 93 kg]
Drafted by the New York Rangers in the 1st round, #7 overall, at the 2017 NHL Draft
Andersson split time between the Rangers and the Wolfpack last season. He scored two goals and four assists in 42 NHL games along with six goals and 14 assists for 20 points in 36 AHL games.
Andersson is a strong skater. He has an excellent first step along with very good acceleration and top-end speed. He can get in quickly on the forecheck and is very effective at tracking down loose pucks. Andersson also shows good edgework and agility, allowing him to avoid defenders, and to make quick changes of direction and beat defenders when working the cycle game. He also has good balance on his skates and strength in his lower body.
The first thing you notice about Andersson is his tenacity. He plays the game with a non-stop motor, digging for loose pucks and trying to make plays in all three zones. He gets to the front of the net and plays in the dirty areas of the ice. Andersson is strong on the puck and has a low centre of gravity. He is able to fight off checks and drive to the front of the net, both on the rush and in the cycle game. Andersson has the soft hands to finish plays in close to the net, to get tip-ins and deflections and to pounce on rebounds. When he gains control of the puck in the corner, he moves the puck quickly to open teammates. He has decent vision and passing skills.
Andersson also has a very good wrist shot. It is very heavy and features a quick-release that he can get off in stride, or when set-up by a pass from a teammate. He could stand to be a little more accurate with it though. Andersson plays a simplistic, north/south style, which is also extremely effective.
As mentioned, Andersson’s tenacity extends to all three zones. He is relentless as a back checker, pursuing the puck and looking to create a turnover and transition to offence. He supports his defenders in working down low to contain on the cycle and shows good balance and power in containing his man. Andersson has shown the instincts to read the play and cut down shooting and passing lanes. He has been a good penalty killer at the international level. While he is more than willing to battle for loose pucks, he is not one to initiate contact or throw big hits.
Andersson will also head to Rangers camp looking to make the roster on a full-time basis. There should be a few spots up for grabs. A strong camp would earn a job. The Rangers hope that Andersson will take steps forward and show some of his offensive potential at the NHL level this season.
#7 Prospect: Nils Lundkvist
Defence — Shoots Right
Born July 27th, 2000 — Pitea, Sweden
Height 5’11” — Weight 180 lbs [180 cm / 82 kg]
Drafted by the New York Rangers in the 1st round, 28th Overall, at the 2018 NHL Draft
Playing for Lulea in the SHL, Lundkvist had a full season playing against men. While his ice-time and offensive opportunities were somewhat limited he had a solid season for a teenager playing in a men’s league. Lundkvist put up three goals and 10 points in 41 regular season games and also added a goal in seven playoff games. He also played for Sweden at the World Juniors, picking up a goal and an assist in five tournament games.
Lundkvist is a good skater. He has very good speed, and excellent acceleration in his forwards skating. Moving backwards is not quite as good, but still well above average. His edgework and agility are very good, as he can change directions and make quick cuts. Lundkvist has strong pivots and this allows him to transition from offence to defence quickly, and vice-versa. He could stand to work on his lower body strength. This would give him better balance and allow him to be stronger on the puck, and in battles in the corners and in the front of the net.
Lundkvist is skilled with the puck on his stick. He can skate the puck out of danger as well as lead the rush in the transition game. Lundkvist has poise at the point on the power play. He controls the play and can move laterally to create passing and shooting lanes. He sees the ice well and has the passing skill to make plays from the point, to make the first pass in transition, as well as to make the long breakaway passes.
Lundkvist is much more comfortable as a playmaker than as a shooter. When he does get a shot, its often by sneaking in from the point and taking a shot from the top of the faceoff circles. He has a good wrist shot with a quick release. However, Lundkvist lacks power on his slap shot and one-timer. He will need to work on these. Some added upper body strength can help, but he is likely to always be more of a playmaker than a shooter on the point.
Lundkvist’s lack of size can be an issue in his own end. He can be overpowered by bigger, stronger forwards. He is willing to engage in the corners and in front of the net but is limited. Again this is an area where added muscle mass will help him. He is good at retrieving loose pucks and moving them up the ice quickly. He also is well-positioned and has a quick stick that can poke the puck away from an attacker.
Lundkvist is set for another season in Sweden. The Rangers will look to bring him to North America in 2020. He would likely need some time in the AHL at that point. While Lundkvist could develop into a top-four defenceman, he continues to need time before he will be NHL ready.
#8 Prospect: Alexandar Georgiev
Goalie — shoots Left – Catches Left
Born February 10th, 1996 — Ruse, Bulgaria
Height 6’1″ — Weight 179 lbs [185 cm / 81 kg]
Signed as an Undrafted Free Agent in July 2017
After an injury to Ondrej Pavelec opened the door, Georgiev was decent in his first stint in the NHL going 4-4-1 with 10 appearances in 2017-18. Georgiev started the 2018-19 season in the AHL. and Georgiev emerged as the Rangers backup and made 33 appearances going 14-13-4. He also got in 11 appearances in the AHL. Behind the rebuilding Rangers he put up a 2.91 goals-against-average, a .914 save percentage and two shutouts. He even earned himself a spot on Russia’s World Championship team, coming home with a bronze medal.
At just 6’1″, Georgiev is on the smaller side of NHL goalies. He makes up for his lack of size by coming out of his net to cut down angles and challenge shooters. He is also extremely athletic with lightning-quick reflexes. Powerful legs allow him to move around the net quickly, whether it is getting side-to-side or moving backwards quickly if an opponent tries to deke him. Georgiev plays a hybrid style, showing both stand-up and butterfly technique. He gets down into the butterfly quickly and takes away the bottom of the net effectively.
Georgiev is cool and confident in the net. He has shown poise, even in games where he is being peppered with shots and facing heavy traffic in front of the net. His demeanour doesn’t seem to change when this is happening. For a young goaltender, his rebound control is decent but can still get even better. There are times when he can get beaten clean with a shot. This should improve as he goes through the league a few times and learns to read the NHL shooters he is facing.
Georgiev will likely be the Rangers backup goaltender again in 2019-20. With Lundqvist’s age and injury history, this likely means plenty of playing time. While his upside is not as high as Shestyorkin’s, he could also develop into a starting calibre NHL goaltender. In fact, at this time he’s further along in his development.
#9 Prospect: Matthew Robertson
The Rangers drafted Robertson with the 49th overall pick in this year’s NHL draft. Prior to the draft, we did an in-depth scouting report on Robertson. As no games have been played since that report; we will not repeat it. You can check out the report here.
#10 Prospect: Libor Hajek
Defence — shoots Left
Born February 4th, 1998 — Smrcek, Czech Republic
Height 6’2″ — Weight 203 lbs [188 cm / 92 kg]
Drafted by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2nd round, #37 overall, at the 2016 NHL Draft
Traded to the New York Rangers in February 2018.
Hajek spent most of his first professional season playing for the Hartford Wolf Pack in the AHL. He put up five assists in 58 games, while also adding 36 minutes in penalties. He also got a cameo in the NHL, playing five games and scoring his first career goal.
Hajek is a smooth skater. His top-end speed is good, but not great. The rest of his skating makes up for it though. He an excellent first step and good acceleration in both directions. He also has excellent pivots and agility allowing him to cover large areas of the ice effectively, and transition well from offence to defence and vice-versa. Hajek has a powerful stride and good balance. He uses that balance to effectively clear the front of the net and battle for loose pucks in the corner. Hajek has decent core strength, and showed the ability to stand up to pro players.
Hajek didn’t put up many points in his first pro campaign but has shown offensive skill at the junior level. It is hoped that as he becomes more accustomed to the quicker pro game, he will begin to bring these traits to the pros. He has shown the ability to move the puck, transitioning quickly out of his own end and making a strong first pass. He has never been a big power-play producer, but he has shown some ability to make plays at the opponent’s blue line.
Over his junior career, he improved his stickhandling, poise, and patience with the puck. He uses his agility to walk the line and open up passing and shooting lanes or work to make a better play with the puck. His slap shot also improved, but could still use some work on accuracy going forward. He is not one to lead the rush, instead looking to pass the puck forward and stay at home in his own end. He picked his spots to join as a trailer or pinch in at the line. While he’ll never be known for an offensive game, there is a little more in there than he showed in his first year.
Hajek is a strong defensive defender. He forces attackers to the outside on the rush. Early in the season, Hajek seemed to be a bit surprised by the speed of AHL opponents but he settled in as the year went along. He has good gap control and can land a big hit if an opponent tries to beat him to the outside but does not go around chasing hits and getting himself caught out of position. In fact, his positioning in his own end is a real strong point.
Hajek uses his size and long stick to cut down passing lanes. He keeps himself between the puck and the front of the net and keeps his opponent to the outside not just off the rush, but in defending against the cycle as well. Hajek is not afraid to battle for loose pucks and works well to keep the front of the net clear. He anticipates plays extremely well.
The chances of Hajek seeing playing time in the NHL this year revolve around what the Rangers do with their defence. Trouba and DeAngelo are still restricted free agents though both are expected to re-sign with the team. The futures of Kevin Shattenkirk and Brendan Smith seem up in the air and reports suggest the team would like to move on from them. It would not be surprising if neither of the two veterans are on the Rangers roster this season. In addition, there is Adam Fox competing for a spot. Depending on how this all shakes out, there just might be a spot for Hajek to win in training camp. He will face competition though, as the Rangers have plenty of defensive depth in the system.
#11 Prospect: Karl Henriksson
The Rangers drafted Henriksson with the 58th overall pick in this year’s NHL draft. Prior to the draft, we did an in-depth scouting report on Henriksson. As no games have been played since that report; we will not repeat it. You can check out the report here.
Sleeper Prospect: Yegor Rykov
Defence — Shoots Left
Born April 14th, 1997 — Vidnoe, Russia
Height 6’2″ — Weight 205 lbs [188 cm / 93 kg]
Drafted by the New Jersey Devils in the 5th round, #132 overall, at the 2016 NHL Draft
Traded to the New York Rangers in February 2018.
Rykov spent another year in the KHL, this time with HK Sochi following an October trade. He put up three goals and nine points in 47 games. Rykov added three assists in six playoff games.
Rykov is a strong skater. He has good speed in both directions and quick acceleration. He also has very good edgework and pivots. Rykov transitions quickly from offence to defence and vice-versa. He is solid on his skates and has good balance. It is difficult to move him off the puck.
Rykov has very good vision and passing skill. He starts breakouts with a strong and crisp first pass. He also has the stickhandling skill to skate the puck out of danger and make plays off the rush. Calm and poised with the puck, he quarterbacked the power play for the World Junior Team. However, Rykov needs to work on his shot. He could add upper body strength, which would give him better power. This has limited his effectiveness and point production in the KHL.
Rykov has continued to get better defensively and cleaned up many of the defensive lapses that he had earlier in his career. While he still isn’t perfect, it is clear that his game continues to improve. He shows good positioning, and an active stick to create turnovers and transition to offence. He now looks to adjust to the smaller ice surface and continue to play a strong defensive game in North America.
Rykov signed with the Rangers this summer. He will head to training camp hoping to compete with Hajek and others for a potentially open spot on the Rangers blue line. Due to his lack of experience on North American ice, he is at a bit of a disadvantage in this competition and will likely find himself starting the year in the AHL. Rykov could be called up if injuries hit the New York blue line. Expect to see more of him in 2020.
The strength of the Rangers system though lies in an elite prospect pool. As the Rangers have traded away established players in recent years, they have added top draft picks and prospects. This has led to the team establishing one of the best prospect pools in the NHL. This clearly starts in goal with Shestyorkin, Georgiev, Tyler Wall, and Olof Lindbom.
There is also plenty of depth on defence. In addition to the prospects profiled, the Rangers system has Ryan Lindgren, Tarmo Reunanen, Joey Keane, Sean Day, and Zachary Jones.
The forward group has seen recent graduations in Howden, Chytil and Andersson; but still boasts Kakko and Kravtsov as bluechip prospects. Drafting Henriksson was also important. Futher down the system, they have Morgan Barron, Leevi Aaltonen, and Tim Gettinger. Building this area of the prospect pool, especially at centre, will be critical to the Rangers success going forward.
Main New York Rangers Prospects Photo:
VANCOUVER, BC – JANUARY 5: Kaapo Kakko #24 of Finland after scoring what proved to be the game-winning goal in Gold Medal hockey action of the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship against the United States on January 5, 2019, at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)