December 31-in-31: New York Rangers

Brayden Olafson

2020-12-20

The 31-in-31 Offseason Series is an annual event here at DobberProspects! Every day in December we will be bringing you a complete breakdown of a team’s prospect depth chart, riser & fallers, and top prospect ranking. 

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With yet another shiny new top-two selection coming into the fold in Manhattan, the Rangers’ are poised to take a firmer stance on the progression of their NHL roster over the coming months. Sitting atop the Forbes list of most valuable NHL franchises, the Rangers may be one of the few teams not operating on an internal salary cap over the next number of seasons, which comes at a perfect time in their roster restructuring. 

Unfortunately for some of the depth prospects in the Rangers’ system, the organizations’ ECHL club in Portland, Maine has opted not to participate in the upcoming 2021 season. This leaves a bit of a logjam for the AHL’s Hartford Wolfpack to manage with the club’s younger graduating prospects itching for development ice time in the professional ranks. Strategically, the Rangers’ have done well to diversify their development pool, and still have a number of promising players developing externally, where they’ll be able to continue flourishing while the NHL club works its way back into Eastern Conference contention.

Graduating to the NHL

Alexis Lafreniere, LW 

The highly touted first-overall selection from the 2020 draft will undoubtedly find a home on the Rangers’ opening night lineup. The only question will be how exactly he fits into the top-six group. With the dynamic duo of Mika Zibanejad and Artemi Panarin holding down the top line, it’s possible that David Quinn schemes a second all-star duo with Lafreneiere featured on the second-line to start the season. 

Julien Gauthier, LW/RW 

After coming over in the trade that sent Joey Keane to the Carolina Hurricanes, Gauthier was quickly elevated to a full-time NHL position. His fourth line deployment was relatively sheltered through 12 games with the Blueshirts so he may still be subject to growing pains, but his experience should put him in line to slot in once again in the teams’ bottom-six.

On the Cusp

Vitali Kravtsov , RW

After a year in which Kravtsov was expected to challeng