The New York Rangers partially compensated Friday for trading their past four first-round draft picks by signing prized free agent Jimmy Vesey.
Inking a two-year, entry-level contract worth a total of $1.85 million and bearing an annual cap hit of $925,000, the 23-year-old Harvard grad leaps to the top of the Rangers’ prospect depth chart at left wing.
He joins a team that has used its late-round selections in recent years to ensure it has some promising prospects and projects in the pipeline.
Brandon Halverson tops the Rangers' strong group of goaltending prospects.
Without a doubt their strongest area, an encouraging group of goaltenders is establishing themselves at every level. Brandon Halverson has come off back-to-back successful seasons in the OHL, and will look to battle returning starter Magnus Hellberg and prospect Mackenzie Skapski for a job with the Hartford Wolf Pack. Igor Shesterkin has appeared in a minimal amount of games for the KHL’s SKA St. Petersburg over the past two years, but has put up incredible numbers for St. Petersburg’s MHL and VHL affiliates. He has also been stellar in international appearances. Tyler Wall (UMass Lowell) and Adam Huska (Connecticut) will both play in the NCAA’s Hockey East this season. While Wall will have plenty of competition for the UMass crease, Huska should be a full-time starter for Connecticut within the next two years.
While some of New York’s defensive prospects have fairly high ceilings at the NHL level, there is a clear lack of future fantasy back-end stars. However, the majority of their blueline prospects have NHL size and are gifted skaters. Brady Skjei will battle Adam Clendening, Dylan McIlrath, and Nick Holden for the last three spots in the Rangers’ top six. Ryan Graves and Calle Andersson will see an increase in responsibility in their second year with the AHL’s Hartford Wolf Pack, with Michael Paliotta also in the mix for a top-four spot. Leading the way in junior will be polarizing defenseman Sean Day and recently signed Sergei Zborovskiy. Tarmo Reunanen will also look to get back on track in Finnish organization TPS this season. The Rangers also signed free-agent defenseman John Gilmour. Gilmour, a former Flames’ draft pick, will most likely play for Hartford this season.
Among forwards, Vesey becomes the centerpiece as a shot-generating machine whose sniping is helped when he uses his 6-2, 201-pound body for puck possession and battling to acquire it. A reliable two-way player, Vesey will also help you on the power play. Pavel Buchnevich is a dynamic offensive talent built to produce in the modern NHL, he will likely slot immediately into the New York Rangers’ opening lineup. Nicklas Jensen will also vie for one of the final forward spots on the roster. Recently signed Robin Kovacs, Malte Stromwall, and Adam Chapie will all likely join an exciting Hartford lineup. 2012 second-round pick Cristoval Nieves, a personal favorite of mine, will look to build off his impressive tryout with the Wolf Pack last season while recent selections Brad Morrison, Tim Gettinger, and Gabriel Fontaine will see increased ice time with their respective junior teams. Sparkplug Ty Ronning will likely be one of the top scorers among the rebuilding Vancouver Giants.
* RD Tyler Nanne will not be ranked due to life-threatening medical issues keeping him off of the ice for the entire 2015-2016 season. This is just a placement in the depth chart.
Here are a few risers and fallers among the Rangers’ prospect pool:
Adam Huska – The unknown 2015 seventh-round pick who struggled in his first transition to North America put up the best numbers in the entire USHL last year. He was an instrumental part in the Green Bay Gamblers advancing to the Clark Cup playoffs and was voted USHL Goaltender of the Year. Huska will likely be the starter for the University of Connecticut within the next two years, and he has a near lock on the starter’s spot for Slovakia’s World Junior U-20 team this year.
Adam Huska makes a dramatic save for the Green Bay Gamblers, and makes it look easy:
Ryan Gropp – Gropp had an impressive third season with the Seattle, potting 34 goals and 46 assists in 66 games. He’s been the leading goal scorer for the Thunderbirds for two years now, and his physical and instinctual talents set him up for a promising future.
Cristoval Nieves – Once a bit of an afterthought in the Rangers’ system, Cristoval Nieves has proven over the last four years that he can make all of the little improvements needed to round his game out. His skating, creativity with and without the puck, big body, and natural playmaking abilities will cause headaches for AHL defenders this year. Look for him to play his way onto the Wolf Pack’s top line.
Mackenzie Skapski – Like most young goaltenders, Skapski has had his struggles and bouts of inconsistency. However, Skapski, who had two NHL starts and 28 AHL starts two seasons ago, saw only limited action in the AHL last year and spent most of his time in the ECHL with the Greenville Swamp Rabbits. He didn’t have great numbers in either league, and with the addition of Brandon Halverson, he will feel pressure to perform. He is a young goaltender, and there is no question that he can rebound, but his fantasy outlook looks much worse than it did a year ago.
Daniel Bernhardt – Bernhardt made the jump to North American ice in the middle of last season, and it was a rather forgettable venture. Bernhardt, while rather skilled, was invisible far too often and has shown no real statistical improvement. His fantasy future looks grim.
Chris Brown – While still barely a prospect, the former highly touted University of Michigan forward and Coyotes’ prospect has had a regression, statistics wise, in the AHL. Whilst some hoped a trade to the Rangers would help get his career back on track, at his age it seems like he has plateaued and will always be an AHL middle-six forward.
TOP 10 FANTASY PROSPECTS:
- Jimmy Vesey
- Pavel Buchnevich
- Brady Skjei
- Sean Day
- Brandon Halverson
- Ryan Gropp
- Igor Shesterkin
- Ryan Graves
- Robin Kovacs
- Cristoval Nieves
Graduated prospects – Dylan McIlrath (NHL), Oscar Lindberg (NHL), Marek Hrivik (time spent in AHL), Magnus Hellberg (time spent in AHL).
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