The Rangers are in the first full year technically of their rebuild. Although some could say that they were rebuilding last season in the months of November, they were not officially in a “rebuild” phase at that point. The Rangers went into the 2017-18 season with expectations to make the playoffs and around the 2018 NHL trade deadline is officially when the Rangers went into full rebuild mode.
It has been exactly a year since the start of the Rangers rebuild. Trading Ryan McDonagh, JT Miller, Rick Nash, Nick Holden, Michael Grabner began the rebuild. And now as everything has come full circle and the 2019 NHL trade deadline has come and gone the Rangers have traded two more long-time Ranger players for picks and prospects.
Since the 2018 NHL trade deadline we have seen a number of players leave the Rangers…
- Ryan McDonagh
- JT Miller
- Nick Holden
- Rick Nash
- Kevin Hayes
- Michael Grabner
- Mats Zuccarello
Five of these seven names were all known as veterans or played a vital role in the success and make up of the Rangers franchise over the last 10 years.
As the Rangers have been a .500 team this season (to the surprise of many) they are still just getting started in this rebuild phase. The Rangers have two guaranteed 1st round picks this season. They also have two guaranteed second round picks.
*** Also have another second round pick but the contingency is if the Lighting win the Stanley Cup the 2nd rounder becomes a first this year if they do not win it sticks as a 2nd.
Then the Rangers have a third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh. Bring the total to 10 picks this NHL 2019 draft and looking at another ten in the 2020 draft (1 first, 1 second, 2 thirds, 1 fourth, 1 fifth, 1 sixth, 3 sevenths). Therefore combined between the next two draft years the Rangers have twenty draft picks. And they are definitely not done trading, as next years deadline could feature depth forwards like Jesper Fast, Jimmy Vesey and Vladislav Namestikov to be traded that will potentially yield more draft picks.
Has a rebuild been different for many and most New York Rangers fans? Sure. Can we be upset with the direction the Rangers are going? Probably not, I have seen a lot of discredit and frustration towards Jeff Gorton regarding the Mats Zuccarello deal. But the Rangers received a 1st round pick, 2nd round pick, a 3rd round pick plus Brenden Lemieux for Hayes and Zuccarello. Could we possibly have got more for Zuccarello, perhaps but I doubt Gorton was sitting there denying better deals.
Looking at the Rangers prospects pool may also make some Rangers happier.
Rangers defensive prospects:
- Ryan Lindgren: From the looks of it Lindgren is a physical defenseman, not a lot of offensive upside but is very good and responsible in the d-zone. Has potential to be a four/five defenseman.
- Rob O’Gara: Another defensive minded defenseman with not a lot of offensive upside that will be a fifth defenseman
- Libor Hajek: One of the more highly sought out Rangers prospects. Hajek was very successful in the WHL but has not transitioned well to the AHL only collecting 5 points this season. He does have potential to be a number four defenseman.
- Julius Bergman: Another physical defenseman who has been traded a few times and his stock has taken a toll, although he was a second rounder. Bergman could be a solid NHL defenseman if he stays disciplined.
- John Gilmour: A defenseman that is one of the Rangers more underrated prospects, a very good skater, strong and has offensive upside. Can play power play and has potential to be a number four defenseman)
- K’Andre Miller: Rangers first rounder last season and looking to be the Rangers next best defenseman. Miller is a very good two-way defenseman, when he cleans up his play on the defensive side of the puck will be a very good NHL defenseman)
- Nils Lundkvist: Much like Miller has a lot of upside on the offensive side of the puck, a great skater (probably better than Miller) but needs work on the defensive side of the puck and upside to be a top four defenseman.
- Nico Gross: Too early to tell as he still playing in the OHL but putting up very solid numbers for a defenseman.
The Rangers have some solid upside on their back end as long as they do not rush the process of Miller, Lundkvist and Lindgren the Rangers just in those three guys have a bright future on the blue line. Gilmour and Hajek are one of the more underrated Rangers prospects that could came out and provide some solid sturdiness to that blue line in a few years.
(My underrated defenseman that will pan out for the Rangers)
Rangers forward prospects:
- Vinnie Lettieri: If used correctly he can be a great third line forward. We have seen Lettieri at the NHL level and he is not a flashy player, very simple, gets to the dirty areas and plays like a Ryan Strome almost.
- Ryan Gropp: We have not seen him yet but reports say he has potential to be a top-six forward.
- Ty Ronning: He has consistently performed better year by year and could be a top-six forward depending on adjustment to NHL game.
- Vitali Kravstov: Rangers former first round pick, many are hoping to be a solid goal scorer at the NHL level. He is playing in the KHL and the Rangers planned to bring him up this season if he did not get injured.
- Gabriel Fontaine: Having a better year already in the AHL compared to last season. In 2-3 years he could be a third line forward.
- Filip Chytil: As we have seen this year Chytil can be a very good forward at the NHL level, consistency may be an issue but it is still very early.
- Lias Andersson: He’s bounced around a bit and has not been all that successful at the AHL level, my guess is Andersson is at best a third line center at the NHL level.
- Brendan Lemieux: Newly acquired forward from Winnipeg. He has played 44 games with the Jets this season collecting 9 points. A former 2nd rounder and potential to be a top-six winger.
Kravstov, Chytil will be the focal point of this offense come a few years. Ronning and Gropp if they make it before being traded will be (depending on this years draft) possible second line/more so third line guys. Andersson and Lemieux I could see paired together in two years and Lettieri a fourth line center.
Rangers goalie prospects:
- Brandon Halverson: He’s bounced around the ECHL and AHL a bit but at 22-years-old it is still early. A probably fringe starter at best)
- Igor Shestyorkin: The Rangers 2014 4th round pick has spent his last five years in the KHL for the best team in the league. He has been the best goalie in the KHL for quite sometime, but who knows when the Rangers will see him. Potential to be a number one.
- Alexander Georgiev: We have seen Georgiev play completely fine at the NHL level the last two years now. A definite potential for number one but a Shestyorkin and Georgiev sounds nice.
I think the upside to this all is that the Rangers prospects are not all off in foreign countries playing professional hockey there or all off at the major junior level. Of there 16 forward/defenseman prospect eight of them are playing together in the AHL right now. It may not mean a lot but the guys are building some chemistry and it is good to see players go through to the system and progress that way instead of potentially throwing them into NHL action too soon.
The Rangers are 27-26-9 this season with 63 points, a lot better than what I thought they were going to be. The Rangers have a lot of upside to their situation right now and they come into the NHL 2019 draft with 10 picks, six coming in the first three rounds. The Rangers will not be a playoff team for another three years I’d have to assume so get used to looking forward to prospects, drafts and the term rebuilding. Plus don’t buy any jerseys because who knows what Jeff Gorton will do.