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September 24, 2012
Top 10 Prospects
New York Rangers

by Corey Pronman

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Full list of NHL Organizational Rankings

New York Rangers Top 10 Prospects

1. Chris Kreider, Left Wing
2. Michael St. Croix, Center
3. J.T. Miller, Center
4. Brady Skjei, Defense*
5. Calle Andersson, Defense
6. Dylan McIlrath, Defense
7. Steven Fogarty, Center
8. Jesper Fast, Right Wing
9. Cristoval Nieves, Left Wing
10. Shane McColgan, Right Wing

*Ranking explanation: I had Andersson ahead of Skjei by a hair before the draft but have flipped that after hearing positive things about Skjei post-draft and some negative reports on Andersson.

Organizational Ranking: 11th

System Overview: The Rangers have built up a fair amount of talent in their system. Even once you get past their top tier or so, they have prospects with significant upside—although question marks as well. After trading Tim Erixon, they lack a top-flight defense prospect, but that isn't too much of a worry considering the quality young defensemen on the Rangers roster. The #11 ranking was also done when Erixon was a part of the team, so a bumping them down a spot or two would be around where the Rangers are now.

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1. Chris Kreider, Left Wing
2010-11 Ranking: 2nd
Date of birth: 04/30/1991
Age: 21
Height: 6'3''
Weight: 230
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 44 GP, 23 G, 45 P (Boston College-Hockey East)
Acquired: First round, 19th overall in 2009 by New York Rangers

The Good: Kreider's physical tools are simply fantastic and helped him transition to the NHL very well in last year's playoffs. He's a true elite skater who is one of the best in the NHL. He generates so much power from each stride, accelerates very quickly, and can fly through the neutral zone. Kreider's body is NHL level and he will be a handful for NHL defensemen to deal with when he comes down on the forecheck or trying to strip the puck from him when he turns his back. Kreider has a plus plus shot as he can score from way out with a hard, accurate wristshot. He's a hard-working player who could have some defensive value down the road.

The Bad: I wouldn't classify Kreider as overly creative or an overly instinctual player, but those areas are good enough to not be real weaknesses. His hockey sense has historically been his major issue, but that area of his game has come along and is not really an issue.

Projection: He could be an okay first line winger.

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2. Michael St. Croix, Center
2010-11 Ranking: 4th
Date of birth: 04/10/1993
Age: 19
Height: 5'11''
Weight: 179
Shoots: Right
Statistics: 72 GP, 45 G, 105 P (Edmonton-WHL)
Acquired: Fourth round, 106th overall in 2011 by New York Rangers

The Good: St. Croix had a big rebound season after a disappointing draft season. He finished eighth in WHL scoring and had one NHL scout saying he looked like the player he thought he was going to be last year. St. Croix is a very skilled playmaker, with high-end puck skills and vision. He's the kind of player who one scout says "sees everything" and just creates so much offense when he has the puck. He's a great starting point for offense who has the patience to make plays under pressure, and the possession skills to make the right decisions and evade checkers.

The Bad: St. Croix still has a lot of rounding out to do. His skating is roughly average, and while it's improved from before last year, he needs a better top gear for a smaller player. His physical game is underwhelming, too, as he's small, needs strength, and is not that effective in battles although he's working harder to grind for loose pucks more. He can overpass, too.

Projection: He could be a good second line forward.

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3. J.T. Miller, Center
2010-11 Ranking: 9th
Date of birth: 03/14/1993
Age: 19
Height: 6'1''
Weight: 195
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 61 GP, 25 G, 62 P (Plymouth-OHL)
Acquired: First round, 15th overall in 2011 by New York Rangers

The Good: Miller is a pretty well-rounded prospect with fine tools across the board, but his hockey sense and work ethic stand out. Miller is a very smart two-way player who is easily an above average and can flash top-end playmaking skills. He also will battle hard for every loose puck and hustle on the forecheck and backcheck. He's a decent skater who can generate fine speed. Miller also has solid puck skills. He can play center or wing.

The Bad: Miller doesn't really have a glaring weakness in his skill set. He lacks really standout skills aside from his hockey sense. His consistency has historically been an issue as well in terms of scoring chance creation.

Projection: He could be an average second line center, and maybe even an above-average one.

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4. Brady Skjei, Defense
2010-11 Ranking: N/A
Date of birth: 03/26/1994
Age: 18
Height: 6'3''
Weight: 200
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 60 GP, 4 G, 23 P (USA Under-18-USHL)
Acquired: First round, 28th overall in 2012 by New York Rangers

The Good: Skjei was a key piece for the US in another gold medal run at the Under-18 Championships. Skjei is an elite skater who is remarkable to watch. His first step power in every direction is great and he can regularly have an impact in the rush with his speed. Skjei can gamble a bit on a pinch and still recover well because of that skill. He's got above-average hockey sense in both ends and tends not to hurt his team. He can move the puck at a decent level.

The Bad: Skjei's not a true offensive player, and while he's not a null player in that regard, he doesn't project as a points producer at the top level. He could be a little tougher on his checks as he's not a real physical player.

Projection: He could be a top-four defenseman.

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5. Calle Andersson, Defense
2010-11 Ranking: N/A
Date of birth: 05/16/1994
Age: 18
Height: 6'2''
Weight: 208
Shoots: Right
Statistics: 49 GP, 12 G, 36 P (Farjestad- J20 SuperElit)
Acquired: Fourth round, 119th overall in 2012 by New York Rangers

The Good: Andersson was second amongst defensemen in scoring in Sweden's top junior league. He's a skilled player with size who has above-average hands and hockey sense. Andersson is gifted puck-mover who can control the puck on an individual level well with a good panic threshold. He tends to make impressive plays coming out of his zone or from the blue line and his passes are always crisp and on target. Andersson has a good shot and an average physical game.

The Bad: Andersson's skating needs work as his mobility is below average and faster forwards can give him a hard time. His conditioning and strength aren't good either and he needs attention in those areas.

Projection: He could be a top-four defenseman.

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6. Dylan McIlrath, Defense
2010-11 Ranking: 3rd
Date of birth: 04/20/1992
Age: 20
Height: 6'5''
Weight: 215
Shoots: Right
Statistics: 52 GP, 3 G, 23 P (Moose Jaw-WHL)
Acquired: First round, 10th overall in 2010 by New York Rangers

The Good: McIlrath is an elite physical player who projects to be one of the league's better players in that aspect when he's done developing. He's a mean, big, strong, hard-hitting player who draws attention with his loud hits and how good he is at boxing players out of the high percentage areas. His skating has improved a fair bit, as he's an average skater now with fine footwork and is pretty good considering his size.

The Bad: McIlrath's offensive skill isn't all that good. He struggled this past year when he tried to be a point producer and a puck-mover, but did better when he stopped doing so and played his game. His hands and offensive instincts are fringe.

Projection: He could be a #4 defenseman.

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7. Steven Fogarty, Center
2010-11 Ranking: Unranked
Date of birth: 04/19/1993
Age: 19
Height: 6'3''
Weight: 194
Shoots: Right
Statistics: 60 GP, 33 G, 82 P (Penticton-BCHL)
Acquired: Third round, 72nd overall in 2011 by New York Rangers

The Good: Fogarty is a smart two-way player who impresses with his offensive vision and defensive instincts. He actually came into the year needing work defensively, but that aspect of his game took off and he was Penticton's best defensive center. Fogarty's ability to make plays is desirable, but he also has a fine power game in terms of puck protection and battling in the high percentage areas.

The Bad: Fogarty's skating is below average. His stride is an issue as he doesn't extend fully and the result is he doesn't get much power from his push-offs. He needs to continue to get stronger as well.

Projection: He could be a good third line forward, with a chance of playing on a scoring line.

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8. Jesper Fast, Right Wing
2010-11 Ranking: 6th
Date of birth: 12/02/1991
Age: 21
Height: 6'0''
Weight: 176
Shoots: Right
Statistics: 21 GP, 5 G, 16 P, 16:55 ATOI (HV71-SEL)
Acquired: Sixth round, 159th overall in 2010 by New York Rangers

The Good: Jesper Fast is…well… fast. He's a high-end skater who can reach his top gear quickly and that top gear is pretty dangerous. He's a very hard working player whose speed and energy level makes him a pest to deal with despite an average frame. Fast will work hard defensively and has some value in that area of the game. He also has a plus shot and that's his real offensive calling card.

The Bad: Fast isn't a really creative player who will be looked to as a primary source of offense. He can make some plays, but his offensive abilities aren't really impressive. He needs to get stronger, too.

Projection: He could be a quality third line winger.

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9. Cristoval Nieves, Left Wing
2010-11 Ranking: N/A
Date of birth: 01/23/1994
Age: 18
Height: 6'3''
Weight: 184
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 26 GP, 7 G, 39 P (Kent-US High School)
Acquired: Second round, 59th overall in 2012 by New York Rangers

The Good: Nieves is a tremendous athlete who is a well above-average skater with good stamina and fine strength level for his age. He's got an explosive first few steps with a technically sound stride and good agility. Nieves has nice offensive skill, too, as scouts praise his playmaking skill and his hands. He's a player who on his best shift can simply dazzle with his speed and puck possession abilities.

The Bad: Nieves' consistency was his main issue as some scouts have said he was really on and off, and he didn't generate chances at the level you would expect a player of his skill level to. He needs to get stronger.

Projection: He has top-six upside, but is a long-term project.

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10. Shane McColgan, Right Wing
2010-11 Ranking: Unranked
Date of birth: 01/01/1993
Age: 19
Height: 5'9''
Weight: 170
Shoots: Right
Statistics: 70 GP, 18 G, 64 P (Kelowna-WHL)
Acquired: Fifth round, 134th overall in 2011 by New York Rangers

The Good: McColgan led Kelowna in scoring for the second straight season. He's a very skilled player with top-end speed, really good hands, nice offensive instincts, and a tremendous work ethic. He used to be over-the top-with his fiery play, but now plays with more selective aggressiveness. McColgan has been a long touted prospect for his skill set as he has all the tools between his feet, possession skills, and shot to put up points.

The Bad: McColgan's size is the first thing scouts point to. He needs to really create offense at his size to be effective. However, scouts have pointed to an occasional lack of consistency in terms of his offense that could be an issue for him going forward. McColgan will need to bulk up a lot, too.

Projection: He could be a top-six forward but is a long ways from that.

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The Next Five

11. Christian Thomas, Right Wing: Thomas had a bit of a rough year. He's a great skater, puck-handler and shooter who works hard, but his size doesn't help him.

12. Marek Hrivik, Left Wing: Hrivik has good hands and vision. The reasons he went undrafted were his skating and physical game, and both of those areas have somewhat improved.

13. Kyle Jean, Left Wing: Jean is a big, strong forward with good puck skills who skates well for his size. He has more upside than his NCAA numbers give him credit for.

14. Ryan Bourque, Left Wing: Bourque is a great skater with an impressive work ethic who does a lot of the little things.

15. Thomas Spelling, Right Wing: Spelling is a plus shooter with fine hockey sense while the rest of his offensive tools are about average.

The Sleeper: Andrew Yogan, Center

Yogan took steps forward last year in terms of his power game and offensive creation. He has some nice tools to work with, and could be a guy to watch in his first full pro season.

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New York Rangers Organizational Top 10

Players 22 or under as of 09/15/2012 or still considered a prospect as defined here.

1. Michael Del Zotto, Defense
2. Derek Stepan, Center
3. Chris Kreider, Left Wing
4. Michael St. Croix, Center
5. J.T. Miller, Center
6. Brady Skjei, Defense
7. Calle Andersson, Defense
8. Dylan McIlrath, Defense
9. Steven Fogarty, Center
10. Jesper Fast, Right Wing

Del Zotto is a really skilled defenseman who has the top-end speed to lead rushes and he can quarterback a NHL top unit power play. His defensive game still needs work, but he also just turned 22. What Del Zotto has been able to do in terms of production, bulk, and kind of minutes logged for his age is very impressive for a defenseman. He likely will get even tougher minutes as he gets closer to his prime while maintaining his high-end offensive skills. The call between Stepan and Kreider wasn't easy, and while I could plausibly see Kreider catch Stepan soon in terms of production, I lean to Stepan for reasons of proven production and liking his tools. He's a very gifted playmaker and someone who could be a clear top line forward when he hits his prime.

Corey Pronman is an author of Hockey Prospectus. You can contact Corey by clicking here or click here to see Corey's other articles.

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<< Previous Article
From Daigle To Datsyuk (09/23)
<< Previous Column
Top 10 Prospects (09/21)
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Top 10 Prospects (09/27)
Next Article >>
Howe and Why (09/25)

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