Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Rangers Prospect Snap Shot

The New York Rangers are one of the "original six" franchises of the National Hockey League. They were an expansion team back in 1926 and won their first of four Stanley Cup Championship victories came at the end of the 1927-28 season. It was the first time an American team had captured Lord Stanley's Mug. The Rangers won the Cup again in '33, '40 and the most recent title came in 1994.

The Rangers missed the post season for 7 consecutive years from 1997-98 to 2003-04 despite having one of the largest payrolls in the NHL. After the lockout in 2004-05, the Blueshirts have been in the playoffs each year but have fizzled out early, not getting passed the second round.

The Rangers have had a mixture of bad luck, bad picks and tragedy when it comes to their failures at the NHL Draft. While they've made several strong picks over the years, especially in recent years, the team has had more than its fair share of misfortune as well. Netminder Dan Blackburn was forced to retire due to injury, cutting short what appeared to be a very promising career. Obviously the death of Alexei Cherepanov is tragic on its own but viewed strictly from a hockey perspective, it was also a blow to the Rangers' prospect ranks.

Here's a look at what's Coming Down the Pipe for the New York Rangers...

Top Forward: Derek Stepan
Wisconsin Badgers (WCHA)
HT: 6'0 WT: 180 lbs Stats: 25GP 6-25-31 Pts

From Shattuck St. Mary's through the University of Wisconsin and to World Junior Championship glory, Derek Stepan has been a winner every step of the way. The Minnesota native was a 2nd round pick by the Rangers in 2008 after his second season of prep school hockey with two national titles already on his resumé. After an impressive freshman campaign with the Badgers, Stepan began the year high on the radar for USA Hockey as it prepared for the 2010 WJC in Saskatoon. Stepan not only made the team but was named captain and helped lead USA to their second ever gold medal. The forward led the entire tournament in scoring with 14 points and was also named to the media all-star team for the event. Stepan is regarded as a big game player, more of a playmaker than a scorer but certainly not weak in that department either. Stepan's name appears on the 70-man list of 1st ballot nominees for the Hobey Baker Award as the top player in NCAA hockey. (Photo: Matt Manor/IIHF-HHOF Images)

Top Defenceman: Ryan McDonagh
Wisconsin Badgers (WCHA)
HT: 6'1 WT: 216 lbs Stats: 27GP 3-9-12 Pts

Most pundits were surprised when the Rangers were able to unload Scott Gomez and his ridiculous contract on the Montréal Canadiens and even more so when it was learned that they had acquired defenceman Ryan McDonagh in the process. Most considered the Badger to be the top blueline prospect the Habs had and so it was viewed as quite the thievery by GM Glen Sather. McDonagh is in his junior year at Wisconsin and, like Stepan, is one of the key members of a talented Badgers roster. Not a big point producer, McDonagh's game is based first and foremost in his own end but that's not to say that he can't contribute offensively. The former 1st rounder has also represented his country at the World Junior Championship. (Photo: Craig Schreiner/Wisconsin State Journal)

Top Goalie: Chad Johnson
Hartford Wolf Pack (AHL)
HT: 6'3 WT: 200 lbs Stats: 26GP 14-8-2 .930 SV% 2.03 GAA

Johnson was originally drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins but was dealt to the Rangers for a 5th round pick. So far that has proven to be great asset management by New York as Johnson has transitioned smoothly from the NCAA ranks to the AHL and has also spent some time this year in the NHL as back up to Henrik Lundqvist. Johnson played two years in the AJHL with the Brooks Bandits before reporting to Alaska-Fairbanks for four full seasons of college hockey. The Calgary native was sensational in his final NCAA year posting a .940 SV% and 1.66 GAA in 35 games. With above average size and excellent positional skills, Johnson is one to watch for. (Photo: University of Alaska-Fairbanks Athletics)

Most Underrated: Ethan Werek
Kingston Frontenacs (OHL)
HT: 6'2 WT: 195 lbs Stats: 49GP 24-29-53 Pts

After a 32 goal rookie season with the Frontenacs, Werek was drafted 47th overall by the Rangers. Despite that success, Werek wasn't invited to the summer or December camps by Hockey Canada as they put together their silver medal team for the World Junior Championship. The snub has fuel Werek's fire and the Ontario native is on pace to set new career highs in all offensive categories this season in Kingston. The power forward might not be the most mobile player but he can definitely score and is probably projected to be a reliable, low risk two-way forward at the next level. Yet, if he can improve his scoring, he's got the size and the hands to be much more than that. (Photo: Kingston Frontenacs)

Buzz Worthy: Chris Kreider
Boston College Eagles (HE)
HT: 6'2 WT: 201 Stats: 21GP 6-3-9 Pts

There was a certain amount of uncertainty about Kreider at the draft last June. Playing in a weaker league than most other potential first round players, some wondered if Kreider might get picked higher than he should because he stood out so much from his peers. At Boston College the freshman has taken some time to make the adjustment, especially offensively; he only scored twice before Christmas and has just 9 points all year. Lately Kreider seems to be coming around though, he has four points (all goals) in his last four outings. Some of that might be due to confidence and if it is, that probably stems from his outstanding WJC for USA. It was the first time I had the chance to see Kreider in action and he certainly lived up to the billing of "world class speed". Kreider might be the fastest skater I've ever seen and his acceleration is unbelievable. At the absolute worst, he's going to be a terrific penalty killer because of his wheels but if his offence comes around as most expect, Kreider will be a real threat anytime that he's on the ice. (Photo: Matt Manor IIHF-HHOF Images)

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