It is no secret that the New York Rangers aged, battered and bruised NHL roster will need an overhaul this offseason with a priority towards youth. Despite New York’s bold (and controversial) recent moves aimed at a championship at the expense of draft picks and prospects, the Blueshirts are now faced with bringing some players from their system back into the fold.
Let’s be clear, so long as goaltender Henrik Lundqvist is the Rangers starters, they have a chance to contend. In hindsight, a draft pick in 2016 isn’t likely to impact any Rangers team during the Lundqvist era, at least not in a meaningful role.
How can the Rangers get younger with a bare cupboard?
Well, the cupboard isn’t too bare. This season, we saw some first-timers infused into the Rangers lineup: forward Oscar Lindberg and defensemen Dylan McIlrath and Brady Skjei. Each had flashes of success with some lulls and disappointments, but all three players proved they could play at the NHL level. Assuming each are on the roster come October, they will be given a significant opportunity to contribute.
Next season, we could see similar infusion. Here are three Rangers prospects that could play a role next season:
- Pavel Buchnevich (21, 176 lbs, 6′ 2″) – While Buchnevich could have likely earned a roster spot this season, he preferred to remain in the KHL at the professional level rather than risk an AHL assignment. The talented playmaking forward is drawing positive reviews from his teammates, such as Derick Brassard and Derek Stepan who were very high on the possibility of playing with the left winger. Should the Rangers choose to trade veteran Rick Nash, or unable to come to terms with JT Miller, Kevin Hayes, or Chris Kreider, Buchnevich has the potential to immediately fill top-six minutes. Otherwise, expect him to rotate as a middle six forward as he learns the North American game.
- Magnus Hellberg (25, 185 lbs, 6′ 5″) – Backup goaltender Antti Raanta had a decent season with New York, but figures to be a cap casualty. Though not a true “rookie,” Hellberg could immediately step in and fill the role behind Lundqvist. At a meager contract of $600k, Hellberg could provide a little youth alongside his countryman while giving the Rangers critical cap space. Is he the successor to the throne? Not at all. But he could be a reliable asset.
- Marek Hrivik (24, 185 lbs, 6′ 2″) – Hrivik got a taste of the NHL this season and filled in admirably, providing reliable two-way play and filling a necessary bottom-six forward role. The undrafted left winger has played his entire North American career in the Rangers system and will have every opportunity to contribute next season. As it is likely that Dominic Moore does not return to New York and Tanner Glass’ status is up in the air, Hrivik can be an immediate asset on the penalty kill and two-way defensive responsibility play.
The biggest challenge for the Rangers, in addition to getting younger, is managing the salary cap. Each of these players achieves both issues without sacrificing quality of play on the ice.
Stay tuned with us all offseason long as we follow the latest from the NHL Entry Draft, Free Agency, the rumor mill and into training camp! Follow us on Twitter @NYRBlueBulletin