We're about at the halfway point of the hockey season for most leagues. The World Junior Championships just concluded and we're just short of 6 months away from the NHL Entry Draft. Thus, I think it's a good time to evaluate the team's prospect pool. Whose stock has risen over the past 6 months, and whose has dropped? In this article I'm going to give my opinion on that. I ranked the Rangers' top 25 prospects and gave a quick write-up on each. Before I dive into that, let me offer a few qualifiers
– While I'd like to think I know what I am talking about, I'm not an NHL scout. Most professional scouts are wrong on prospects many times. There's no chance of me being 100% accurate.
– I've been able to watch almost everyone on this list in some capacity, though some more than others. Some guys I've watched as many as 20 games for, while others that maybe be just one or two. Comments about me having no life are welcome. For guys I haven't seen much of, I've spoken to people who have had a closer eye to get some insight. Though the discrepency in how much I've watched of each player will create inherent bias, I've aimed to be as objective as possible and I do believe I'm informed enough to offer a fair evaluation.
– I did not include Chris Kreider and Cam Talbot because I believe they have reached the point where they no longer should be considered "prospects."
That's about it. Keep reading to see my list. It's a lengthy read, so fair warning if that's not something you're interested in.
#1 J.T. Miller: Foward, 20, New York Rangers (NHL)
Miller earns the number one ranking because he holds the best combination of NHL readiness as well as potential. With a prospect pool featuring a number of older players with multiple years of experience in professional hockey, it is impressive that Miller made the opening night roster and has been the first call-up from Hartford this season as a 20-year-old. It can be easy to forget since he made his debut last season and has been up and down a number of times, but Miller is still incredibly raw and is five years away from reaching the peak of his game. He's never going to be an All-Star, but he should develop into a quality, two-way forward. And if he isn't NHL-ready now, then he will be very soon. As of today he is barely clinging to a spot with the NHL club, and we'll see how long that lasts. He has shown some flashes of usefulness but still is struggling with making a mark game-by-game. It's not a question of if Miller will become a full-time NHLer, but instead when.
#2 Dylan McIlrath: Defenseman, 21, Hartford Wolfpack (AHL)
Perhaps there are a few prospects in the system a bit better than McIlrath, and perhaps there are a few who are more likely to be impact players at the NHL level, but I believe that he is such a unique prospect that the ranking is justified. Big, bruising defensemen who also have a relatively high hockey IQ and can skate well are just incredibly hard to come by. It's beens a slow process developing McIlrath, and the significant knee injury did him no favors, but he's had a very good first full season in the AHL and making his NHL debut as a 21-year-old is no small feat. Unfortunately, another knee injury has sidelined him in Hartford yet again, though the severity is unknown. Similar guys like Zdeno Chara, Brooks Orpik, and Bryan Allen did not really reach some form of consistency until the 23-25 range, so McIlrath still has plenty of time on his developmental clock. He should make a real push for a job out of training camp next Fall and has the ability to be a well-rounded, top-four bruising defenseman that few teams can claim to own.
#3 Danny Kristo: Winger, 23, Hartford Wolfpack (AHL)
For all of this team's success in developing prospects, the one achilles' heel has seemed to be bringing up a high-end offensive forward. Kristo is the prospect in the system right now who has the best chance of breaking that trend. Though 23, Kristo is still very young in terms of experience and maturity. He has impressed in his first professional season, leading the Wolfpack in goals and points while being an offensive threat in virtually every game he's played. Offensively, he's probably ready for at least a test run at the NHL level. So why has he not been called up yet? The rest of his game, to be kind, trails far behind. Put the puck on his stick and he does not look out of place at all, but in terms of tactics away from the puck and defensively he struggles. If Alain Vigneault could teleport Kristo in from Connecticut every time the Rangers went on the powerplay then he would be useful, but for now his development is best served in the AHL, where he can learn to become a more complete player in a less competitive and more forgiving environment. He certainly has shown improvement from September in thinking the game better and committing to other aspects of the game, and perhaps he could make a real push for a call-up in the Spring. For now, though, I don't think a full year with Hartford will hurt him.
#4 Brady Skjei: Defenseman, 19, University of Minnesota (NCAA)
After a tough freshman campaign with Minnesota, Skjei has dramatically stepped up his play this season and has become a key cog for the top team in the nation. He also put on a nice display defensively at the World Junior Championships as part of the USA's top pairing. Skjei is often compared to Ryan McDonagh and there's a lot of sense to it. Like McDonagh, Skjei is a smooth skating defenseman who play the shutdown role well. Like McDonagh, he has a tremendous hockey IQ and makes intelligent plays with his stick, though is also capable of bringing a physical presence when necessary. Skjei does need to display the physicality a but more consistently and I don't think he's ever going to be an asset offensively the way McDonagh is. However, he certainly is capable of some nice rushes up the ice with the puck and is very good at putting pucks on net from the point. It would not stun me to see Skjei sign a professional contract at the end of the season, but I think the Rangers will follow the McDonagh example in full and have him play one more season with Minnesota.
#5 Oscar Lindberg: Center, 22, Hartford Wolfpack (AHL)
Lindberg started the season with an impressive Traverse City and training camp, but he became a bit sedated during the pre-season and at the very start of his AHL campaign. Of course, he was a 21-year-old who had just moved halfway across the world and was playing in a completely different setup and rink type. He's been a very good defensive center for the Wolfpack and sprinkled in some flashes of offense in the first month or so. Now, he's starting to really pick up his offensive play. More and more he is holding the puck with confidence and looking to make plays in the offensive zone. A somewhat similar player in the same sort of situation was Artem Anisimov, and he also took some time to feel comfortable in North American hockey before turning on the jets his in second season with the Wolfpack. Lindberg's first-year numbers are on a similar path as Anisimov's though Lindberg is a bit older. There are never guarantees, but I think Lindberg is a very safe bet to be an NHL-caliber center who is very good in his own end. How high he can push himself offensively remains to be seen. Like Kristo, perhaps a Spring call-up is not out of the question, but he'll more likely get into his first NHL action sometime next season.
#6 Conor Allen: Defenseman, 23, Hartford Wolfpack (AHL)
The evaluation of Allen would have looked dramatically different in August. Actually, his ranking right now is superior to where it would have been even two weeks ago thanks to his NHL call-up. I don't think even Rangers scouts really banked on the relatively unknown commodity from a mediocre hockey school in Massachusetts earning his way to the NHL level before the New Year. After standing out in the pre-season and surviving longer than expected, Allen had been one of the few bright spots on defense in Hartford. He skates well, makes smart decisions with the puck, and showed off some offensive prowess with 13 points in 29 games. I don't think he earns his call-up if McIlrath is healthy, but that doesn't matter much now, as he did not look out of place in three NHL games. I'm always in favor of giving close prospects a short stint just so they can get a taste of the NHL and an idea of what they need to work on to stick at that level, so I think Allen will go back to Hartford with a new perspective. I still have some concerns about Allen; sometimes he tries to do too much with the puck in his own end and turns it over, and he also has lapses defensively where he loses his man. Of course, those are things that can be improved with tutoring and game experience. I think he has a real shot at being a reliable, multi-faceted #4-5 defenseman, but a similarly undrafted Dan Girardi was never expected to develop into a 30-minute defenseman, either. So who knows what the limit is.
#7 Jesper Fast: Winger, 22, Hartford Wolfpack (AHL)
Though he did not show much during his NHL stint, merely playing his way onto the opening night roster with a whole slew of players competing for that spot is a strong endorsement of Fast. Unfortunately, an ankle injury sidelined him almost immediately once he returned to Hartford. Maybe a bit unfair, but the lack of gameplay for Fast has to drop his stock for the short-term. Since returning from injury, though, he's played seven games and earned points in four of them, including two goals. He's been a good two-way player for the Wolfpack and has all the assets you'd want in a forward offensively; speed, vision, and a good shot. He's developed some really good chemistry with Oscar Lindberg and both guys have improved their play as a result. The biggest concern for Fast has to be injuries, as he suffered a major ankle injury last season as well in Sweden. If this is all finally behind him then he has a pretty good shot at being a solid complementary winger capable in all three zones. Maybe in the mold of a Viktor Stalberg.
#8 Anthony Duclair: Winger, 18, Quebec Remparts (QMJHL)
He's no Conor Allen, but Duclair definitely increased his stock since the draft. He came into last season as a projected first round pick but injuries and chemistry issues hurt his ranking. He fell to the Rangers in the third round, and the early indication is that it could end up a coup for Gordie Clark and his staff. He's produced 60 points through 39 games and was named December's Second Star of the Month. Point production at the junior level can often be misleading, but the way in which Duclair scores goals gives me confidence that his offense will translate to the professional level. He's played on a line with underwhelming talent but has still found ways to get on the scoresheet. He often can make plays out of nothing and even from the defensive end on a transition. The Rangers rewarded Duclair's surge with a contract a full year-and-a-half before his rights even expire. I don't want to cause the hype to spiral out of control because we've seen other prospects like Nigel Dawes and Evgeny Grachev dominate at the junior level only to struggle to put it all together with the Rangers. Still, I think Duclair's skillset translates better. He's good at a lot of different things and has really increased his penalty killing ability. I still want to see him engage physically on a more consistent basis and he'll need to add some weight, but I'm cautiously optimistic about Duclair's future. Two players I think Duclair compares favorably to are Evander Kane and Michael Grabner. We'll see how high he can push his ceiling, but he could become a 30-30 scorer or a quality depth winger.
#9 Cristoval "Boo" Nieves: Center, 19, University of Michigan (NCAA)
I had a tough time ranking Nieves because I really don't know what to make of him. Admittedly, this is in part because I have not seen too much of Nieves this season. However, he also is having a strange season. After a pretty strong freshman year, Nieves has only one goal in 16 games with Michigan. He has always been more of a playmaker, though, and his seven assists do help his case. Still, his production has not matched last season's; much less improved upon it. He also has struggled to make an impact consistently game-by-game. The stats are misleading, though, because he probably deserves more than one goal. As Tim Williams of Yost Built pointed out to me, he's actually taking many more shots this season (1.81 per game) than last season (1.53). However, his shooting percentage went down from 13% to right around 3%. That's some ridiculously poor luck and a regression to the mean is inevitable. He was one of Michigan's best players at the recent Great Lakes Invitational and I imagine he has a much more successful second half of the season. I think drastically negating the value of an incredibly talented player just because of some minor struggles and poor puck luck for a few months would be ignorant. He's a very raw player but has plenty of time to develop into the great skating, playmaking center the Rangers hope he will become.
#10 Pavel Buchnevich: Winger, 18, Severstal Cherepovets (KHL)
Buchnevich has had a solid but subtle first half, and that's perfectly fine. As nice and encouraging as Duclair's stats are, he is playing against guys who are 16-20 years old. Buchnevich is playing in the KHL, where most players are grown men and fully matured. Buchnevich's 6 goals and 12 total points in 31 games for Severstal Cherepovets are very respectable numbers for an 18-year-old. To compare, 27th overall pick Marko Dano is six months older and has four points in the KHL this season. Buchnevich really shined in the World Junior Championships, which is still a top competition but against players in his age range. Buchnevich earned seven points in seven games as part of Russia's Bronze Medal winning team, and generally displayed his playmaking ability and stickhandling prowess. Buchnevich is going to have to become a more complete player if he's going to adapt to the North American game, but he has plenty of time to grow and mature. I don't think he fits the stereotype of lazy Russian at all, as he does play with a bit of an edge and is willing to battle for pucks. He's under contract with Severstal through next season and all signs point to him making the move to North America for 2015. Will he be ready for the NHL at that point? It's too soon to say, but right now his development is right around where Gordie Clark and the scouting staff would have hoped it would be.
#11 Adam Tambellini: Forward, 19, University of North Dakota (NCAA)
Tambellini dealt with some bad leg issues at the Rangers' summer camp and it carried into the early part of the season. As a result, it's taken him a bit longer to get into the groove with the University of North Dakota, where he is playing his freshman season. Tambellini has four points in 16 games, which is nothing to write home about, but he's shown some tangible improvement over the last month or so and has been one of the better UND players in recent games. Short term, Tambellini has been a bit disappointing, and it reflects in my ranking Duclair and Buchnevich ahead of him. But his long-term outlook hasn't changed a bit. He's over the injury hump and is starting to really take to college hockey. Gordie Clark has said from the very beginning that Tambellini is a project and will likely need all four years at the NCAA level before turning pro, so fireworks were never the expectation here. I anticipate a much stronger second-half from Tambellini.
#12 Andrew Yogan: Winger, 22, Hartford Wolfpack (AHL)
I sort of hate that I'm ranking Yogan this high, but part of the problem is that there's a bit of a drop off in the talent pool after the first 11 guys. After showing some signs of improvement towards the end of last season with the Wolfpack, Yogan was named captain of the Traverse City team and put together a nice tournament. He had a decent training camp with the Rangers as well and survived one or two round of cuts more than I anticipated he would. Since returning to Hartford, though, he's been disappointing. He earned a respectable 19 points in 43 games last season. Now in his sophomore season, where you look to see prospects take off, he has only six points through 25 games. So why am I ranking Yogan this high? Well for starters, he's still shown flashes of competence at the AHL level, and that's a step up from many of the guys remaining, who are mostly either complete projects or still figuring things out in juniors. The 22-year-old Yogan is a big body with a lot of raw assets, and it can take those kinds of players a long time to grow their game and find their niche; see Brian Boyle. I think Yogan is trying to do the right things and he's just suffering somewhat of an identity crisis. He has a really good combination of size and raw finesse talent and I think for those reasons he's not worth giving up on just yet. If everything goes right for him I could see him developing into a nice checking line forward who can chip in 10-12 goals.
#13 Calle Andersson: Defenseman, 19, Malmo Redhawks (Swedish Allsvenskan)
Like Tambellini, injury issues set back Andersson; for him it was a wrist problem dating back to last season. However, Andersson has gotten into a routine much quicker. Playing in the second division in Sweden, which, like Buchnevich, is largely against grown, matured players, Andersson has earned 10 points in 28 games. Those are very acceptable numbers for a 19-year-old, and he's been responsible enough defensively. Gordie Clark said that the team really likes his poise and vision with the puck on his stick, but that he has to work on being a bit less timid. The Swedish leagues, though certainly legitimate and competitive, don't match up to the NHL in terms of the physical nature. Andersson is going to have to work on that and might need to come over to North America to do so. His rights expire at the end of the season so the scouting staff will soon have a decision to make on whether to sign him, but if he continues on this path then I find it difficult to imagine he is not signed. Andersson is the one guy in the system who has any sort of potential as a puck moving defenseman and powerplay quarterback, and for those reasons he is an important prospect.
#14 Ryan Graves: Defenseman, 18, Charlottetown Islanders (QMJHL)
Pretty much the opposite kind of defenseman as Andersson, but still equally intriguing. The Charlottetown Islanders traded Jimmy Oligny, their top defenseman from the previous season, meaning that Graves was going to see an increased role. He's stepped up to the task and more, becoming Charlottetown's best defenseman. Graves is still very much a project, but he's far ahead of where I anticipated he would be based on scouting reports I read after he was drafted. He's a big, hulking defenseman – 6'4 and around 220 pounds – and he skates relatively well for his size. He compensates well against the extra speedy wingers with solid positioning and a really long reach. He's also much better at moving the puck within his own zone than I anticipated, and has an absolute cannon of a slapshot. Graves will never be a defenseman who makes end-to-end rushes or sends pretty saucer passes the length of the ice, but there's more to his game than just being some sort of physical goon. He's very agile and coordinated for his size. He's still going to have to work a good amount on his skating if he's ever going to compete at higher levels, but I think Graves is slightly ahead of schedule. The Islanders have somewhat given up on this season, opting to make trades for younger players and draft picks, but next year's team should be very competitive. It should be a good test for Graves. Right now I could see him developing into a player similar to Michael Sauer, though that's if everything works out. At the very least, I think he'll earn an entry-level contract and a chance to prove his worth at the AHL level.
#15 Mackenzie Skapski: Goaltender, 19, Kootenay Ice (WHL)
Skapski sitting at 15 doesn't reflect my doubt in him so much as it reflects my doubt in goaltending prospects as a whole. Development and predicting success is an inexact science for all prospects, but it's close to a crapshoot for goaltenders. After some inconsistent play and a leg injury sidelined him for a few weeks in early November, he has absolutely stood on his head for the Kootenay Ice in the month of December. An already mediocre at best team, the team's top player, Sam Reinhart, has been playing with Canada at the World Juniors. This has basically forced Skapski to carry the team by himself. He's faced 40+ shots in each of his last eight starts. To give an example of the kind of season he's going through, he was named the first star last night in a 4-3 win after facing 54 shots. For that reason, looking at his statline is a waste of time. Quite frankly it's a miracle that the Ice have not lost every game 6-1 or 8-2. I've heard from sources who are very involved that the Rangers scouts love Skapski and have particularly taken notice of how he's stepped up the last month. The scouting team likes Skapski's combination of size and athleticism, and I've noticed that he has that combination of competitiveness but calm demeanor in the crease that Benoit Allaire particularly loves. The goaltending situation in Hartford right now is a total disaster, and so Skapski is really going to have to fall apart to not earn a contract at the end of this season, I would think.
#16 Marek Hrivik: Winger, 22, Hartford Wolfpack (AHL)
Like Yogan, Hrivik's ranking is more about him having some success at a higher level than it is about my optimism about his future. I'm honestly just not that big of a fan of Hrivik. Some injury issues set him back last season, and I sympathize with that, but he's now 22 and has been in the AHL for a bit. I'd expect far better than four goals and 11 points in 31 games at this point. He definitely has some speed and good hands, but I don't really see those as exceptional tools like Kristo owns, and I don't think Hrivik really is good for much away from the puck or defensively. Maybe he'll be a late bloomer, and I could see him eventually earning a call-up or two, but I just don't see any sort of sustained NHL career for Hrivik. He hasn't shown enough offensive ability to put himself on the map for a top-six forward spot and he doesn't have anything else to his game that makes me believe he can succeed in a checking role. Here's hoping he proves me wrong.
#17 Michael St. Croix: Center, 20, Greenville Road Warriors (ECHL)
It's been a rough first half for St. Croix. He was unnoticeable during Traverse City, and showed some flashes of ability during training camp but not enough to even earn his way into a pre-season game. Then he failed to earn a spot on the Wolfpack in THEIR training camp and was sent to the ECHL. He has earned a call-up to the Wolfpack since, but was invisible in nine games, not registering a single point before being sent back down. Considering offense is all there is to St. Croix's game it's a major red flag that he has struggled to show even glimpses of it at the AHL level. The one saving grace for him is that he is a first-year pro, only 20, and has dominated at the ECHL level, with 20 points in 21 games. The ECHL is not a death sentence, and him playing so well there is encouraging. Still, it's disappointing that he hasn't been able to earn consistent time at the AHL level yet. For those reasons, his stock certainly has dropped. There's still time for him to right the ship, though, and hopefully this is simply a transition period for him and he will learn from it.
#18 Steve Fogarty: Center, 20, University of Notre Dame (NCAA)
After a bumpy freshman season at Notre Dame, Fogarty's sophomore year has been somewhat pedestrian. Part of that is due to injury struggles, but even so his three points in 12 is nothing to get excited about. Other similarly aged Notre Dame forwards like Mario Lucia and Vince Hinostroza have had a much bigger impact for the rising team. The positive side of the season is that Fogarty has done a respectable job as a defensive center and is solid in the faceoff circle. Like Tambellini, Gordie Clark knew that he was drafting a tremendous project in Steve Fogarty and he will also likely use all four years at the college level. He still is a solid skater and has good hands, and his well-rounded game gives hope that he could find himself in a shutdown center role at the NHL level eventually.
#19 Ryan Bourque: Winger, 23, Hartford Wolfpack (AHL)
You're not going to find many people who still believe Ryan Bourque could have some sort of NHL future, but I'm one of them. Bourque is in the final year of his entry-level contract, so this is do or die time for him. He's one of the few players on Hartford outside of the obvious top prospects who has had a good season. He has 10 points through 32 games, which is not too great, but his value is in other areas of the game. He's Ken Gernander's best penalty killer. He's a very good skater, which allows him to skate the puck out of danger in the defensive/neutral zone and can be effective on the forecheck. His upside is very limited, but I think he could still end up in the mold of a Freddie Sjostrom; a good skating fourth liner & penalty killer.
#20 Tommy Hughes: Defenseman, 21, Hartford Wolfpack (AHL)
Signed as a free agent from the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League, Hughes has drawn comparisons to another former undrafted London Knight; Dan Girardi. After watching him with the Wolfpack, the comparison definitely has some merit. He doesn't have any standout empirical gifts but he does a lot of little things that help a team win. He's not a brutal skater, but he definitely needs to improve a lot. He blocks shots, works hard every shift, and is willing to pay the physical price to make plays in his own end. There's not much offensive upside for Hughes, though he's not some sort of trainwreck in the offensive zone. Hughes is going to need at least one more season in the AHL, and possibly more, but there's some low-end potential for Hughes to become a bottom-pairing, defensive defenseman.
#21 Kyle Beach: Winger, 23, Hartford Wolfpack (AHL)
Acquired very recently from the Blackhawks, Beach is well on his way to Hugh Jessiman territory. The former 11th overall pick is facing an uphill battle just to play an NHL game. Since coming to the Wolfpack he has one sole assist in 11 games. He's also faced a slew of accusations of a poor attitude dating all the way back to juniors and which carried into his time with the Blackhawks' AHL affiliate, Rockford. Still, there are some things to like. He has scored 16 goals twice at the AHL level, scored twice in the SHL during a short seven-game stint at the start of the year, and earned four goals in seven games for Rockford prior to the trade. He's a hard working player and plays a very similar game to a guy like Sean Avery or Dan Carcillo. If – and this is a big if – he can get his head on straight then perhaps he could make way as a 4th line agitator. His contract expires at the end of the season, though, so he's going to have to do a lot in the coming months to convince the Rangers he's worth hanging on to.
#22 Michael Kantor: Winger, 21, Hartford Wolfpack (AHL)
Despite being ranked towards the bottom of the list, I actually do like Michael Kantor. In all honesty he's not a very good player in terms of raw tools, but he makes up for that with a lot of passion and drive. He's a decent enough skater that it, combined with his tremendous hunger, allows him to be a very good forechecker. He hits hard, plays a smart game, and is more than willing to drop the gloves. The biggest problem for Kantor is a lack of offense; he has no points in 20 games with the Wolfpack this season. Though Prust is a better all-round player, I think Kantor can be fairly compared to Prust in that he's always the hardest working guy on the ice and is willing to do whatever it takes to help his team win. Like Hughes, Kantor is going to need a good amount of time in the AHL, but if he can develop the whole of his game he could definitely have a future as a 4th line energy guy who can lift up the spirits of a team and home crowd.
#23 Sam Noreau: Defenseman, 20, Hartford Wolfpack (AHL)
Noreau had a pretty good showing with Baie-Comeau Drakkar last season, which resulted in him earning a contract with the Rangers. The beginning of this season was very rough, though, as he was sent to the ECHL. Considering the weak state of the Wolfpack defense, which has included some undrafted guys like Tommy Hughes as well as career minor leaguers like Sam Klassen and Brendan Nash, this was not at all a ringing endorsement for Noreau. Noreau earned no points in 23 games with Greenville until a McIlrath injury opened up a spot on the Hartford blue-line, for which he was called up. He's played five games for the Wolfpack since, and the best thing I can say about Noreau is that he hasn't been very noticeable. That's alright, since he's only 20 and playing at the highest level of his career. He hasn't been noticeably beat in defensive coverage and he hasn't made any terrible turnovers. Noreau is for sure a project, but he has age on his side and big, physical defensemen typically need a number of years in the minors. We'll see what happens with Allen going back to Hartford and McIlrath hopefully coming back soon, but Noreau might have earned himself a longer stay with the Wolfpack. If so, then his ranking will likely be a bit higher by the spring.
#24 Thomas Spelling: Winger, 20, Sønderjyske (Al-Bank Ligaen)
I don't really know where to begin with evaluating Spelling. His previous season was spent mostly with Rögle's U20 team and he even earned seven games with Rögle's main club in the SHL, but Spelling ultimately could not agree to a contract with any team in Sweden. This resulted in him going back to his native Denmark and signing with Sønderjyske. He has 14 goals and 30 points in 26 games so far this season, which is good, but also kind of like if I were to walk into a 5th grade classroom tomorrow and ace a vocabulary test. It doesn't really prove very much. He's the only player in Denmark right now who is under the age of 24 and drafted into the NHL, so it's near impossible to really gauge exactly how he is faring in his development. The only thing keeping him on this prospect list is a productive season last year and a pretty good prospect camp over the summer with the Rangers. There's some offensive upside, but he needs to move to a better league. Perhaps that will be in the AHL next season, or perhaps he's already killed any chance of being offered a contract; his rights expire at the end of the season.
#25 Troy Donnay: Defenseman, 19, Erie Otters (OHL)
Completing the list is the only remaining guy in the prospect pool that I think has realistic NHL potential of any kind. Signed as a free agent at the end of last season, the 19-year-old Donnay is playing for the OHL's Erie Otters, who are probably the best team in all of juniors right now. Donnay stands at 6'7 and 185 pounds, which is in itself what the scouting staff is gambling on. His skating ability and positioning are much improved from last season, but he still is the textbook definition of “project.” The massive frame and a basic ability to play defense gives the Rangers' coaching staff a starting point, though. I wouldn't rule out him returning to Erie for an overage season but I think he turns pro next year; perhaps starting in the ECHL. If he can grow his game to match his body and the coaching staff pushes all the right buttons then he has some upside as a bottom-pairing, penalty killing defenseman.
Other prospects in the system: Kyle Jean, Josh Nicholls, Jason Missiaen, Scott Stajcer, Jason Wilson
There you have it. I'll continue to give updates on the prospects the rest of the season on the blog and through Twitter. Please feel free to send me any questions or comments in the comments section or on Twitter and I'll do my best to respond. Also, I have a handful of videos up on my youtube page with some highlights from a some of the prospects so check that out if you'd like.
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