Igor Shestyorkin, Vitali Kravtsov, Nils Lundkvist, Yegor Rykov, and Olof Lindbom.
These names may be hard to spell and even harder to pronounce. But, one thing for sure is these players represent the future of the New York Rangers.
All of these highly regarded prospects are currently playing in Europe with their eyes set on the NHL some time in the foreseeable future. Last week, we explored some of the top amateur Rangers prospects currently playing in North America. Today, we are going to expound on the plethora of exciting young potential who currently receive their paychecks in something other than dollars.
We cannot have any discussion about Rangers prospects anywhere in the world without starting with their super-prospect, goaltender Igor Shestyorkin. The heir apparent to King Henrik Lundqvist’s throne continues to dominate in the KHL. Shestyorkin’s early season numbers are even more video game-like than in previous campaigns. So far, the acrobatic net-minder is 8-1 with an astounding 0.99 GAA and a ridiculous .958 SV%. He has four, count ’em, four shutouts.
His contract status is a bit ambiguous. However, most feel he will leave the land of Putin and borscht and head over to the states after this current KHL season comes to an end.
The next promising young Russian to opine about is the ninth overall selection in the 2018 NHL Draft and that is Vitali Kravtsov. The immensely talented and highly skilled 18 year old is off to a fabulous start with his KHL team, Traktor Chelyabinsk. His seven points in 19 games may not seem impressive considering his skill level. However, when you compare his KHL production at this age with current NHL stars Artemi Panarin, Vladimir Tarasenko and Evgeny Kuznetsov, the future Ranger is right on par with those esteemed NHL all stars.
#NYR prospect Vitali Kravtsov leads all KHL players younger than 20 years old in points this season (seven; three goals, four assists). Here is how he compares to other KHL players through the first 19 games of the season following their draft years: pic.twitter.com/ifG9LpFc8N
— NYR Stats & Info (@NYRStatsInfo) October 21, 2018
For the record, I was vociferous in my belief back in June that Jeff Gorton should have drafted prolific scoring winger Oliver Wahlstrom, who would of course be taken by the Islanders with the 11th pick. I am willing to give my namesake the benefit of the doubt here since he obviously knows way more than I do about these prospects. Kravtsov is an exciting player, there is no question about it. We can only hope that Gorton and his scouts made the right decision and Kravtsov, like Shestyorkin, will commence his run on Broadway once his KHL contract expires after the 2019 season.
We will stay in the KHL and discuss the player whom the Rangers received from the New Jersey Devils as part of the Michael Grabner trade and that is defenseman Yegor Rykov: The highly touted prospect, who drew comparisons to former captain Ryan McDonagh, has struggled thus far for his KHL team. So much so that he has only played in seven games earning just one assist. The Rangers believe very strongly in the 21 year old Rykov and would love for him to cross the Atlantic as soon as he feels he is ready to move up in class.
As we hop on an airplane from Moscow and head west to Stockholm, we will discuss the two other names of note from the 2018 draft class and that is the last of the first-round picks. 28th overall, Nils Lundkvist, and second round pick, 39th overall, goaltender Olof Lindbom. These talented young Swedes will almost certainly represent their country in the upcoming World Junior Championships this December. By the way Rangers fans, circle December 26th on your calendars because this tournament will be a must-see for the Garden Faithful. Lundkvist, like University of Wisconsin’s K’Andre Miller, is considered a prospect with great potential, but is a few years away from being NHL ready. The quick-footed 5’11” defenseman could very well quarterback the Rangers power play some day as he is known as a puck mover extraordinaire.
Lindbom was a surprise pick for sure. First of all, the Rangers are stacked with goalie prospects all over the world. Secondly, Lindbom was not expected to be drafted until the third round. Why Gorton went with a goalie with the 39th pick when this team lacked depth and goal scoring up front is a real dome scratcher. But, as stated earlier, Gorton gets paid a seven-figure salary to make these decisions and I am just a passionate fan with a vivid imagination. So, I am going to defer once again to my namesake on this one.
Over the last two draft classes in 2017 and 2018, the Rangers used eleven of their 17 total picks on kids from European clubs. There certainly are other players to watch for besides the ones previously mentioned in the above paragraphs. We will keep our eyes on the likes of Patrik Virta, Dominik Lakatos, Jacob Ragnarsson, Lauri Pajuniemi et al. and monitor their progress. For a franchise like the Rangers to have had empty cupboards seemingly forever, it is a wonderful feeling to know that a bountiful delivery of gourmet groceries will be arriving soon. Last season was brutal. This season is looking like the same. But, my fellow Rangers fans, hang in there as the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel is not that far away.