Checking Up On The Rangers North American Prospects
The New York Rangers, as was well documented, went into the 2018 NHL entry draft holding three first-round selections and two second-round selections. Many were speculating as to what general manager Jeff Gorton was going to do with his multitude of high draft picks. Would he use his excess of draft capital to maneuver his way around the first round? Would he trade down to accumulate more picks? Would he stand pat and do the old, best player available thing? Well, Gorton stayed true at number nine to draft the skilled Russian, Vitali Kravtsov.
When he was getting ready to walk up to Commission Bettman’s podium for his second of the three picks, Gorton decided that there was a defenseman from the United States Developmental Program that may not have remained on the board at slot 26. Gorton called up the Ottawa Senators who were in possession of the 23rd pick. He offered the Sens the 26th pick plus a second round selection. Ottawa agreed and Gorton was able to get his man. K’ Andre Miller, who is now a freshman at the University of Wisconsin, officially became a New York Rangers draftee and prospect.
We have been following the progression of the freakishly talented Miller in this space since the Badgers commenced their 2018-19 season. It seems like each time we offer an update, the 6’3″ 206 lbs. defenseman continues to climb up the proverbial ladder of hype and potential. He was in the news once again recently for notching five points in his team’s last two games. His current stat line is an impressive 15 points in 16 games with a wonderful +9 to go along with his gaudy offensive numbers. And, my friends, he is still just 18 years of age; meaning, he will continue to grow both as a physical specimen and as a mature young man. Rangers fans are eagerly anticipating his arrival on Broadway which, unfortunately, won’t be for another two or three years.
The reason why Miller slipped down towards the end of the first round to begin with was his extreme lack of hockey experience. Having great size and tons of ability doesn’t automatically translate into being a star in the NHL. Just ask Hugh Jessiman (sorry Ranger fans). So, Ranger fans and the Rangers organization have to be patient and let Miller develop in the NCAA and in the international ranks before he takes his rightful position on the blue line of the New York Rangers.
As we turn our attention to the other noteworthy North American prospects, we see Riley Hughes, the seventh-round pick from the 2018 draft, continues to average just over a point per contest (34 points in 31 games) for his Junior club in the British Columbia Hockey League.
Morgan Barron, the sophomore at Cornell University, is enjoying a nice season for Big Red tallying eight points in eleven games while ranking third in the NCAA in shots per game with a 4.36 average. If you’ve been watching the Rangers lately, and you’ve notice their their lack of rubber towards the opposing team’s nets, you’ll agree that players like the 2017 sixth-round pick are sorely needed.
The Rangers non-biological twin goaltenders from the NCAA’s Hockey East conference keep making Rangers scouts feel comfortable about their future in goal. Tyler Wall, he of the 1.80 GAA and .933 SV% and Adam Huska’s 2.90 GAA and .911 SV% make you wonder if Gorton will ever use his plethora of quality young goalies in a trade to improve other positions on the roster.
Team USA will be announcing their preliminary World Junior Championships roster and K’Andre Miller should be amongst the invitees. The WJC is typically where highly touted prospects can truly shine and strut their stuff. In less than a month from now, the tournament will commence in Western Canada and Rangers fans will be able to see for themselves what they truly have in Miller. If Miller makes Team USA and does what is anticipated, the “Hype Train” will reach feverish levels, and calls for him to leave school early and turn pro will become omnipresent.