Kakko and Kravtsov and Fox, Oh My! The Rangers prospects pool is exciting
Our esteemed editors here at Forever Blueshirts remind their well-meaning stable of passionate Ranger scribes to remain objective while penning our pieces, and rightfully so. After all, our valued readers aren’t all that interested in wasting their precious time reading rah-rah “fan boy” articles. Mixing passion with knowledge and skill are the hallmarks of our talented team of writers that I am so very fortunate to be a part of. Having said all that, I sit here in amazement, a life-long Ranger fan going on 40 years, at the impressive and still-growing crop of home grown and highly-skilled Ranger players currently on the roster and prospects coming up through the pipeline.
You see, when I first became a card carrying acolyte of the Garden Congregation, Olympic legend Herb Brooks was the bench boss, John Davidson had yet to leave the goalie crease for the announcer’s booth and newly acquired defenseman Barry Beck was the supposed savior of the franchise, or so we were told. In the almost four decades of following and supporting this tantalizing franchise, I can count on one hand all of the home grown Ranger players that developed into full fledged All Stars, Actually, I just need two of my five fingers because only Brian Leetch and Henrik Lundqvist fit the bill as being considered, year in and year out, among the best at their respective positions. Leetch and Lundqvist are also the only Ranger draft picks to win individual awards with Leetch capturing the Calder, Norris and Conn Smythe and Lundqvist bringing home one Vezina.
The Rangers, throughout their 90+ year history have become synonymous with acquiring All-Stars and future Hall Of Famers towards the end of their illustrious careers. You know the names by now: Gretzky, Dionne, LaFleur, Harvey, Sawchuck, Plante, Messier, Jagr, Gartner, Esposito, and “Boom Boom” Geoffrion just to name a few. For a myriad of reasons that we can all sit down and debate, the Rangers simply are not a franchise that drafts and develops good players. Instead, their decades-long philosophy of team building was to simply trade for or sign to lucrative contracts as many big named players as possible and hope the collection of mercenaries could find the right formula for success. Sadly, this approach has only worked one time in the last 80 years.
But now, NOW, as I take off my objective writer’s cap and don my blue fan hat with the Ranger shield above the bill, I see a roster inundated with first round picks and highly-regarded young players. Filip Chytil, Lias Andersson, Brett Howden, and Alex Georgiev gave us skeptical fans a reason to tune in last season when the playoffs were nothing but a pipe dream. And this upcoming season, my goodness, we will see the Ranger and NHL debuts of Kaapo Kakko, Vitali Kravtsov and Adam Fox. My friends, these aren’t mediocre neophytes who the Ranger PR department tried to convince the fan base were the second comings. These players aren’t fatty, gnarly cuts of shriveled up sirloin. These players are game changers. These players are grade A prime cuts of Angus beef. Peter Luger’s, here we come!!
Adding to my sheer and utter exuberance about the future of my beloved hockey team is the fact that many other of the Rangers top prospects will either be in Hartford, like Igor Shesterkin, and Yegor Rykov or will continue their growth and maturity in the amateur ranks and Europe like K’Andre Miller, Nils Lundkvist and Olof Lindbom. When Glen Sather stepped down as general manager in 2015 and handed the keys of the franchise to his chief adjacent, Jeff Gorton, the native of Boston, Massachusetts had more horrendous contracts to deal with than prized prospects. Well, in four short years, Gorton has transformed the Ranger farm system into one of the league’s most talented and highly skilled.
Usually, we Ranger fans have to watch other franchises drafting a developing superstars. We look at the league stat sheet without seeing any member of the Blueshirts in the top 50 scorers. That feeling a particular game is over because we’re down by three goals and we know, full well, that we lack the firepower to make a comeback is widespread.
Usually, we Ranger fans watch the NHL awards extravaganza with an extreme level of FOMO because none of our players even receive a nomination much less win the trophy. My friends, thanks to the ice-in-his-veins Jeff Gorton and with supreme horse trading skills, those days of feeling like the uncool kid sitting home on a Friday night while the rest of the world is living it up seem to be over.
Of course, none of us truly know what any of these teenagers and young adults will develop in to. So, please forgive me for already enshrining the likes of Kakko and Kravtsov into the Hall of Fame. However, as a “Long Suffering” 40 year Ranger fan, I am witnessing something I have never seen before and that is a stable of highly-skilled highly regarded youngsters ready to tale the city and NHL by storm. Is it October yet? As the great Bart Scott famously blurted out, “can’t wait!”