New York Rangers prospect pool dips again in 2023

NHL: NHL Draft
Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers were once considered one of the very best prospect pools in the League not too long ago. Lucky ping pong balls at the NHL Lottery Draft landed Kaapo Kakko second overall in 2019. That was followed by Alexis Lafreniere first overall in 2020.

Those two prospects alone were sure to raise the Rangers in the rankings, but they also selected strong defenders like K’Andre Miller, Nils Lundkvist, and Braden Schneider to boot.

So how highly regarded was the Rangers’ prospect pipeline before the start of the 2020-21 season? Corey Pronman of The Athletic ranked them first overall, but just a few years later he’s dropped them to 15th.

New York Rangers prospect pool ranked 15th

While some may view this as a problem, it’s really not unexpected.

According to how Pronman looks at a prospect pool, it’s based on projections for the best young players (22 years-old or less) within an organization. Then he weighs them against all other NHL teams to determine where they should rank.

Currently, only 9 through 32 teams are ranked with the aging Boston Bruins at the bottom of the list and the defending Stanley Cup Champions slotted at 26. The previous champs, Colorado Avalanche, come in at 25.

What does that tell you?

Basically, teams that are competing for Stanley Cups don’t have prospect pools like the Anaheim Ducks, who are likely to be in the top three. It’s noteworthy that they haven’t been in the playoffs since the 2017-18 season.

When you look at the Rangers ranking first before the 2020-21 campaign, they had missed the playoffs for three straight years if you don’t count the 2019-20 qualifying round loss to the Carolina Hurricanes. For what it’s worth, they also missed the playoffs the year they came out on top of Pronman’s list.

As you start to contend, teams traditionally trade away first round picks and some prospects for high-profile rentals at the trade deadline.

It’s not a Rangers thing, it’s all Stanley Cup hopefuls.

Lafreniere and Kakko biggest reason for the drop

alexis lafreniere kaapo kakko
Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s face it, the biggest reason why the Rangers have dropped from 9th last year to 15th this season is because Lafreniere and Kakko have yet to reach their full potential.

Whether that’s fair or not is up to debate.

I’ve written about it ad nauseam that both players did not go to a bottom-feeding team as do most high draft selections. Both players joined a team on the rise with established veteran forwards, so playing 15-20 minutes a night to develop was out of the question.

Although many Rangers fans are screaming that the franchise can’t develop young players, I’m sure they weren’t too concerned as the team reached the Eastern Conference Final in the 2022 Playoffs.

That was Kakko’s third NHL season and just Lafreniere’s second.

How many high draft picks make it that far early in their careers?

It took 2015 first overall pick Connor McDavid 7 seasons to get to the Conference Finals with the Edmonton Oilers. Auston Matthews, who was selected first in 2016, has won just 1 playoff series in his 7 year career with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

However, this is a pivotal campaign for both Lafreniere and Kakko with both needing to shut their naysayers down.

Pronman rightfully places Lafreniere as the Rangers’ best young player while also calling out his skating as below NHL average. Meanwhile, Kakko is ranked second but is considered average in almost every notable category.

The good news is that new head coach Peter Laviolette appears committed to give them a larger role.

Additionally, President and General Manager Chris Drury also cleared the way by not attempting to bring back veteran forwards (Vladimir Tarasenko and Patrick Kane) who were acquired at or near the trade deadline last season.

This up coming season, both Lafreniere and Kakko will get considerable time on the power play giving them a real opportunity to make their long overdue mark in the big leagues.

Rangers prospect pool still has promise

Chris Drury Gabriel Perreault
Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Of course, there’s a lot to like in the Rangers prospect pool regardless of where experts rank them.

Freshly added first round pick Gabriel Perreault is getting rave reviews. Pronman for instance ranks him third, with Braden Schneider fourth, and Brennan Othmann fifth.

I completely disagree, believing Othmann to be the top prospect in the Rangers organization.

Othmann, 20, will be starting his first pro season after achieving his goal of winning an OHL title with the Peterborough Petes in 2022-23. While that will most likely be with the Hartford Wolf Pack in the AHL, Othmann is the closest in my opinion to making a real impact for the Rangers.

The excellent winger had a brilliant career in juniors that saw him develop into a complete player at both ends of the ice. He also captured back-to-back WJC Gold Medals for Canada showing an ability to perform in the clutch. For his OHL career, Othmann finished with 96 goals and 101 assists for 197 points in 177 regular-season games. He also added 17 goals and 32 assists for 49 points in 42 OHL playoff games.

Here’s Forever Blueshirts most current prospect rankings.

Note: In order to be considered for this list, the player must be 23 or younger and have played 40 games or less at the NHL level.

1Brennan OthmannF202021 1ST RD (16)
2Will CuylleF212020 2ND RD (60)
3Gabriel PerreaultF182023 1ST RD (23)
4Adam SykoraF182022 2ND RD (63)
5Bryce McConnell-BarkerC192022 3RD RD (97)
6Zac JonesD222019 3RD RD (68)
7Dylan GarandG212020 4TH RD (103)
8Brett BerardF202020 5TH RD (134)
9Matthew RobertsonD222019 2ND RD (49)
10Drew Fortescue D182023 3RD RD (90)

Anthony Scultore is the founder of Forever Blueshirts and has been covering the New York Rangers and the NHL... More about Anthony Scultore

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