New York Rangers prospect pool ranked 4 as they move towards contention

new york rangers roster
May 8, 2021; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; New York Rangers left wing Alexis Lafrenire (13) celebrates his goal at the bench with defenseman Anthony Bitetto (22) during the third period of their 5-4 win over the Boston Bruins at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Recently, The Athletic’s Scott Wheeler released his top 50 NHL prospects for skaters in 2021. He took a look at every teams’ young players 23 and under who are either not in the league or teetering between the minors and the NHL.

His top three consisted of Quinton Byfield (LAK), Cole Caufield (MTL), and Sabres first overall pick Owen Power. However, when it comes to the New York Rangers who have dominated these type of lists for the last few seasons, only two showed up in Nils Lundkvist and Zac Jones.

That’s because their one time prospects are now considered full-time pros. Fox, Lafrenière, Kakko, and Miller don’t qualify.

Now, Corey Pronman released his rankings for top prospect pools and the Rangers dropped from first last season to fourth.

New York Rangers prospect pool now 4th

According to Pronman, the Rangers dropped for the following reasons:

“Because Adam Fox graduated, and Alexis Lafreniere and Kaapo Kakko did not elevate into key players, I still think their best days are certainly ahead of them.

While it is hard to argue with his assessment of Lafrenière and Kakko, they both have had to deal with two COVID shortened seasons.

Per Pronman’s top 10 rankings of NYR Prospects:

  1. Alexis Lafrenière
  2. Kaapo Kakko
  3. Filip Chytil
  4. Nils Lundkvist
  5. Braden Schneider
  6. Zac Jones
  7. K’Andre Miller
  8. Brennan Othmann
  9. Vitali Kravtsov
  10. Morgan Barron

Regarding these rankings, I don’t agree with where Pronman places Vitali Kravtsov, and K’Andre Miller. Personally, having seen the skill level and hockey IQ of Kravtsov he should rank third. Chytil would fall to sixth with Miller’s incredible physical ability and big shot taking a spot at five behind Lundkvist.

All and all, this is a key sign that the Rangers are moving in the right direction. Teams don’t want to continually have the top ranked prospect pool because that means they keep finishing out of the playoffs with lottery selections.

In contrast, the two-time defending Cup Champion Lightning rank 30th on his list.

Nils Lundkvist is the real deal

nils lundkvist
Jun 22, 2018; Dallas, TX, USA; Nils Lundkvist puts on a team cap after being selected as the number twenty-eight overall pick to the New York Rangers in the first round of the 2018 NHL Draft at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Blueshirts selected Swedish defenseman Nils Lundkvist in the first round of the 2018 Draft, 28th overall. He is currently penciled for RD3 behind Jacob Trouba and Adam Fox. That’s partially the issue for him, as he will struggle to earn those valuable minutes on the power play.

However; the Rangers believe strongly in Nils’ ability to one day be one of the top defenders in the NHL, and at just 21 years of age, he has a bright future ahead of him.

Lundkvist is one of a handful of NHL prospects who I’m most fascinated to see where his career ends up because he has played, for the last two years, like one of the best young players in the sport with Lulea. And in just about any organization that would, when combined with his handedness (he’s a righty!), guarantee a path into the kind of role that he’s capable of filling: a top-four defender who runs one of your power plays and can really drive offense while also being relied upon, despite his 5-foot-10 frame, to give you comfortable minutes defensively. 

Scott Wheeler

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