New York Rangers prospect pool ranking starting to drop?

new york rangers zac jones
Apr 22, 2021; New York, New York, USA; Zac Jones #6 of the New York Rangers takes the puck in the first period against the Philadelphia Flyers at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Elsa/POOL PHOTOS-USA TODAY Sports

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 consists of the Kings Quinton Byfield, Canadiens Cole Caufield, 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 show up.

New York Rangers prospects in top 50

The two Blueshirts who made it onto to the list were Nils Lundkvist and Zac Jones. Obviously, Alexis Lafrenière and K’Andre Miller do not qualify because they played a full season in 2020-21.

Still, it’s pretty shocking to see just those two mentioned and to see Vitali Kravtsov as just an honorable mention. Furthermore, seeing Nils ranked 34 out of 50 was a little eyebrow raising. Jones came in at 42.

Two other names obviously missing that stand out for me are defensemen Braden Schneider and Matthew Robertson. It leads me to believe that prospect experts will start to drop the Rangers overall pool rankings in the near future. For awhile it was considered either number one or two among many.

The Athletic on Nils Lundkvist

nils lundkvist
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

Zac Jones top ranked prospect

As for Zac Jones, it is great to see him on the list considering I would rank both Vitali Kravtsov and Braden Schneider ahead of him. Wheeler does make the case that it’s because of Jones’ hockey IQ that he ranks so highly.

Jones belongs here given everything he has accomplished in the last three years. He just gets it. He understands how to make plays that drive results. He understands how to defend without needing to be big or powerful while doing it. He manufactures offense without ever looking like he’s forcing it. He’s just a functional, methodical defender whose game fits in with the way the NHL game is trending. His ceiling probably tops out as a No. 3 or a No. 4, but I think he can be really good in that kind of role long term.

Scott Wheeler

The Athletic article requires a subscription to read but goes into much further detail on both Blueshirts prospects.

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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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