Rangers continue strong ties to U.S. National Team Development Program

FloSports: FloHockey 2024 U18 Five Nations
David Reginek-USA TODAY SportsCredit: David Reginek-USA TODAY Sports

As we celebrate the United States of America on the Fourth of July weekend, it feels only fitting to mention the strong connection between the New York Rangers and United States-born players. The Rangers led all 32 NHL teams with 12 USA players on their roster this past season. But there’s a far more specific connection as well.

Over the past decade or so, the Blueshirts have forged deep ties with the USA Hockey National Team Development Program, which has produced a number of key players for New York over the years.

It’s as relevant as ever with Rangers general manager Chris Drury using his two most recent first-round picks on US NTDP players. Defenseman EJ Emery was taken No. 30 overall in the first round of this year’s NHL Draft and forward Gabe Perreault (1st round, 23rd overall) and defenseman Drew Fortescue (3rd round, 90th overall) were selected out of the NTDP in last year’s draft.

Perreault has quickly risen the ranks as the top prospect in the Rangers system after a very strong freshman season at Boston College, and both he and Fortescue helped the United States win the 2024 World Junior Championship.

Emery has already garnered excitement as an athletic, shutdown defenseman ahead of his freshman year at North Dakota.

Related: Top 10 United States-born players in Rangers history

Rangers USNTDP ties date back to 2011

EJ Emery — Photo Jim Cerny

The roots date back to 2011 when the Blueshirts drafted US NTDP product J.T. Miller with the No. 15 overall pick in the first round. The following year they selected Brady Skjei out of the program at No. 28 overall.

In total, the Rangers have selected seven players from the program: Emery, Perrault, Fortescue, Brett Berard (2020), K’Andre Miller (2018), Skjei, and J.T. Miller.

The last three have all carved out excellent NHL careers. K’Andre Miller is currently a top-four defenseman for the Rangers and a budding star at the age of 24. And in a fun angle, Emery said he models his game after Miller and hopes to be his defense partner one day.

Skjei and J.T. Miller started their NHL careers in New York before being traded away. But each is coming off his best NHL season — Miller had 37 goals and 109 points as an elite forward with the Vancouver Canucks and Skjei had 47 points as a top-four defenseman with the Carolina Hurricanes.

Skjei just earned himself a seven-year, $49 million contract with the Nashville Predators in NHL free agency. Miller has recorded 284 points across 242 games in the past three seasons with the Canucks.

The remaining four have yet to play in the NHL but rank highly within the Rangers organization. Berard may be closest after the forward led the Hartford Wolf Pack with 25 goals as a rookie pro last season in the American Hockey League. Perreault, Fortescue, and Emery project to turn pro in the next few years as well.

Just this week, Perrault confirmed he’s returning to BC for his sophomore season and then will decide his future, which could mean the 19-year-old will sign his entry-level contract in the spring.

Needless to say, the USNTDP has a good track record of producing NHL talent, and that’s something the Blueshirts have taken note of. You’d be hard-pressed to find an NHL team that appreciates US-based programs and players more than the Rangers.

Lou Orlando has spent the past two seasons as a New York Rangers beat reporter for WFUV Sports. The... More about Lou Orlando

Mentioned in this article:

More About: