Rangers could tap into USA Hockey program again in 2024 NHL Draft

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

With the 2024 NHL Draft scheduled to take place at Sphere in Las Vegas this Friday and Saturday, the New York Rangers could once again look to build their prospect pipeline by selecting players from USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program.

The NTDP program was started by USA Hockey in 1996 as a way to identify elite ice hockey players under the age of 18, and centralize their training. Both the under-17 and under-18 teams are based out of the USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth, Michigan, and compete domestically against opponents in the United States Hockey League (USHL). The under-18 team also has exhibitions against competition in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).

The stated goal of the NTDP is “to prepare student-athletes under the age of 18 for participation on the U.S. National Teams and success in their future hockey careers. Its efforts focus not only on high-caliber participation on the ice, but creating well-rounded individuals off the ice.”

Gabe Perreault, who was selected by the Rangers in the first round last year, holds the NTDP record for most points in a single season, when the forward scored 132 points (53 goals and 79 assists) in 2022-23. Current Rangers assistant coach Dan Muse was head coach of the U-18 team that season, so was very familiar with Perreault’s game. In addition, New York’s third-round pick in 2023, defenseman Drew Fortescue, was also on that U-18 team.

Other Rangers prospects to have spent time with the NTDP include 2022 sixth-round pick and current Harvard Crimson captain Zakary Karpa, and current Hartford Wolf Pack forward Brett Berard, a fifth-round pick in 2020.

Current Rangers players Adam Fox, Ryan Lindgren, K’Andre Miller, and Jacob Trouba are all alumni of the NTDP, with former Rangers JT Miller, and Brady Skjei also being drafted by the organization after playing in the program.

If general manager Chris Drury and his staff want to select another player from the NTDP with the 30th overall pick in the first round of this draft, there are several players to consider.

Related: Patrick Kane linked again to Rangers in 2024 NHL free agency

NTDP players Rangers could target in first round of 2024 NHL Draft

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

Here are three players the Rangers could consider if they are still available at No. 30 overall on Friday.

Kamil Bednarik

A left-shooting center, Bednarik had 44 points (20 goals, 24 assists) in 61 games with the NTDP Under-17 team in 2022-23 before making major strides with the Under-18 team this past season. Mostly skating on a line with fellow Boston University commit Cole Eiserman, Bednarik had 65 points (26 goals, 39 assists) in 61 games.

The 6-foot, 185 pounder is ranked No. 28 on NHL Central Scouting’s final ranking of North American skaters.

“I like his progression,” David Gregory of Central Scouting said. “I like how he’s impacting the game more significantly all the time. The best players are always going to have some kind of impact, and you can’t not see him when you watch that team. I’ve seen his game grow in the defensive end, too, and for a centerman, that’s a good thing.”

He scored two goals and had four assists in seven games for the United States at the U-18 World Championships, highlighted by three points in the opener against Slovakia. Bednarik is a consistent player who puts in a strong effort every game, and can play with anyone. His skating needs improvement, though he compensates with hard work at both ends of the ice. Bednarik should excel at the collegiate level, where he can add a scoring punch to his game.

According to Boston University head coach Jay Pandolfo, “He just does everything really well, probably a lot of things that go unnoticed. He’s got some offense in his game, he’s a 200-foot centerman and just does all the little things well. He plays a mature game for a young kid and his work ethic is off the charts, and I think whoever drafts him is going to get a very good player. For us, we can’t wait to have him because the NTDP coaches have told us we’re going to love coaching him because he wants to learn and is so low maintenance.”

E.J. Emery

A right-shot defenseman committed to the University of North Dakota, E.J. Emery revealed to the media that he spoke with 30 teams at the NHL Draft Combine. The 6-foot-3, 185-pound defenseman is currently viewed as a late first- or early second-round pick, though he could be taken earlier due to his strong performance in many testing categories where he finished atop the rankings, including vertical jump, body fat percentage, horizontal jump, and no arm jump. He also finished in the top 10 for agility (going right – tied for second), wingspan (tied for third), squat jump (fourth) and pull-ups (tied for seventh).

In his mock draft, former Calgary Flames general manager and current TSN analyst Craig Button had the Rangers selecting Emery with the 30th overall pick.

Emery had 16 assists in 61 games with the NTDP to go with an excellent plus-34 rating. At the U-18 World Championships, he added another six assists in seven games and was plus-15. When speaking with The Rink Live, NTDP U18 head Coach Nick Fohr had this to say about Emery: “E.J. played his best hockey at the end of the year and when you look at how he played at the U18 World Championships, that’s the type of play you’re going to get from E.J. Emery in his future. He’s such a smart kid, he’s long, he skates really well and his ability to recover is off the charts, and that’s such a valuable trait in a defenseman. I challenged him to be the best defender in the draft this year and it’s tough to say because I haven’t seen every kid obviously, but I would argue he’s right up there at the top and he’s gonna make some team really happy.”

Cole Hutson

The younger brother of Montreal Canadiens defenseman Lane Hutson, Cole (main photo) is a left-shot defenseman who’s committed to Boston University. Cole scored a point per game (15 goals, 36 assists for 51 points in 51 games) for the NTDP this season before adding four goals and nine assists for 13 points in seven games at the U-18 World Championships, when he was named as the top defenseman at the tournament. His 112 career assists with the NTDP are the most all-time by a defenseman. The 18-year-old is No. 55 on NHL Central Scouting’s final ranking of North American skaters.

“I previously had his brothers so there were certainly some expectations coming into this season but he exceeded them and Cole is something else,” Fohr said. “He’s such a competitive kid and he has that it factor, and I think the bigger the moment and spotlight, the better he plays. He wants the puck on his stick come crunch time and he gets criticized for something he can’t control with his size, but he makes up for it with everything else.”

Mentioned in this article:

More About: