Rangers Prospects Roundup: Lundkvist, Barron, Wall
The excitement and anticipation surrounding 2018 first round picks Vitali Kravtsov (9th overall) and K’Andre Miller (22nd overall) has been, dare I say, all too consuming for many Rangers fans who have been using their crystal balls to see into the future to help mitigate the despair and frustration of what is likely to be a second consecutive playoff-less spring in Rangerstown. While the talented Russian forward and the freakishly skilled American defenseman are most worthy of the accolades and adulation that have come their way, it is time to find a comfortable seat on the “Hype Train” for the last of the team’s 2018 first round picks (28th overall) defenseman Nils Lundkvist.
The Rangers selected the Swedish right-handed blue-liner with the draft pick obtained from Tampa Bay in that mega-deal that saw former captain Ryan McDonagh and J.T. Miller head down to Florida’s Gulf Coast. Lundkvist has really come into his own during this current SHL season playing for Lulea HF. The slick-skating Lundkvist has tallied eight points in 30 games thus far. As we have stated many times in this space in earlier prospect pieces, a European teenager playing overseas cannot be judged primarily on their point totals. Veterans get the bulk of the playing time for seniority based European club teams.
In order to accurately portray the strides a player like Lundkvist has made, we have to look at comparable stat lines of other teenagers that were in a similar position. For example, Lundvkist’s eight points in 30 games may sound uninspiring on the surface, but he does lead all SHL defenseman under the age of 20 in total points. Last season, only two SHL defenseman 20 years-old or younger had more than eight points. What were their names you ask? Well, one of those teenagers was the 15th overall selection in the 2017 NHL draft, Erik Brannstrom. The other was a fella by the name of Rasmus Dahlin. You may have heard of him as he was the top draft pick in last June’s draft and was considered to be that elusive “generational talent”. It is safe to say that Lundkvist is starting to join some elite Swedish company with his achievements this season and I am sure Kravtsov and Miller will make room for the gifted defenseman once the proverbial “Hype Train” makes its way over to Stockholm.
Another Ranger prospect that has gotten mention in this space and has really started to open eyes and turn heads with his play this season is the University of Cornell’s Morgan Barron. The 174th overall selection in the 2017 NHL draft is on a tear for Big Red. He leads his team in scoring with 21 points in 19 games. The 6’3″, 214 lbs. pivot also leads his hockey team in an astounding seven other categories. If the Rangers do in fact trade Kevin Hayes at next month’s trade deadline and have an opening for a large centerman with skill, the team could have the replacement for the talented Bostonian in the impressive young man from Halifax, Nova Scotia.
While goaltending prodigy Igor Shestyorkin continues to put up video game statistics playing in the KHL with his 1.20 GAA and .948 SV%, I’d like Rangers fans to keep The University of Massachusetts-Lowell netminder Tyler Wall in their minds. Not only does the River Hawk’s goalie have the perfect surname for his position, he is also in the midst of a phenomenal season. His 1.96 GAA and .925 SV% is, as enumerated on several occasions, a wonderful insurance policy in case “The Czar” decides to stay in Russia.
Here’s a quick nugget to raise your eyebrows and make your forehead crease. Both Barron (2017) and Wall (2016) were sixth-round Rangers draft picks going 174th overall in their respective draft classes. Coincidence or prophetic? Only time will tell…
Yes, it is true, and rightfully so, that Shestyorkin, Kravtsov and Miller get the lion’s share of the attention from those of you who enjoy reading and learning about the direction of the future of the franchise. Those three talented players are the unquestioned top Rangers prospects. However, the accomplishments of Lundkvist, Barron and Wall should, at least, put them in the future-Ranger conversation.
The Rangers already have three picks in the first two rounds of the upcoming 2019 NHL draft. That number is likely to increase with the expected roster purge over the coming weeks. I have been singing the praises of stockpiling young assets for quite a while now. If Jeff Gorton does what I’d like him to do and jettison the veterans to accumulate more picks and prospects, then when we do our prospect pieces during the 2019-2020 season, we should have an impressive arsenal of gifted youngsters to opine about.