Recapping the week of action for Rangers European prospects
First off, Sweden. The Rangers have five players in Sweden.
Nils Lundkvist played in all three games for Luleå HF this week. He did not record any points, but had 14:59 TOI and was a +5 while his team went 1-2-0. Luleå HF is second in the SHL with ten games to go. Despite not scoring, the 18-year old Lundkvist is still leading all U20 defensemen in scoring and has the highest point-per-game average among all defensemen under 21.
2017 seventh-round draft pick Patrik Virta seems to have found his place in Örebro, after starting the season in the KHL with Slovan Bratislava. After walking away from his contract in the KHL due to financial mismanagement by his team, Patrik Virta moved to Sweden. This past week, Virta appeared in three games, notching a goal and an assist, finishing -1 with three shots on goal.
In the second tier of Swedish hockey, we find two defensemen. First, Calle Själin, the fifth-round pick in 2017. Playing on the first pair with Filip Johansson, he had six shots on goal in two games, finishing with one point, an assist against Karlskrona, and an average TOI of 17:36, as his team went 1-1-0, and are currently in third place with a 12-point lead on the ninth place team. The teams ranked third through eighth battle in the playoffs for promotion.
Also active in HockeyAllsvenskan is Jacob Ragnarsson, who the Rangers picked in the third round last summer. The son of former NHL defenseman Marcus Ragnarsson, Jacob is on one of the worst teams in the second tier of Swedish hockey. Almtuna is four points out of the 12th spot, which would keep them in the HA. Ragnarsson had no points and was -1 with two shots on goal as his team went 1-1 this week.
The fifth and final player we look at is goalie Olof Lindbom. After struggling with injury earlier in the season, he joined his team Djurgårdens IF in SuperElit for the Top-10. In SuperElit, the top five teams of the North and South play each other in a round-robin, which is followed by an eight-team playoff season to determine the champion. Lindbom played one game this week, sharing duties with the other goalie, Oscar Walldén. The second game of the week for Djurgårdens IF was Lindbom’s and he had a .968 SV%, saving 30 out of 31 shots against Leksands in a 3-1 win.
Former Rangers draft pick Daniel Bernhardt retired from professional hockey this week.
Next up: Finland, where we look at Tarmo Reunanen and Lauri Pajuniemi.
In fourth place, we find Tarmo Reunanen’s team, Lukko. With a goal and an assist in three games, the 20-year old had a good week. His team went 2-1-0 with the only loss coming against Pajuniemi’s team, TPS. Reunanen had six shots on goal this week, logging an average TOI of 21:41. Not only does Reunanen lead all U20 defensemen in points, he also leads all Lukko defensemen in points. Only seven U20 blue liners have recorded more points in a single Liiga season since 2000.
Lauri Pajuniemi is having a very up-and-down season, but has picked up the pace recently with five points (2G, 3A) in his last seven games. He played twice this past week and scored a goal against last year’s CHL champions, JYP. His team, TPS, has all but wrapped up second place in the regular season, having a nine-point lead on third ranked Tappara.
From Finland, we fly south to the Czech Republic where an often forgotten Rangers prospect just moved back to his own team, after a stint on loan. Dominik Lakatoš spent part of the season at Filip Chytil’s old team in Zlin, registering 13 points in 22 games but is now back up North with Bili Tygri in Liberec. Lakatoš had three shots on goal and averaged 25:32 of ice time, but failed to add any points in his team’s three contests this week.
Last but certainly not least, we head to Russia to look at the organization’s best goalie and forward prospects.
With the news of former Rangers goalie Magnus Hellberg signing a contract extension with SKA St. Petersburg, it seems to be a matter of time before Igor Shestyorkin goes over to North America. Shestyorkin played only one game this week, when SKA beat Severstal Cherepovets – Pavel Buchnevich’s old team – making 28 saves on 29 shots for a .965 SV%. The win brought his stat line to bringing his season total to 22-4 with a .949 SV% and a 1.19 GAA. With 97 points, SKA is three points behind CSKA for the lead in both the conference and the league.
Vitali Kravtsov’s team, Traktor Chelyabinsk, had a week they would rather forget, going 0-2-1 in their last three games. But, with Sibir also going 0-2-1, they failed to take advantage of Traktor’s misstep. Only two points separate the two for the final playoff spot in the East, with Traktor having a game in hand. Traktor Chelyabinsk was the last team to reach the 100-goal mark this season; and with a goals-per-game average of just 1.69, they would be the worst offensive team to ever make the KHL playoffs.
That being said, it hasn’t stopped Kravtsov from contributing with a goal this week, bringing his total to eight goals and 13 assists in 47 games. While that may not look like much, when you account for the team’s lack of offense, he is contributing on over 25% of Traktor’s goals when he is playing.
The final prospect we’ll look at is Yegor Rykov. Having grown into a top-pair defenseman in Sochi this season, he adds value on both sides of the puck. He scored in Sochi’s overtime win over Vityaz last Monday, and now has nine points in 44 games; the most by any defenseman 21 or younger. Sochi has a four-point lead on Dinamo Riga for the last spot in the East. Sochi won all three games this week with Rykov getting the goal and recording a +2 rating.
I cannot remember the last time any NHL team had four prospects leading their age-groups in scoring in some of the top professional leagues in the world, but here we are. The future looks bright.