Temper your excitement on Rangers prospects K’Andre Miller and Vitali Kravtsov

Charles Wenzelberg

Typically in this space, we have been giving progress reports on the New York Rangers prospects currently playing in Europe and in North America. We have been following the production of the team’s recent draft picks that aren’t playing in Hartford and that isn’t suiting up for the big club in Manhattan. We have been focusing our attention on two players in particular; Vitali Kravtsov, the ninth overall pick and K’Andre Miller, the 22nd selection in the 2018 NHL entry draft.

Yes, I have read many of your tongue-in-cheek or flat out sarcastic comments to our prospects updates about the Rangers poor drafting record. I completely understand why some of you feel it is more likely that Miller and Kravtsov will resemble Pavel Brendl and Jamie Lundmark instead of Brian Leetch and Mike Richter. I completely understand, after the likes of Hugh Jessiman and Bobby Sanguinetti and Dylan McIlrath, why some of you feel the New York Rangers simply have no idea what they are doing when it comes to hitting a home run on a first-round draft pick. Rangerstown has been tricked and dazzled before by pyrite when the Blueshirt Faithful felt they were getting the real thing.

However, it certainly appears that Jeff Gorton may have struck 24 karat gold when he chose the supremely talented Kravtsov and the freakishly talented Miller. A week hasn’t gone by without one of these two future stars making some sort of a highlight reel. Vitali Kravtsov is, as a teenager, taking the KHL by storm and was even just previewed by the Hockey News for the upcoming World Junior Championships. Back stateside, K’Andre Miller looks like a man amongst boys playing for the University of Wisconsin Badgers. News came out of Russia just last week that Kravtsov will ditch the land of Putin, Vodka and borscht and take his immense talents to the “Concrete Jungle Where Dreams Are Made Of” as soon as his current KHL season is over. Miller’s rapid progression and exceptional play have some Ranger fans calling for him to exit the college campus in Madison, Wisconsin after this collegiate season ends and join Kravtsov for the Rangers stretch run in March and April of 2019.

There is not an adjective in any thesaurus that can accurately describe how against this notion I truly am. It would behoove the Rangers hierarchy to assign Kravtsov to their AHL affiliate in Hartford if he decides to cross the pond and come over to North America. I would also hope that Jeff Gorton would insist to K’Andre Miller that he continues his development in the amateur ranks. You see, the New York Rangers simply do not have a good track record at developing young talent, especially the forwards. High draft picks get sped through the system and have unrealistic expectations placed upon them. There is no better example of that than the aforementioned Jessiman, who may very well be the biggest bust of Glen Sather’s tenure as general manager.

Sobering nugget of the day: Did you know that Mike York was the last homegrown Ranger forward to represent the Blueshirts in the All-Star game way back in 2002? And before the diminutive former Michigan State Spartan, and of course Brian Leetch, you’d have to go back to 1991 when Darren Turcotte was selected to the All-Star team. Seems hard to fathom, but that is how inept the Rangers have been at drafting and developing young forwards over the last 30 years.

Patrick E. McCarthy

We are seeing 2017 first-round picks Lias Andersson and Filip Chytil go through the necessary growing pains associated with being a neophyte in the NHL. Neither has produced much in the way of offense thus far in their embryonic careers, but that’s not the point. The point is, the 19-year-old Czech and the 20-year-old Swede are learning the NHL game on the ice and how to be a professional off the ice. This is how young talent should get developed. This is what the Rangers franchise never seemed to understand through all of these futile championship-less decades.

Let me emphasize vociferously and with great clarity:

To the Rangers fans: Let all of these talented young men develop at their own pace. Don’t boo them. Don’t label them as “busts” if they fail to produce early on. Don’t look at the draft selections immediately behind them and play the “what if” game.

To the Rangers brain trust: Let all of these kids play and keep playing and keep playing and keep playing. If it has already been decided that there will be another roster purge and veterans like Mats Zuccarello and Kevin Hayes will be jettisoned, then perhaps it would be wise not to wait until February 2019 and the trade deadline to make the necessary moves. Any roster spot that gets opened up for a youngster would be advantageous towards what this organization hopes to build in the coming years.

It certainly appears that the Rangers found twin solid gold bars with their first two picks in last June’s entry draft. As much as the fans want to see the franchise’s shiny new toys take the ice at the Garden sooner rather than later, they must remain wrapped and stored away until the time is right for them to be opened. Patience, my friends. Patience. Vitali Kravtsov and K’Andre Miller could be the cornerstones of the next great Rangers team. Or, they could be the latest entries to the embarrassingly long list of highly touted draft picks that went belly-up. Pump those breaks and take it slow. Remember what happens when you drive too fast. Sooner or later, you’ll see the flashing lights in your rearview mirror. “License and registration, please.”