New York Rangers: 3 Prospects Who Must Impress in Training Camp

James Wrabel, Jr.Correspondent IIAugust 18, 2012

New York Rangers: 3 Prospects Who Must Impress in Training Camp

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    As we know in sports, drafting players is a crapshoot. Not every first-round pick pans out while gems are unearthed in the later rounds. Not every athlete is can't-miss. Not every undrafted player deserves that label.

    It boils down to having the necessary talent and work ethic to make it to the next level.

    For the New York Rangers, outside of Chris Kreider, who showed he can handle the NHL in a small sample size during the 2012 NHL playoffs and looks to have a spot on the team next year, they have solid pipeline of prospects on the way.

    J.T. Miller looks every bit of the word impressive, Brady Skjei could be the next Ryan McDonagh down the road and Michael St. Croix could develop into an exciting offensive talent.

    But what about the fringe prospects who had higher expectations, haven't met them yet and are getting close to being on the outside looking in with the organization? 

    Let's take a look at three of those prospects. 

    Note: This whole article is predicated on there not being a work stoppage in the NHL and the season starting on time.

Andrew Yogan

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    Yogan's tenure with the Rangers organization has been short and to label it in a negative way isn't exactly fair. However, injury and consistency issues that are prolonged may take himself out of favor.

    Still, Yogan's size (6'3'', 200 lbs.) and playing center would be beneficial in a couple seasons for the Blueshirts, who will need pivots behind Brad Richards and Derek Stepan.

    In an interview with Adam Herman of The New York Rangers Blog, OHL prospect blogger Brock Otten had some interesting views with regard to Yoagn:

    Yogan will be near the bottom of the totem pole again. How will he react to that? He's going to have to continue to make an impact even when he's not scoring, by being physical and working the boards, just like he did in the OHL this year. As long as he carries over what he learned in his overage year, I think he'll be fine in the long run. I do think he could struggle a bit offensively this year though, as he adjusts to the speed and size of the pro game. He won't be able to manhandle AHL defenseman the way he did OHL defenseman. It'll be yet another learning curve for him to go through. But I do think he'll be fine in the long run. 

    While Otten believes Yogan made significant strides in his confidence and consistency last year, he must show he can do it at the pro level. Otherwise, dominating against teenagers won't punch your ticket to the NHL.

Christian Thomas

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    Two seasons removed from a 54-goal campaign with the Oshawa Generals of the OHL, Christian Thomas failed to capture that magic last season, scoring only 34 goals in 55 games.

    Those are still very good numbers, but considering Thomas' incredible offensive skills, the Rangers were hoping for more from arguably the organization's purest goal scorer in tow. 

    With a spot open on the Rangers' forward lines, this year could be the year the 2010 second-round pick finally puts all his talents together.

    It's just a matter of strengthening himself.

    At 5'9", 162 lbs., Thomas is undersized by NHL standards, but as we've seen over the years, little guys (Brian Gionta, Marty St. Louis) have a place amongst the big, bruising bodies of the NHL. Thomas has to make up for his lack of size with savvy hockey sense and increasing his strength to handle board play and absorbing contact.

    The Rangers were starved for offense at times last season. Thomas' skill set could complement that tremendously. However, if Thomas doesn't have a good showing in camp and has another lackluster season in his development, he may turn out to be trade fodder rather than a contributor.

Ryan Bourque

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    Of all the Rangers' prospects, Ryan Bourque might be the one with the most to prove this upcoming season. A third-round pick back in 2009, Bourque has had three years with the organization and little to show for it.

    Last season was his first pro year with the Connecticut Whale of the AHL, scoring 14 points in 69 games, but he also battled injuries throughout the year. While he may need more seasoning down in the minors, Bourque can't afford to have any more setbacks.

    Bourque's game lends itself to what the Rangers like to do. He's got great speed, an incredible motor and heart. He can be a pest on the forecheck—similar to Carl Hagelin—and could be a nice complement to the Blueshirts' bottom six, which needs an injection of speed.

    Like with Christian Thomas, Bourque is undersized and gets knocked off the puck easily. If that continues as a pattern, Bourque won't be seeing many NHL games coming up.

    While he may have the potential to fit in nicely with the Rangers, if Ryan Bourque doesn't realize that potential soon, he could find himself with another organization.