The 5 Most Frustrating New York Rangers Prospects
As the New York Rangers continue to burn through their prospect pool, many are wondering: Was it ever that deep, or have many prospects nosedived in their development?
A little bit of both, I say, but nevertheless, the Rangers have graduated many successful NHL players over the course of the past 10 years or so.
But there are also a fair share of frustrating youngsters whom were, in some cases, expected to do great things but haven’t materialized, yet.
Here are the five most frustrating prospects in the Rangers system, and for the sake of the success of the team, the organization hopes they all can turn it around.
After successful campaigns with the USA Hockey National Team Development Program, Ryan Bourque—son of NHL legend Ray Bourque—was selected in the third round of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.
He was advertised as a speedy grinder with a fair amount of talent who would be a strong candidate to skate on the Rangers’ third line at some point in the future. Bourque suited up for the Quebec Remparts for two seasons in 2009-10 and 2010-11 scoring 49 and 53 points, respectively.
At the conclusion of 2010-11 QMJHL season, Bourque was signed by the Rangers to an entry-level deal and has struggled ever since.
The Boxford, Mass., native scored just 14 points in 69 games in his first full pro season in 2011-12 and followed that campaign up with 15 points in 53 games the following season.
Although not a prolific scorer, Bourque found it hard establishing himself on Hartford’s third and fourth lines and has become somewhat of a forgotten prospect.
But, now in the last year of his entry-level contract, Bourque maybe has turned a corner. In 61 games this season, the winger has scored 17 goals and is second on the Wolf Pack in the category, just two goals behind leading scorer Danny Kristo.
It’s nice to see a long-lost prospect, if you will, find his way, but there’s no guarantee Bourque can make the jump to the NHL, especially when you consider his size (5’9”, 175 pounds).
On this list, there are players who frustrate fans and management in different ways. For example, J.T. Miller has been an effective player for the Rangers when he’s been up with the team, but head coach Alain Vigneault clearly doesn’t trust him and/or would rather use veterans in his place.
That being said, Miller has struggled to score in the NHL. He’s good on the forecheck, is a strong physical presence, can play center and wing and is responsible in his own end, but what’s frustrating about him is that he’s a superstar at the AHL level.
Clearly, there’s a significant gap between the NHL and AHL game, but you’d have to think, considering the style of play is very similar, Miller would be putting up better numbers.
In 2012-13, Miller skated in 26 games for the Rangers and scored just two goals—both of which came in one game—and added two assists. This season, he’s played 28 games and scored three times and added three additional helpers. But with Hartford in the AHL, Miller has 12 goals and 35 points in 33 games. He’s second on the team, just four points behind team leader Oscar Lindberg, who has played almost double the amount of games.
This is why he’s frustrating.
I like him a lot, and with the departure of Ryan Callahan, I think he should be with the big club, but when he gets his chance he needs to start scoring. Miller is a former first-rounder and he has to start putting up numbers that support his selection.
Marek Hrivik, an undrafted Slovak who spent three seasons with the Moncton Wildcats of the QMJHL from 2009-2012, signed an amateur tryout agreement following the 2011-12 junior season with Connecticut of the AHL.
After scoring just one point in eight regular season games, the winger lead the Whale in scoring in the playoffs, tallying nine points in nine games. His showing prompted the Rangers to sign him to an entry-level deal at the conclusion of the season.
Hrivik had success scoring in the QMJHL, registering 55, 79 and 70 points in his three junior campaigns. Last season, he scored 26 points in 40 games for the Whale and entered camp this past fall with a shot at cracking the Rangers lineup.
But his skating hurt him despite his talent and willingness to battle in the corner. Hrivik was eventually cut by the Rangers and assigned to Hartford of the AHL.
This season, he’s scored just nine goals and 21 points in 61 games. Not the mark of an NHL-ready winger, despite the promise he showed in the past.
Defenseman Dylan McIlrath’s career will always be under the microscope, as he was selected 10th overall by the Rangers in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft ahead of U.S. Olympian Cam Fowler.
At the time, the Rangers were very high on Michael Del Zotto and felt they had more of need for a bruising defender rather than one of the puck-moving variety.
At 6’5”, 215 pounds, McIlrath did indeed fill an organizational need, but his career to this point has come to somewhat of a standstill.
After four years with the Moose Jaw Warriors of the WHL from 2008-20012—over which McIlrath recorded over 100 penalty minutes in each season—the Winnipeg native made the jump to the AHL.
After playing in five playoff games, McIlrath suffered an injury that would affect his offseason training and interrupt the start of the 2012-13 season. He eventually played in just 45 games and scored zero goals, added five assists and 125 penalty minutes.
He received his first chance at an NHL job this past training camp but looked totally lost in preseason and was assigned to Hartford of the AHL prior to the season.
On December 12, McIlrath made his NHL debut after Vigneault received positive reports from the farm, but over a two-game stint it was clear the rookie was still not ready.
Upon being returned to the AHL, McIlrath was injured and sat out a month but returned on January 19. He’s currently got 13 points and 145 PIMs in 49 games.
Everyone in the organization is rooting for him, but the truth is he is always going to be compared to Fowler, and considering how much further ahead the Anaheim Duck is in terms of development, it’s safe to say McIlrath will frustrate fans for years to come.
Michael St. Croix
The Rangers selected Michael St. Croix with the 111th selection in the 2011 draft after the centerman scored 75 points in 68 games for the Edmonton Oil Kings of the WHL in 2010-11.
As a fourth-round choice—and a man small in stature (5’11”, 179 pounds)—St. Croix was considered a project, but faith in his promise soared following the Winnipeg native’s 2011-12 season in which he scored 105 points in 72 games.
The Rangers rewarded him with an entry-level contract but eventually sent him back to Edmonton for an overage season with the Oil Kings. He would go on to score 92 points in 72 games.
St. Croix became an exciting prospect for the Rangers but didn’t get a real shot in training camp this past September. He started the season in Hartford, but after nine games and zero points, he was demoted to Greenville of the ECHL.
For anyone who doesn’t know, the ECHL (East Coast Hockey League) is a notch below the AHL and something of a wake-up call for players whose pro hockey ride is about to come to an end.
That’s not to say nobody who’s played in the ECHL has made it big, because there have been quite a few, for example Dan Girardi and Tim Thomas. But St. Croix went from very promising to a complete dud of prospect in less than a year.
If that isn’t frustrating, than I don’t know what is.