The New York Rangers' most valuable player is Henrik Lundqvist, and although he has a number of elite years left in him, it is never too early to think about a contingency plan.
The Blueshirts' All-Star Vezina netminder is 32 and counting, so the drafting of 18-year-old netminder Brandon Halverson in the second round of the 2014 draft signifies that general manager Glen Sather is looking toward the future.
Although the Blueshirts already had goaltenders such as Mackenzie Skapski and Scott Stajcer in their system, they lacked a legitimate goaltending prospect with future starter potential. It may be too early to tell, but is Halverson the eventual heir to Lundqvist's throne?
Based on what scouts have said about Halverson, his age and upside, there is a real chance that he could eventually be the next legitimate starting netminder for the Rangers. His early drafting was a surprise for even Halverson himself, so it begs the question: What can the Rangers expect from him?
G Brandon Halverson, taken in 2nd round (No. 59) by Rangers said today he wasn't expecting to go that high. Figured 4th or 5th round.— Andrew Gross (@AGrossRecord) June 30, 2014
The current Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds starting netminder is a mere 18 years of age, and he already has a solid 6'4" and 179-pound frame. His age is important because the next four to six years of his development will be paramount. As a 22- or 24-year-old goalie, he can make the jump to the NHL while Lundqvist is 36 or 38.
Lundqvist is under contract until he turns 40, so it would benefit Halverson to develop as much as possible in the OHL and then the AHL before becoming an NHL backup. He has a lot of time to work on the little things, but the one thing he already has going for him is his bulky frame.
From the get-go, Halverson has been in a position of strength, because his size will enable him to take up a large portion of the net, and in theory, there will be less room for a puck to pass by.
One thing he needs to work on is positioning, but that is a strength of goalie coach Benoit Allaire. He is good with taking prospects with talent and making them fundamentally sound.
All the proof you need is Lundqvist, but other goalies who were at one point under Allaire's tutelage include Sean Burke, Brian Boucher and 2003-04 Stanley Cup champion Nikolai Khabibulin. Before the draft, Brock Otten of OHL Prospects broke down the games of significant prospects, and here is what he had to say about Halverson:
Lots of athleticism, and you can’t teach his size, but he has some holes positionally that make him inconsistent at this point. Next year, Murray will move on and the crease in the Soo will likely be his for the taking. All signs point to the Greyhounds having a ton of faith in Halverson moving forward and he could end up developing into a real good netminder.
Future Considerations, another prospect and draft prognosticating site, had this nugget about Halverson and what the Rangers can expect from him:
Halverson is a tall but thin puck stopper who moves well in the crease, has good reflexes and tracks the puck well through traffic. Very communicative and able to play the puck like a third defenseman. The Butterfly keeper needs some technical work but has good upside.
This description alone at age 18 should be enough to make fans salivate. Having a poised goaltender with solid reflexes and the ability to track the puck through traffic is a plus, as is his ability to play the puck like a third defenseman.
Speaking of playing the puck, Mark Seidel, the chief NHL scout for North American Central Scouting and a draft insider for CBC, said this of Halverson:
Great pick by the NYR for Halverson-Best puck handling Goalie I've EVER seen (including Brodeur) & he can stop the puck with size/technique!— Mark Seidel (@MarkSeidel) June 28, 2014
Whenever you are talked about in the same breath as Martin Brodeur it is certainly an honor as a goaltender, and it will be interesting to see how his skills continue to develop going forward.
What is Halverson's potential?
Right now, the Rangers have a legitimate goalie prospect, and that is something they haven't had since 2000. Halverson will have enough time to develop, and he will have the potential to become an NHL starter.
Halverson was one of the top-ranked goalies in the draft, and if he lives up to his potential, he could be a real asset for the Blueshirts down the road. While no one is pushing Lundqvist out the door anytime soon, it should be a relief for Ranger fans that they now have a potential heir in the pipeline.
No one is saying that Halverson will be as good as Lundqvist, but there is the potential that he can become a decent starting goalie for the Rangers. The ceiling is high for Halverson at this point, and he could look like a real steal in a few short years from now.