Ranking the Top New York Rangers Prospects to Watch in 2014-15
The 2014-15 hockey season is going to be magnificent for New York Ranger fans because there are a multitude of prospects to keep tabs on.
While there may be no Jack Eichel or Connor McDavid-like prospects to monitor, there are players like Anthony Duclair, Brady Skjei, Boo Nieves and assorted others who could demand the attention of fans.
There will be no shortage of youngsters to watch during the upcoming season, and because the Rangers are an Original Six franchise, here are the top six prospects who should be consistently monitored in 2014-15.
6. Mat Bodie
Team: Hartford Wolf Pack, AHL
Mat Bodie is an intriguing prospect who could be a diamond in the rough for the Rangers. He was the captain of Union College's 2014 NCAA Championship team, and Bodie is a player with a nice shot. he's a leader and has some offensive upside.
According to an interview with Jeff Gorton on Blueshirts United, the Rangers have been monitoring Bodie for four years, so the team clearly has reason to believe that he can be an effective NHL defender.
There are two things that stand out about Bodie that could be looked at as a negative, and that is his size and his age. However, as Save By Richter points out, he's comparable to Torey Krug in some respects.
Both players are smallish in stature and developed at a later pace. Krug had a nice breakout year as a 22 and 23-year-old, and Bodie had his best year in college as a 23-year-old who turned 24 by the season's end.
While there is no telling how good Bodie can be, he's a prospect worth keeping an eye on in 2014-15.
5. Keegan Iverson
Team: Portland Winterhawks, WHL
Keegan Iverson is a sizable center at 6'0" and 220 pounds, and he's only 18. With a few years left to fill out, Iverson is a prospect to monitor this year. The rugged forward has shown to be solid defensively, a great physical force and a decent scorer.
Last season Iverson tallied 22 goals and 42 points, and Gordie Clark thinks that his offensive game could develop with more ice time this season, according to a recent interview with Blueshirts United.
'With the way the game is going you've heard every new GM say we want to get bigger and stronger and faster, and play that heavy style; well that's the type of game (Iverson) plays,' said Gordie Clark, the Rangers Director, Player Personnel. '(Portland) had a really good team (this season) with five really high-skilled players that got most of the ice time. So I think with more ice time available next year (Iverson's) numbers will go up.'
The center-ice position is an area in which the Blueshirts could stand to get stronger, and Iverson could be a realistic option down the middle in two or three seasons from now. The Winterhawks have been a great team to watch in the Western Hockey League, and Iverson is a player fans should watch closely this season.
4. Ryan Haggerty
Team: Hartford Wolf Pack, AHL
Ryan Haggerty will most likely start his professional career with the Hartford Wolf Pack of the AHL. He's a former ECAC star with RPI of the NCAA, and he finished third in the league with 28 goals during the 2013-14 season.
He's average in stature at 6'0" and 180 pounds, but he has a howitzer of a shot and knows how to get into the right areas of the ice. Haggerty's time in the AHL should show fans what type of player he could become for the Rangers, and fans should enjoy watching him light the lamp with his lightning-quick release.
3. Cristoval Nieves
Team: Michigan Wolverines, NCAA
Cristoval Nieves, or Boo for short, is a prospect who most Ranger fans forget about. He was a steal at No. 59 during the second round of the 2012 NHL draft because of his talent.
Lindsay Kramer of Syracuse.com said this at the time of his drafting:
Nieves was considered one of the fastest players in the draft and was ranked No. 27 among North American skaters. Although that could’ve landed him a late first-round spot, he said he wasn’t fretting when Friday night’s first round passed without hearing his name.
Since draft day Nieves has developed himself physically, and he now stands 6'3" and weighs 200 pounds. Boo is another center with some serious upside, and a prospect Blueshirts fans should closely follow this season.
The 2014-15 season will be Nieves' third as an NCAA player, and he could turn pro shortly after depending on the Rangers' situation in April. Only time will tell, but he's certainly an electrifying prospect with upside and promise.
2. Brady Skjei
Team: Minnesota Golden Gophers, NCAA
Brady Skjei is the Rangers' top defensive prospect, and he could become the next Ryan McDonagh. Gordie Clark, the Rangers' Director of Player Personnel, made comparisons between Skjei and McDonagh during an interview with Jim Cerny of Blueshirts United.
The comparisons between Skjei and another Minnesota-born defenseman---Ryan McDonagh---at this same stage in development are quite striking, according to Clark. Skjei has patterned his game and style after McDonagh's, and Clark says that the players are similar indemanor as well as style. These guys don't show emotion, but they are both churning inside," Clark said of Skjei and McDonagh.
Skjei is entering his third NCAA season, and it should be a big year for him. He's going to get quality ice time, and he will be in a comfortable spot in terms of experience. He's a guy to really keep tabs on not only because of his immense skill set, but because there's a real possibility that he joins the Rangers after his NCAA season is over.
According to Andrew Gross of the Bergen Record, the Rangers wanted the 6'3", 200-pound rearguard to turn pro this fall, so you can bet on them trying to ink their budding blueliner as soon as possible in 2015.
1. Anthony Duclair
Team: Quebec Remparts, QMJHL
If the NHL and CHL's transfer agreement was still valid, Anthony Duclair would be penciled into the Hartford Wolf Pack's top six for the start of the 2014-15 season.
Duclair is currently 19, and he isn't eligible to play in the AHL until he's 20, so he's Quebec bound barring a massive showing in the preseason for the Rangers.
The projected first-round talent slid all the way until the third round of last year's entry draft, and the Rangers wisely snatched up the speedy offensive winger. Duclair is coming off a 50-goal, 99-point season, and he'll likely make mincemeat of the competition in 2014-15.
He's fast, shifty, and an offensive player who could really add a punch to the Rangers lineup. He stands the best chance of making the opening-night roster out of all the prospects on this list.
This summer Duclair has been dazzling for Team Canada during their summer camp in preparation for the upcoming U-20 tournament, and fans hope he is lighting up Broadway very soon.