Ranking the Top 4 Under-the-Radar Prospects for New York Rangers
The New York Rangers do not have as remarkably deep of a prospect pool as they may have had four or five years ago. Blame it on the team's overall success and lack of high draft picks or the graduation of numerous prospects over the same period of time.
It doesn't matter. The Rangers now lack true top-end talent as well as overall depth on offense.
That being said, there are some names to look out for. And I'm not just talking about the high-profile guys—Brady Skjei, Anthony Duclair, etc.—but some of the lesser-known farm players could pan out and become good players at the NHL level.
Today, we'll take a look at the Rangers four most impressive prospects who've flown under the radar and try to gauge when they could make an impact.
A newly selected prospect of the Rangers chosen in the fifth round of the 2014 entry draft, Richard Nejezchleb brings much-needed depth to New York's forward group.
After the bigger names—Anthony Duclair, Pavel Buchnevich, Oscar Lindberg and J.T. Miller—the Rangers lacked quality prospects heading into the draft. Nejezchleb brings a good mix of heart and talent to the club, which will look to plug holes up front in the coming seasons.
A Czech native, Nejezchleb plies his trade with the Brandon Wheat Kings of the Western Hockey League (WHL). In 2013-14, he led his team in goals (32) and finished fifth in points (57). The left-shooting right winger added a team-leading 75 penalty minutes during the regular season before scoring nine points in nine postseason contests.
A scrappy forward who can get to the net will always be welcome, and Nejezchleb could potentially fill a bottom-six role with the Rangers in the future. But he's still just 19 years old and will have plenty of time to develop before being looked toward for NHL contribution.
General manager Glen Sather was tasked with filling his already weakened prospect pool without three consecutive first-round picks (2013-15), which were surrendered in deals for Rick Nash and Martin St. Louis over the past few years.
Sather has turned his attention to undrafted collegiate stars in the process, like, for example, Chris McCarthy.
The 23-year-old University of Vermont star spent five years with the Catamounts—he was awarded a fifth year of eligibility after playing just five games in 2011-12 due to injury—serving as assistant captain in 2011-12 and 2012-13 and as team captain in 2013-14.
In his final campaign, the 6'1", 190-pound forward potted 42 points in 38 games, which was tops for his squad and good enough for 27th in the nation.
A skill player, McCarthy has gotten better with age but, at 23, will be looked upon to contribute in the not-so-distant future. He could use some bulking up but more than likely is a "top six or bust" type of player.
Another free-agent signing, this time on defense, is Mat Bodie. He, like Conor Allen last year, signed with the Rangers following the conclusion of his collegiate career. Luckily for the Rangers, both could have bright futures.
Bodie's signing went a bit under the radar, but the acquisition could prove to be one of the better moves made by the team this offseason.
Captain of the national champion Union College men's ice hockey team, Bodie was the highest-scoring defenseman in the nation with 39 points in 40 games.
Although he is now 24 years old, Bodie's future is exciting. As an offensive-minded defenseman, the Manitoba native could find himself in contention for a roster spot if he impresses in camp, as the Rangers have been short on offense on the back line for what seems like forever.
He, too, will need to bulk up, seeing as he measures in at 6'0", 165 pounds. Bodie will need to work extremely hard to leapfrog a deep defense contingent to get a chance this season, but I truly feel that this signing could prove to be an excellent one.
Joining Bodie on defense is Ryan Graves, the Rangers' fourth-round selection in the 2013 draft.
A hulking 6'4", 220 pounds, Graves may well have been selected as insurance if former first-round pick Dylan McIlrath fails to pan out.
Regardless, he was drafted as a project but has turned into an impressive prospect.
Playing for the Prince Edward Island Rocket of the QMJHL in 2012-13, Graves scored 16 points in 68 games and added 90 penalty minutes. Not known for his offensive numbers, Graves established himself as a big, but sound, defenseman willing to work hard.
Heading into 2013-14, the Rangers were hoping to see Graves better utilize his frame in front of the net. He was able to do that last season while also scoring more points (22).
As a result, the Rangers were impressed and signed the left-handed defenseman to an entry-level contract in March.
Although he is not expected to challenge for a roster spot anytime soon, Graves has really made a name for himself. You can't help but notice his size, and now that he's improved his positioning, he could be an impact player sometime in the future.