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We all know about the recent acquisitions in Manhattan. Players like Markus Naslund and Nik Zherdev are being counted on to bring the offense. Chris Drury is going to be asked to step up in the leadership role.
Michal Roszival and Wade Redden are going to have to anchor this new defensive group. Ryan Callahan and Fred Sjostrom will need to drive their opponent nuts. Brandon Dubinsky, Mark Staal, and Nigel Dawes will need to increase their level of development. In other words, there is an amazing amount of pressure for this upcoming year.
Almost every player in Ranger blue will be tested this year, expected to fill certain roles. Someone has to fill the role of captaincy. Someone has to fill the role of powerplay quarterback. Someone has to fill the role of agitator. Someone has to fill the role of top line winger.
People of course are penciled into new roles, but nothing's certain. Again, who would have predicted that Dubinsky would have been centering our first line at this time last year? Everything's up for grabs.
Speaking of Dubinsky, I do believe that our return to respectability in the NHL centers around the youth movement Glen Sather, Tom Renney, and, until a few months ago, Don Maloney have been working on.
Kids like Lundqvist, Prucha, Staal, Dawes, Girardi, and Callahan have been huge players for us, but it even goes as far back as the since departed Jed Ortmeyer and Dominic Moore (who I still miss). All of them deserve credit for the return of hard work and accountability to the Broadway Blueshirt.
I want to know who's next. I want to know who our scouting staff is looking at to be the newest young cog in the Ranger machine. I do realize, considering all the movement that's taken place over the last two years, there might not be too much room for youth at this exact moment on the team.
However, it's good to know that talent is lying on the sideline, and that they shouldn't be overlooked. Broken down into categories, here are some of the players with no NHL games under their belts as of yet who could keep some of our veterans nervous throughout the next few seasons.
Well, you knew he'd be at the top. Yes, he's been compared to players with the names of Ovechkin and Kovalchuk, but personally I feel he's overrated if that's the comparison.
The kid's been plagued continuously with the stigma of not working hard, and look what that's done for Zherdev already. His offensive game has been compared to Alex Radulov, which in no way is a bad thing.
However, the hit he took from Brandon Sutter last year, which was all over the net, was horrid. That's enough to scare me into thinking he's all offense, with no nose for the small things going on around him. I've seen for years, players like the ones aforementioned, Jagr, Bure, and Fedorov make a living off of not being able to get hit.
If Cherepanov can get lit up before he gets to the NHL, I can't imagine what'll happen when players like Phaneuf see him. He'll pot 30 for you—maybe—but I don't think he's the sure thing everyone believes him to be. Radulov is a decent comparison, but I see a younger Valeri Kamensky from Colorado in the mid '90s.
I can't think of the last time we had a few solid Russian prospects. Is he the Nemchinov to Cherepanov's Kovalev? It actually might seem that way.
Anisimov is a very tall two-way center who has a ton of upside. Unlike Cherepanov, he doesn't mind getting a little dirty here and there. He'll never be a huge scorer, but has the ability to score 10-15 a year, while again maintaining a sense of responsibility. I just don't know where he fits in on a team that has a ton of center depth.
It wouldn't surprise me to see the Rangers try and convert him to a winger with the upside he has. I think you put him on a line with someone who can certainly score (Cherepanov, even someone like Prucha or Dawes) and you'll see him have a great plus/minus, and an even better assist total. He might be similar to a younger Craig Conroy.
Pyatt is a name Ranger fans have heard before. Taylor Pyatt was an Islander draft choice who was traded to Buffalo in the Mike Peca deal. He's now a forward in Vancouver.
Tom is quite a different player. He is small and not too fast like his brother. However, he is a monster when it comes to work ethic. That makes me think of someone like Ryan Callahan or Dominic Moore—a player that's all heart.
The guy's ability to score is quite average, even though he scored 40+ his last year in the WHL. If he can find that area of his game in the pros, watch out for him. He could end up somewhere in between former Devils Randy McKay and Pat Verbeek. Heart there was never questioned.
From what I've read and heard, this kid excites me. With his big frame, he loves to get in front of the net and cause traffic. He can hit, too. What else do you need?
A rough and tumble kid who signed a pro contract last year, he brings to the table what every team loves—raw toughness. Sadly, it seems players like Patrick Rissmiller and Dan Fritsche can do a similar job, but I truly hope a player like Dupont gets a chance to show you what he can do as well.
I honestly feel that you can't have enough players like this on your team. In a perfect world, we might have the second coming of Darcy Tucker on our hands.
Again, he's the real known commodity on this list. The guy can pass, he can skate, and he can create from the blueline. He seems to be in the mold of a cornerstone defenseman. Every team that wins has one of these.
Whether it was Scott Niedermayer, Dan Boyle, or Brian Leetch, a team needs its playmaker on the back end. Sangs is that. My only concern with him is a lack of physicality, and on a soft Ranger defensive corps I feel that concern is legitimate.
If he can learn to throw a hit (like Fedor Tyutin did with his hip), then I'm much less nervous. Otherwise, the kid has a ton of upside, and could be our very own Mike Green.
Michael Sauer and Corey Potter
I've put these guys together because they are very similar. This pair is EXACTLY what the team needs. They are both intelligent defensive defensemen. In other words, they are what Marek Malik and Christian Backman were not.
Every team must have a guy who's rarely seen but well known by the other team. A guy who, on every other rush, the opposing wingers know to stay away from. It's players like this that allow a guy like Sanguinetti to join the rush.
Does anyone here believe that Brian Leetch would have been as good without Jeff Beukeboom? At least one of these guys have to make themselves good enough to join the Ranger team, especially considering both Paul Mara and Dmitri Kalinin only have one-year deals, and I'm sure Sanguinetti will take one of those spots. Maybe either Potter or Sauer takes the other? If either looks like a toned down version of Nicklas Kronwall, everyone's happy.
Tomas Zaborsky, Ryan Hillier, Max Campbell
Sadly, there really aren't too many defensive top notch prospects in the Ranger system. Maybe Dmitri Kalinin wasn't signed as a stop gap, but as a reclamation project (he is a former first round pick)? I can now see why the Rangers drafted three defensemen in this year's draft (Del Zotto, Gaulton, and Kundratek).
I'm sure the Rangers hope Girardi, Staal, Redden, and Roszival anchor this group until a few of these kids are ready. Up front however, there is TONS of potential. Anything I've missed?