New York Rangers prospects impressing at Traverse City
(Photo by Nicholas T. LoVerde/Getty Images)

Dom Renna

The start of the NHL season is right around the corner and the New York Rangers’ young prospects are impressing at Traverse City.

Hockey is right around the corner. With that, teams around the league are hosting prospect challenges where some of the games best prospects get to showcase their talents ahead of the preseason. For the New York Rangers, it is a time for fans to get a first look at some of the prospects acquired at the 2018 trade deadline.

Playing in the Traverse City Tournament hosted by the Detroit Red Wings, the likes of Filip Chytil, Lias Andersson, Brett Howden, Ty Ronning, Libor Hajek, and Ryan Lindgren have taken the ice. The baby Blueshirts have only played two games, losing the first game to Dallas 7-5 and beating Minnesota 4-2, but have been impressive in the action.

Chytil and Andersson have already seen action in the NHL, and look to crack the opening night roster. But what fans are really looking at are the players the Rangers received in the Rick Nash, Ryan McDonagh, and J.T. Miller trades just a season ago. Those players have not disappointed and should leave fans with plenty of excitement for what is to come in the future.

Libor Hajek

The Rangers have long been looking for a quarterback on the powerplay. They think they have that in Kevin Shattenkirk, but Libor Hajek is looking to take that spot when Shattenkirk is done. His goal at the 20-second mark in the video above, Hajek finishes a pass from Brett Howden a connection that the Blueshirts hope will translate at the NHL level.

Hajek was a part of the blockbuster trade that sent Ryan McDonagh and J.T. Miller to the Tampa Bay Lightning. According to, Hajek should serve as a capable two-way defenseman who’s offensive game is on the upside. So far we have seen that from Hajek and not only at Traverse city. He’s put up solid numbers in the WHL scoring 39 points in 58 games a season ago. That goes along with 15 points in 15 games during International play.

Right now there is not a spot for the 20-year-old defenseman on the Rangers roster to start the season. Neal Pionk, Tony DeAngelo, John Gilmour probably have the upper hand on Hajek, but a strong showing at Traverse City and during training camp could result in Hajek joining the team should an injury occur.

Brett Howden

Brett Howden’s goal at the 20-second mark in the clip above shows something that the Rangers have not had in the last couple of seasons, net presence. His goal in the Rangers second game of the Traverse City Tournament brings back memories of the puck that deflected of Marty St. Louis in the Blueshirts’ Stanley Cup run in 2014.

Now in 2018, Howden looks like someone who emerges as a number one or two center at some point in time. He, like Hajek, was involved in the McDonagh/Miller trade and as says, is a safe prospect. The Draft Analyst says he has a “no quit” attitude and it shows with his 75 point season at the WHL in 2017-18.

It does not look like Howden has much of a chance to crack the Rangers roster this upcoming season. The Blueshirts seem to be full at center on the depth chart with Mika Zibanejad, Kevin Hayes, Andersson, Chytil, Vladislav Namestnikov, and Ryan Spooner already on the depth chart. Despite that, it is nice to know that the Rangers have other quality prospects coming that is not a defenseman. And, a solid 2018-19 could lead to a call-up should the Rangers find themselves in the same situation they did a season ago.

Hajek and Howden are just two of the young crop of players that have already begun to make an impact. They have two more games remaining in the until the finals begin, and the tournament is set to end on Sept. 11. Then the count truly begins until the start of 2018 training camp where we get to see both players in action with NHL level talent.

Can you feel it? Hockey is almost here and the excitement is just starting to begin.

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Dominick is a graduate of Canisius College. He has covered the Rangers for the last seven seasons and the Yankees for the last four.