Courtesy Twitter: @NYRangers

A look at some big name prospects within the New York Rangers’ organizations.

Leen Amin

The New York Rangers‘ season came to a crashing end with the front office and most of the coaching staff losing their jobs despite the organization’s rebuild being on a strong path.

With all of the upheaval in the organization, it’s a good time to take an in-depth look at some notable prospects within the organization.

After all, this is the second-youngest team in the NHL and is home to the second-best prospect pipeline in the game. Some of these prospects have already made their NHL debuts, while others are near or a ways away.

Let’s jump right in.

Leevi Aaltonen, W

• 20 years old
• 5’9”, 176 lbs.
• KooKoo (Liiga)

If we’re being honest, it doesn’t look like Leevi Aaltonen has much of a future with the Rangers (or in the NHL). His small stature and the fact that the Rangers are stacked on the wings don’t help, either.

Aaltonen was taken by the Rangers in the fifth round of the 2019 draft and the pick seemed solid, at the time, but we haven’t seen much progress from the Finnish winger, at all.

The 2019-20 season, the season after he was drafted, was pretty dreadful for Aaltonen, and 2021 wasn’t much better.

He scored three goals and six points in five games while on loan to IPK (Mestis), one goal and five points in 22 games with KalPa (Liiga), and one goal and one assist in two games with KalPa U20 (U20 SM-sarja).

He hasn’t gotten much ice time and hasn’t done anything to warrant it.

The good news? Aaltonen is a good skater and has just signed a contract with KooKoo of Liiga through 2023. The hope is that he’ll be able to take the next step with this fresh start.

Morgan Barron, C

• 22 years old
• 6’2”, 209 lbs.
• New York Rangers (NHL)

Morgan Barron is an intriguing forward prospect for the Rangers, who has now played five games with the big club and should be here to stay.

The Rangers took him in the sixth round of the 2017 draft, and he began to show that he was a sleeper pick almost instantaneously.

Barron had an excellent three-year career at Cornell University. During his senior year, when he was captain, Barron recorded 14 goals and 32 points in 29 games.

He signed his ELC once the season ended due to the COVID-19 outbreak and spent the majority of the 2021 season with the Hartford Wolf Pack.

Barron was Hartford’s leading scorer, notching 10 goals and 21 points in 21 games. His elite play in the AHL impressed the Rangers, with whom he played five games and scored a goal.

Barron has the potential to become a very solid bottom-six player for a Rangers team that’s been lacking in that regard for some time.

The fourth line, in particular, has been a problem, and the Rangers probably should’ve called Barron up sooner to help address that issue.

Barron’s situation is interesting because it has yet to be determined what position he’ll be playing with the Rangers. A natural center, Barron was used as a winger for the majority of his college career.

However, the Rangers have a plethora of wingers and are anemic at the center position, in terms of depth, so they’ve been planning to return Barron to center. So far it’s worked out and the hope is that he can continue to be successful down the middle.

Barron is a big guy, who uses his size and strength to his advantage. He’s already proven that he’s a capable goal-scorer, but he also has the potential to become an important two-way forward for the Blueshirts.

Brett Berard, LW

• 18 years old
• 5’9”, 163 lbs.
• Providence College (NCAA)

Rangers fans, among many others, became quite familiar with the young Brett Berard after his outstanding performance as a member of Team USA in the 2020 WJC, where he scored a goal and five points in seven games.

Berard was taken by the Rangers in the fifth round of the 2020 draft, a steal in the books of many. The Rangers were lucky that he fell to them and even though he isn’t a big guy, he looks like he has some serious potential.

In his freshman year at Providence College, Berard scored five goals and 10 points in 19 games.

Berard is already a speedster, something that allows him to get away with his small size, and the Rangers are hopeful that he can continue to develop his skating ability in order to become a true threat at the NHL-level.

Partly due to his stature, Berard’s defensive game isn’t great, but he has the potential to become a true offensive threat in the NHL.

In the World Juniors, his motor and relentlessness were noticeable, and those are characteristics that he carried over to college.

Berard’s success in the NHL isn’t guaranteed, but the skills and potential are there and he has all the time in the world to develop.

Eric Ciccolini, RW

• 20 years old
• 6’0”, 170 lbs.
• University of Michigan (NCAA)

The road is long for Eric Ciccolini, but he’s made the most of the chances that he has been given.

His freshman year at the University of Michigan was nothing to write home about (one goal, 11 points in 26 games), but he did take a step forward in his second year in the NCAA (seven goals, 12 points in 24 games) and all eyes will be on Ciccolini in his junior year, when he’ll likely have a larger role on the team.

Taken in the seventh round of the 2019 draft, Ciccolini has a nice shot, but his size and strength are currently an issue. He’s going to have to add some muscle if he hopes to have a successful career in the NHL.

Fortunately, he has time to grow and fans should be pleased from what they’ve seen from the late-rounder.

Will Cuylle, LW

• 19 years old
• 6’3”, 203 lbs.
• Hartford Wolf Pack (AHL)

The selection of Will Cuylle by the Rangers in the second round of the 2020 draft was curious. Several liked the pick while others thought he was taken too early.

Cuylle has great size and is a really, really good finisher, but that’s about it. He isn’t a playmaker, doesn’t have high IQ, doesn’t have much of a defensive game, and relies on his linemates to do the heavy lifting.

Cuylle is young and has played just 18 games in the AHL, scoring two goals and five points in the process. He has time to mature and develop/refine his skill-set, but the question lingers: were the Rangers wrong to take him so early?

Dylan Garand, G

• 18 years old
• 6’1”, 176 lbs.
• Kamloops Blazers (WHL)

Rangers fans weren’t happy when their team took a goaltender in the fourth round of the 2020 draft. However, Dylan Garand was practically a steal, at that point, and should’ve gone higher.

He was one of the most talented goalies in his class and is still very young, something the Rangers considered and appreciated when they drafted him.

Garand played two games with Hartford this season, but spent most of his time in the WHL, where he had a 2.15 GAA and an impressive .921 SV%.

It will be years before we see Garand on Broadway, if we ever do, but the pickup looks to have been a big one for the Rangers, especially with guys like Tyler Wall struggling (see below).

Karl Henriksson, C

• 20 years old
• 5’9”, 174 lbs.
• Frölunda HC (SHL)

It might take a while, but Karl Henriksson is one of the few in-house options the Rangers have to bolster the center position in the future.

Henriksson isn’t flashy or a standout guy, but he has potential and the fact that he now has a full season of SHL hockey under his belt at such a young age is impressive (one goal, seven points in 44 games).

Henriksson was taken by the Rangers in the second round of the 2019 draft and has the potential to grow into an important bottom-six center for them.

Henriksson struggled when he was moved to the wing at Frölunda, but the Rangers want him to play down the middle, and that’s where he thrives.

Henriksson is a good defensive forward who’s solid in the faceoff circle and brings some valuable traits to the table.

The Rangers will loan Henriksson to Frölunda next season, where he’ll continue to develop at his own pace and will hopefully see an increase in ice time.

Zac Jones, LHD

• 20 years old
• 5’10”, 172 lbs.
• New York Rangers (NHL)

Zac Jones has 10 NHL games under his belt. His short stint in the pros is the reason why he’s on this list.

Taken by the Rangers in the third round of the 2019 draft, Jones was regarded as a potential sleeper and showed why during his second and final season with the University of Massachusetts.

Jones emerged as one of the best and most important players on that team and helped lead them to a Hockey East Championship and NCAA Championship.

They were the best team in college hockey in 2021 and much of their defensive success can be attributed to Jones’ outstanding play.

He scored nine goals and 24 points in 29 games with UMass and was named to the NCAA East Second All-American Team, the Hockey East Second All-Star Team, and the Frozen Four All-Tournament Team.

On April 13th, he signed his ELC with the Rangers and made his debut shortly after. Jones wasn’t remarkable in his 10 games in the NHL, but wasn’t bad either and definitely has potential at the NHL level.

He notched four assists in those 10 contests and improved defensively as the season progressed while seeing an uptick in his TOI.

At the beginning of the season, no one would’ve expected Jones to be one of the prospects to end up making the team, but the Rangers made the right move. They’re famously congested at Jones’ position and must begin weeding out players.

On Thursday, Jones was named to Team USA for the 2021 World Championship, something Rangers fans should be excited about. Jones will now have the chance to develop further, especially among and against those playing at the highest level of hockey.

His future on the Rangers hasn’t been solidified, but he’s at the top of the list of guys to keep an eye on as he works to carve out a role on this young and talented team.

Vitaly Kravtsov, RW

• 21 years old
• 6’2”, 187 lbs.
• New York Rangers (NHL)

Like Jones, Vitaly Kravtsov really isn’t a prospect anymore, but he’s worth including on this list because most of the hockey he played this season wasn’t in the NHL.

Kravtsov’s road to the NHL was notoriously bumpy. He was taken by the Rangers with the ninth overall pick in the 2018 draft and was highly-touted and highly-praised as one of the best prospects in his class.

After spending some time in the KHL, Kravtsov didn’t like that he didn’t make the final roster out of training camp last season and was disgruntled that he would have to play in Hartford.

His reaction and subsequent request to return to Russia garnered media attention, but Kravtsov ended up making the most of the opportunity and blossomed, primarily in 2021.

In 49 games with Traktor Chelyabinsk, his childhood club, Kravtsov scored 16 goals and 24 points. He also scored two goals and two assists in five playoff games.

Kravtsov scored some highlight-reel goals with Traktor and impressed the Rangers enough for them to bring him over once Traktor were eliminated from the playoffs.

Viewers weren’t sure exactly what to expect from Kravtsov in the NHL, but he’s been incredibly impressive. He scored two goals and four points in 20 games and has shown maturity, confidence, and poise.

He’s looked like he belongs in the NHL since making his debut and has a bright future ahead of him, even as a member of the team’s top-six.

When talking about the future of this young and promising Rangers team, Kravtsov’s is a name that must be brought up.

Nils Lundkvist, RHD

• 20 years old
• 5’10”, 187 lbs.
• Luleå HF (SHL)

The Rangers’ best prospect as well as one of the top prospects in the NHL, Nils Lundkvist has been brilliant.

He’s shown why the Rangers took him in the first round (28th overall) of the 2018 draft and, without having played a single game at the NHL-level yet, is expected to be one of the Rangers’ most important players of the future and a staple in their blueline.

Lundkvist is yet to sign his ELC, but is expected to do so soon and will almost certainly be in New York next season. This season, Lundkvist scored 14 goals and 32 points in 52 regular season games as well as two goals in seven playoff games.

He led all SHL defenseman in goals and power play goals (eight) and his 14 goals are the most by an under-21 defenseman in SHL history.

Lundkvist will be 21 years old when the 2021-22 season begins, and expectations are high. Rangers fans as well as hockey fans, in general, are excited to see the impact that this well-rounded defenseman has on his team and the league.

Lauri Pajuniemi, RW

• 21 years old
• 6’0”, 183 lbs.
• HC TPS (Liiga)

A fifth-round pick in the 2018 NHL draft, Lauri Pajuniemi has emerged as one of the Rangers’ top prospects, especially one of their best forward prospects.

The Rangers liked his potential when they drafted him, and he’s blossomed since, especially over the past two seasons.

In the 2019-20 season, Pajuniemi scored an impressive 26 goals and 40 points in 49 games. This past season, he scored 22 goals and 38 points in 48 regular season games.

He scored four goals and eight points in 13 playoff games. He was tied for sixth in Liiga in goals. He’s clearly a capable goalscorer who’s skill and ability can translate to the NHL.

Speaking of the NHL, the Rangers signed Pajuniemi to his ECL at the end of April. When asked about his future, Pajuniemi stated that he wants to leave TPS and Liiga in order to take the next step in his career.

He has his sights set on the KHL as well as the SHL- and, of course, the big club on Broadway.

Unfortunately for Pajuniemi, he’s a winger. The Rangers are overcrowded on both the left and right, and there might not be room for him.

The organization could engage in some trades during the offseason, and fans shouldn’t be surprised to see Pajuniemi potentially dealt elsewhere.

It’s unfortunate since he does have a high-ceiling, but at least the Rangers might be able to get something in return for him.

Tarmo Reunanen, LHD

• 23 years old
• 6’0”, 179 lbs.
• Hartford Wolf Pack (AHL)

Tarmo Reunanen is another left-handed defensive prospect that the Rangers currently have an abundance of. Taken by the Rangers in the fourth round of the 2016 NHL draft, Reunanen signed his ELC in 2019.

The next season, he was loaned to Lukko of Liiga, in his home country of Finland, where he put up five goals and 19 points in 51 games.

He began the 2020 season on loan to TUTO Hockey (Mestis), where he scored two goals and nine points in seven games and was then loaned to HPK (Liiga), where he scored a goal and an assist in seven games.

Once the AHL season began, he joined the Hartford Wolf Pack, where he stood out. In 21 games, Reunanen scored four goals and 17 points in 21 games and was one of Hartford’s best players as well as their best defenseman.

Reunanen got the call to join the Rangers on March 15th and recorded his first and only point (an assist) of his NHL career and the season in his debut against the Philadelphia Flyers.

Reunanen played just four games with the Rangers and didn’t stand out, but he held his own and didn’t make many mistakes.

Of course, four games aren’t nearly enough to judge him and the expectation is that he will continue to grow as a player as he becomes experienced.

Reunanen is promising and has exhibited maturity, confidence, good vision, and an ability to refrain from committing costly penalties.

Unfortunately, the Rangers are overcrowded at his position and he’s the current odd man out. Like his fellow countryman Lauri Pajuniemi, and even more so, Reunanen could end up becoming an important trade piece for the Rangers.

Matthew Robertson, LHD

• 20 years old
• 6’4”, 201 lbs.
• Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL)

The Rangers have a surplus of riches in terms of their defensive prospects, particularly on the left side, and Matthew Robertson is a key reason why.

The Rangers took most by surprise when they selected Robertson in the second round of the 2019 draft. At that point, they already had a talented pool of defensive prospects and some solid forwards were still on the board.

Now, it looks like they made the right move. An alternate captain with the Edmonton Oil Kings, Robertson has emerged as one of the best defenseman in the WHL and has grown into a promising player.

Size-wise, he’s NHL-ready and has a unique skill set to go with his large build. He’s surprisingly fast and handles the puck quite well. What has impressed those who watch him play most is the maturity, confidence, and poise he displays while on the ice.

He had a solid offensive season in 2021, scoring four goals and 22 points in 22 games. Robertson is yet another guy who could have a future as a member of the Rangers’ defense.

At this rate, he’ll be ready to be called up sooner rather than later, so the Rangers won’t have to wait long to begin deciding how Robertson fits into their plan for the future.

Yegor Rykov, LHD

• 24 years old
• 6’2”, 212 lbs.
• CKSA Moskva (KHL)

It doesn’t appear as though Yegor Rykov has much of a future with the Rangers, and the reason why he’s even on this list is because of the strange and tumultuous journey he’s had.

Taken in the fifth round of the 2016 NHL draft by the New Jersey Devils, the Rangers acquired him at the 2018 trade deadline in exchange for Michael Grabner.

It looked like Rykov was going to be a steal, but injuries put his development on hold and he hasn’t been the same since.

After an underwhelming season in Hartford last year, the Rangers loaned Rykov to CKSA Moskva, the best team in the KHL, where he notched nine assists in 49 games.

Rykov actually played well in Russia this season, but his contract with the Rangers expires in July and he’s already 24. It’s unfortunate that it hasn’t worked out with Rykov and it’s a good thing the Rangers have a plethora of LHD.

Braden Schneider, RHD

• 19 years old
• 6’2”, 209 lbs.
• Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)

The Rangers took everyone by surprise when they traded up during the 2020 NHL draft to take defenseman Braden Schneider.

He wasn’t exactly highly-touted, but the fact that the Devils were keen on selecting him had the Rangers not traded up intrigued many. Less than a year later, he’s shown why the Rangers were so desperate to get him.

Schneider’s very large build is a bonus, but now he’s recognized as a big, physical defenseman who’s quite skilled, both offensively and defensively.

Schneider, who is the captain of the Brandon Wheat Kings, scored five goals and 27 points in 22 games this season. He led the WHL in power play assists (15), was tied in fourth in assists, and tied in 10th in points.

He was second among WHL defenseman in assists and points and tied in fourth in goals.

Schneider gave Rangers’ fans a glimpse of what he can do at the 2020 World Juniors. He was one of Canada’s standout players and made his presence known up and down the ice.

Schneider signed his ELC at the beginning of March. He’s likely at least one more year away, but Schneider is another defensive prospect with high expectations.

It looks like the Rangers anticipate that he’ll play a significant role in their defense in the future.

Hunter Skinner, RHD

• 20 years old
• 6’3”, 190 lbs.
• Hartford Wolf Pack (AHL)

Somewhat of a project pick, Hunter Skinner has done what he’s had to up to this point. Skinner was selected by the Rangers in the fourth round of the 2019 draft and has actually developed quite nicely.

In his first season of professional hockey, with the Utah Grizzlies of the ECHL, Skinner scored seven goals and 17 points in 26 games and was one of the top scorers among ECHL defensemen.

The Rangers liked what they saw enough to sign Skinner to his ECL in April and send him to the Hartford Wolf Pack, where he notched a goal and an assist in 10 games.

Skinner is tall but thin, and the Rangers might want him to put on some weight before considering him to be NHL-ready.

Skinner is young: he turned 20 at the end of April. He has much time to develop, specifically given the fact that the Rangers have significant depth at the blueline.

It isn’t guaranteed that Skinner will have a future with the team, but we can’t count him out, especially if he continues to improve and progress the way he has.

Oliver Tärnström, C

• 18 years old
• 6’1”, 163 lbs.
• BK J20 (J20 Nationell)

Oliver Tärnström doesn’t get as much attention as many of his fellow Rangers prospects, but he shouldn’t be slept on, either. Tärnström was taken in the third round of the 2020 draft, a pick that many were satisfied with.

Tärnström bounced around this season, playing 18 games (seven goals, 10 points) while on loan with Tyresö/Hanviken (HockeyEttan), nine with AIK (HockeyAllsvenskan), and 12 (four goals, eight points) with AIK J20 (J20 Nationell).

He’s shown potential as a playmaker and is one of the few depth pieces the Rangers have at the center position.

Tärnström has a long way to go before the Rangers decide to take a serious look at him: he’s young (still playing junior hockey), slightly undersized, and must continue to develop his game.

Tärnström will spend the 2021-22 season what BK J20 (J20 Nationell).

Tyler Wall, G

• 23 years old
• 6’3”, 214 lbs.
• Hartford Wolf Pack (AHL)

Tyler Wall looked like a brick wall in net for most of his collegiate career at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell. That wasn’t even remotely the case in 2021, his first season in the AHL.

In 10 games, Wall had a GAA of 3.58 and an .865 SV%, something we’re not used to seeing from him.

Wall is already 23 and likely will never have a shot at being the Rangers’ primary goaltender, especially since he’s so close in age to Igor Shesterkin.

However Shesterkin’s backup, Alexandar Georgiev’s, future with the team is uncertain, and Wall could become a serious contender to claim that role for himself.

In order to do so, however, he’ll have to show significant improvement next season and remind the Rangers why they’ve loved him over the past few years.