Wanna blog? Start your own hockey blog with My HockeyBuzz. Register for free today!
 

Rangers place four in top-44 of Corey Pronman's U-23 rankings

October 22, 2020, 12:40 PM ET [144 Comments]
Jan Levine
New York Rangers Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
Corey Pronman listed his top-155 players under-23 today. While we as fans rave about the youth in the system, a list like this provides further validation that our views are not unfounded. But there is one glaring name missing from the list.




As Pronman notes, breaking the list down by team, the Rangers and the Devils lead the league with nine players each on the ranking. The Kings and Senators each have eight. For the Blueshirts, it's two in the top-nine, three in the top-28 and four in the top-44. The remaining five players are at 77, 90, 93, 106 and 138. If there is no criticism, and I am sure there will be plenty, is where the heck is K'Andre Miller on this list? One added, and I sure hope Pronman does an update including him or explains why he is absent, where do you think he fits? Per reviewing the order, top-60 seems reasonable, but curious about your view. In addition, I am hoping the ranking spot for #90 is low and have to admit, a bit surprised at #93, but maybe we have been overly harsh and critical in our thoughts on that player.

Here is the snapshot of each player from the column:

4. Alexis Lafreniere, LW, New York Rangers

Oct. 11, 2001 | 6-foot-1 | 193 pounds

Tier: Special NHL Player

Skating: 55
Puck Skills: 70
Physical Game: 55
Hockey Sense: 65
Shot Grade: 60

Lafreniere is a unique prospect who projects to become a foundational player in the NHL. He dominated the QMJHL, scoring more than two points per game last season. He was the MVP of the world juniors and was great at other international events. He has truly elite skill and some of the best hands I’ve ever seen. Lafreniere has made some of the most creative plays I’ve seen in the past few years, and with his skill, he’s always a second away from a scoring chance. He beats defenders in unique ways and catches them off guard with the moves he makes. He’s also a very good passer who makes quick, crisp passes, and his elite creativity translates to his playmaking. He has a great shot, too, with the ability to score from mid-distance. On the power play he’s a menace because he can beat defenders one-on-one, find seams or pick corners. Lafreniere is a highly competitive player who plays well in the hard areas of the ice, is solid defensively and plays physical. He sometimes pulls up a bit too much to use his skill and playmaking, but he shows no fear driving the net. His skating and pace is the area to point out if you were to pick a weakness. I debated between a 50 or 55 for his skating. I see good flashes from him, but I see a lot of shifts where his game lacks speed and pace. He doesn’t seem to have truly explosive quickness, but he is quick enough and, when he wants to go, he has enough speed to look like he can be an average NHL skater.


9. Kaapo Kakko, RW, New York Rangers

Feb. 13, 2001 | 6-foot-3 | 198 pounds

Tier: Special/elite bubble

Skating: 50
Puck Skills: 60
Physical Game: 55
Hockey Sense: 65

Kakko’s rookie NHL season went through some bumps, and while he didn’t put up huge numbers, I still see a lot to be optimistic about. Inside the offensive zone, Kakko showed he could impact a game. He’s a very skilled and intelligent forward with size and power. Off the flank he’s able to find seams at a high rate and create a lot of offense with his playmaking. He has the stick skills to beat defenders one-on-one and make tough plays in small areas. He will run a top power-play unit very effectively at his peak. Kakko’s foot speed is average, and versus NHL forwards he wasn’t able to drive the net to create offense or dangle past defenders. But he was only 18 and with physical maturity, that aspect of his game should come even if he may never be the quickest. He also played on a very deep Rangers offense (fifth in the league in goals) so I’m not overly concerned about the lack of offense, but his speed will need to come. I still see a player who can grow into a true star.


28. Adam Fox, D, New York Rangers

Feb. 17, 1998 | 5-foot-11 | 181 pounds

Tier: High-end NHL player

Skating: 55
Puck Skills: 60
Physical Game: 30
Hockey Sense: 70

With the puck on his stick, Fox distinguishes himself. He’s an elite puck-mover, displaying exceptional poise and intelligence. He walks the line very well and makes so many plays under pressure due to his elite brain and his vision. He also has the great stick skills to get himself out of trouble even without great top-end speed. His skating is good in terms of his edges and elusiveness, but he lacks rink-length quickness. That lack of quickness and his 5-foot-11 frame lead to him not being the best defensively. He breaks up plays because of how well he anticipates the game, but he lacks the ability to kill rushes like a defenseman I would typically rate in this range.


44. Filip Chytil, C, New York Rangers

Sept. 5, 1999 | 6-foot-2 | 203 pounds

Tier: High-end NHL player

Skating: 60
Puck Skills: 60
Physical Game: 55
Hockey Sense: 55

Chytil can be a dynamic player. He’s a forward with size, great speed and great skill. On his best shift, where he’s flying up the ice and dangling through opponents, he can break open a game. With his reach, speed and skill he can protect pucks well and make controlled zone entries. I think he sees the ice well, with flashes of very good vision, but I wouldn’t call him a natural playmaker. He’s not an overly physical player who is great off the puck, but he uses his body well enough. I think his brain and compete are good enough that, combined with his other tools, he can be a top scorer on an NHL team at his peak.


77. Nils Lundkvist, D, New York Rangers

July 27, 2000 | 5-foot-11 | 174 pounds

Tier: High-end/very good bubble

Skating: 55
Puck Skills: 55
Physical Game: 40
Hockey Sense: 65

Lundkvist had a great 19-year-old season in the SHL, setting the record for most points by a teenage defenseman in that league. Lundkvist’s offensive explosion was a mild surprise even to his biggest advocates in the NHL scouting community, but speaks to how good a puck-mover he is. His brain is fantastic. Lundkvist’s head is always up looking to make a play, often finding seams at a high rate, and making excellent outlet passes. He can run a power play due to his great vision, but his shot popped last season as well, more than I’ve seen before, making him a threat inside the blue line. Lundkvist is not the biggest defenseman, but he defends well due to good, albeit not great, feet and his great brain allowing him to kill a lot of rushes. The straight forward skating stride is powerful, but the stride technique in itself is unorthodox.


90. Vitaly Kravtsov, RW, New York Rangers

Dec. 23, 1999 | 6-foot-4 | 183 pounds

Tier: Very good NHL player

Skating: 50
Puck Skills: 65
Physical Game: 50
Hockey Sense: 60

Kravtsov is a very tough evaluation because he’s very talented. He’s a big forward with elite hands who can make high-end plays through defenders or to his teammates. He projects to run an NHL power-play unit due to his vision and on his best shift Kravtsov can take over. Those best shifts are spread out though, as Kravtsov’s lack of speed and physicality led to a significant adjustment period to the AHL level but he showed progress as the season went on. He needs some stability, to be able to dominate a level for a significant period of time and make the most of his tremendous skill.


93. Brett Howden, C, New York Rangers

March 29, 1998 | 6-foot-2 | 194 pounds

Tier: Very good NHL player

Skating: 50
Puck Skills: 55
Physical Game: 60
Hockey Sense: 60

Even with the mild decreases in production last season, Howden still shows a lot to like about his game and projection. His hockey sense is great, showing great vision with the puck and ability to set up chances at an NHL level. He’s a smart defensive player too, and overall a player a coach can trust because of his IQ and great compete level. Howden plays hard, getting to the net, killing penalties and winning a lot of battles. His game lacks flash. He’s not that quick or that skilled a puckhandler, so I could see him just be a third-line center, but I see enough playmaking in his game to think he may have another level even if he may be a boring player when he reaches that level.


106. Julien Gauthier, RW, New York Rangers

Oct. 15, 1997 | 6-foot-4 | 227 pounds

Tier: Very good NHL player

Skating: 50
Puck Skills: 60
Physical Game: 60
Hockey Sense: 55

Gauthier was dealt from Carolina to the Rangers at the deadline after three successful years in the AHL, and he played limited minutes with the big club following the deal. He’s a bit of a divisive prospect when you talk to scouts because he has a tremendous toolkit but also is an inconsistent player. I like the player because I see someone who is a great skater for someone who is 6-foot-4. He has a high skill level and the ability to score goals. Gauthier can make plays, but can get tunnel-vision at times. He can play a powerful style of game, but not always. I really like the toolkit, but I know I’m sticking my neck out a bit on him by continuing to rate him so highly given he’s 22 without much NHL success to date.


138. Braden Schneider, D, New York Rangers

Sept. 20, 2001 | 6-foot-2 | 202 pounds

Tier: Very good NHL player

Skating: 55
Puck Skills: 55
Physical Game: 55
Hockey Sense: 60

Schneider may not overly excite you upon an initial look at his stats, and it’s taken me a while, but he’s grown on me a lot over the past two seasons. I see a player with a lot of assets and few holes in his skill set. He’s a 6-foot-2, right-handed defenseman who can skate well. He can rush pucks and close gaps well. Schneider moves the puck very well out of the defensive zone, showing great vision and patience on his outlets. He defends well due to his feet, but also doesn’t shy away from playing the body and knocking players off pucks. He has some offensive blue line touch, but he’s probably not going to be a power play guy in the NHL. He moves it at a clear NHL level, though, to where I think he could take a regular even strength shift and help his team’s possession game without needing to be sheltered by his coach.


 
Join the Discussion: » 144 Comments » Post New Comment
More from Jan Levine
» Current state of the negotiations between the NHL and NHLPA
» Canada Red/White scrimmage, Friedman on NHL/NHLPA negotiations, top-25 NYR?
» Escrow and deferrals, Return to Play Committee and Team Canada rosters...
» Rangers Reverse Retro jersey revealed
» My take on Brooks' possible blue-line combinations and Morgan Barron