Part 24 in my "State of the Franchise" series.
Feel free to leave comments; I'm always willing to take feedback and I readily accept that I'm not the next Charles Dickens, so any constructive criticism would be great.
Current Rankings List:
7. NY Rangers
20. Tampa Bay
22. Los Angeles
25. New Jersey
30. San Jose
#7: New York Rangers
Top Fws: Marian Gaborik*, Brad Richards, Rick Nash
Top Ds: Marc Staal, Ryan McDonagh
Top G: Henrik Lundqvist
Top 3 Under-23s:
1. D Ryan McDonagh (23)
2. D Michael Del Zotto (22)
3. F Derek Stepan (22)
Top 5 Prospects
1. F Chris Kreider (21)
2. F J.T. Miller (19)
3. D Dylan McIlrath (20)
4. F Michael St. Croix (19)
5. D Brady Skjei (18)
Prospect Pool Rating:
Bluechip Talent: C
The biggest organizational strength lies in net, plain and simple. Henrik Lundqvist is going to win them 35+ games a year guaranteed (more than a few of them by himself). With the recent acquisition of Rick Nash, the team has created a potentially lethal Big 3 up front in power forward Nash, skilled sniper Gaborik and reliable playmaker Brad Richards (imagine that line put together?). The team has a strong top 6 forward unit, as well as a young and stable top 4 on defense.
The depth at both forward and defense drops off after the top 3 lines and top 2 defense pairings. The defense in particular is filled with young, relatively inexperienced players (with the oldest man being Dan Girardi at 28) and while names like McDonagh and Staal can hold their own defensively, guys like Michael Sauer, Anton Stralman and Michael Del Zotto are still works in progress in the defensive zone.
The Rangers have a varied group of prospects. Though lacking in true bluechippers, the team has some interesting pieces in place at every position excluding goal. Dylan McIlrath is a big crease clearing defender, Christian Thomas, Ryan Bourque and Mats Zuccarello-Aasen are three small-but-skilled forwards, Brady Skjei is a smooth-skating two-way blueliner, and Andrew Yogan is a big powerful forward with goalscoring abilities.
The team utterly lacks any goaltending skill and depth. With the recent trade of Tim Erixon, the team's defensive depth and skill has taken a big hit. Most of the team's best prospects are already making waves at the NHL level (Stepan, Hagelin, Del Zotto etc.), leaving the prospect pool relatively short on high-end talent. Most of the remaining prospects have question marks all over them, whether it be related to size, speed or overall upside.
The New York Rangers, who made a big splash last summer in signing FA Brad Richards to a big money deal, came into the season looking to secure a playoff berth. They got what they wanted and more: after a stellar season by Henrik Lundqvist, a bounceback year from Marian Gaborik and Michael Del Zotto, and steps forward by young players such as Ryan McDonagh and Ryan Callahan, the team wound up in 1st place in the Eastern Conference, ahead of the constellation of star studded rosters such as Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, and went all the way to the Conference finals before bowing out of the postseason.
All in all, it was a highly successful, if a little surprising, season for the Rangers considering the makeup of their roster. With a group of extremely young talent, the Rangers were able to beat out every other team in the East in the regular season, no small feat given that their number 1 defenseman for the season was Ryan McDonagh out of necessity. The Rangers have assembled a highly potent group of young core players through some good drafting and have a few more coming up this year as well. The team, for so long considered a wasteland in terms of young players, has managed to combine homegrown talent and big money free agents into a team that should be major players in the NHL for a long time.
Barring a significant case of bad luck, the Rangers should be a competitive team both now and in the future.