The Rangers have found success in finding free agents in college, juniors and overseas in recent history. Here are some players the Rangers can target this year.
It’s no secret that the New York Rangers prospect pool is thin, and their AHL roster is even thinner. This has mostly been due to the fact that the Rangers have not had a first round pick since 2012. In recent years, the Rangers have had to look outside of the draft to bolster their youth development.
Fortunately, they have also been successful in this venture. Recent signings like Jimmy Vesey and Kevin Hayes have worked out tremendously for the Rangers, giving them young, talented NHL players at almost no expense. Signings like John Gilmour and Ahti Oksanen also add youthful potential to the Wolfpack.
NHL ready veteran talent can also been found, in such examples like Alexander Radulov signing with Montreal, or Artemi Panarin with Chicago. Finding these hidden weapons, especially if they can be had on entry level contracts, is incredibly valuable to building a championship caliber team.
On that note, here are some players the Rangers can target this year:
Zach Aston-Reese, F Northeastern University (32GP, 27G 29A 56P)
Zach Aston-Reese is a forward who has improved statistically with Northeastern each year, culminating in a highly productive senior year. Second in the NCAA in scoring, the 22 year old Staten Island native can be a valuable addition to the Rangers organization should they encounter cap difficulties amongst their forwards.
Aston-Reese projects as a bottom six two way forward with some offensive potential. Though the Rangers are deep in that area, players like that are always smart to retain in an organization, whether it be for the NHL team or as AHL projects.
Mike Vecchione, F, Union College (32GP, 24G 30A 54P)
Mike Vecchione has been gaining a lot of attention this season as a versatile forward for Union College. The fan favorite Vecchione is a hard working, gritty-despite-his-size scoring forward. His play style is similar to former Rangers captain Ryan Callahan.
Should the Rangers take a chance on the 23 year old Vecchione, he would most likely begin on the Wolfpack and work his way up the ranks based on performance. Putting a true projection on him is difficult; he has top six potential, but his style allows him to slot into just about any role.
Denis Smirnov, F, Penn State (28GP, 16G 23A 39P)
Smirnov is an undersized but electrifying offensive talent for Penn State University. Still only a freshman, the young Russian chose to take the college route after going undrafted as a USHL player. Now, he leads all NCAA freshmen in scoring, including first round picks like Clayton Keller.
A scoring forward in every sense, Smirnov utilizes his terrific hands and lightning quick release to set up teammates and score beautiful goals. Though he stands at only 5’8, his size is not a hindrance; he easily has the talent to become a top six forward in the NHL.
Matias Cleland, D, University of New Hampshire (32GP, 2G 30A 32P)
Matias Cleland is a puck moving defenseman in his senior year for UNH. The 23 year old leads the NCAA in points by defensemen, most of which have been assists created by his terrific on ice vision.
Though one could argue that his production is mostly a product of NCAA scoring leader Tyler Kelleher, the Rangers are starved for puck moving defenseman prospects. Cleland would fit that need without costing anything.
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Darren Raddysh, D, Erie Otters (50GP, 15G 48A 63P)
Passed over in the NHL Entry Draft several times before, the overage defenseman Raddysh will now be eligible to sign as an unrestricted free agent.
The Rangers need for offense driving right handed defensemen will lure them into Raddysh’s camp, who is likely to get a contract this summer.
Raddysh, whose OHL teammate and brother Taylor was a 2nd round pick of the Lightning, would be a smart signing for the Rangers, and projects as a consistent AHL defenseman from the get go, with the talent level to potentially be a top six NHL defenseman.
He attended the Kings prospect development camp last summer.
Sebastian Aho, D, Skelleftea AIK (44GP, 10G 19A 29P)
Not related to the Hurricanes Sebastian Aho from Finland, the Swedish defenseman Sebastian Aho has been steadily improving each season at the highest level of hockey in Sweden, and deserves an NHL contract.
The undrafted offensive defenseman leads the SHL in points among his position and, due to his dominance amongst men at just 21 years old, will garner a lot of attention from teams that need young mobile defenseman. The Rangers fall right into that category, and would be silly not to offer him an entry level contract.
With players like these, it isn’t expected of them to be the answer to all the team’s problems, or even to develop into NHL talents. These signings are incredibly low risk with the possibility of high reward. On top of that, these players are more valuable than employing Tanner Glass in either the NHL or the AHL. The New York Rangers would be smart to reach into these markets again as much as possible.