The World Junior Championships: A look at the future of the New York Rangers

Vitali Kravtsov posesafter being selected ninth overall by the New York Rangers (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Vitali Kravtsov posesafter being selected ninth overall by the New York Rangers (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /
DALLAS, TX – JUNE 22: Vitali Kravtsov poses for a portrait after being selected ninth overall by the New York Rangers during the first round of the 2018 NHL Draft at American Airlines Center on June 22, 2018 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)
DALLAS, TX – JUNE 22: Vitali Kravtsov poses for a portrait after being selected ninth overall by the New York Rangers during the first round of the 2018 NHL Draft at American Airlines Center on June 22, 2018 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images) /

In years past, the New York Rangers have lacked a significant World Junior Championship presence. This year, there is quite the crowd at camp; six, to be exact!

For the New York Rangers, successful playoff runs came at a price, and that price was draft picks and prospects. For many years, Rangers fans and staff alike had few prospects to watch play and  that included a sparse or nonexistent presence in the prestigious World Junior Championship tournament.

Often times, the World Juniors are when most people will see their team’s prospects in the limelight for the first time. For the Rangers in previous years, watching the World Juniors meant jealously seeing rival prospects succeed with little or nothing to root for of their own.

With a rebuild has come some higher end draft picks the Rangers have had to regrow accustomed to having. Because of the prospects amassed over the past two drafts, the Rangers will have a much bigger World Junior presence than they’ve had in many years.

Last year, the Rangers were notably represented by 2017 first round picks Lias Andersson and Filip Chytil. Chytil is, in fact, eligible again for this year’s tournament, but it is highly unlikely the Rangers’ brass will loan him out.  However, even without him returning, the Rangers had six players representing four countries this year named to the preliminary rosters this week.


The most notable Ranger in the World Juniors is Russian prospect Vitali Kravtsov. With the KHL being difficult to access in North America, this will be a prime opportunity to see the hopeful future Ranger star in action.

Kravtsov has excelled at a nearly unprecedented rate for his KHL team, Traktor Chelyabinsk.  He currently has six goals and eleven assists for 17 points in 33 games. On the surface, this may not look like much, but there are many key factors at play to prove quite the opposite.

An 18 year old playing a major role (or, regularly at all) in the KHL is a huge accomplishment on its own. When observing the team Kravtsov plays for, however, it becomes that much more impressive. Traktor Chelyabinsk is a low scoring team that is not finding much success this year. Kravtsov’s 17 points tie him for the team lead.

Even more impressively, his 17 points amount to 28% of his team’s entire offense (60 goals). To be such a major part of your team’s scoring at such a young age is unprecedented. At the same age, in the same number of games, Evgeny Kuznetsov had 16 points on his team’s 83 goals, also for an inferior Traktor Chelyabinsk, representing only 19% of his team’s offense. He would finish the year with 32 points in 44 games.

Kravtsov will be the most important Ranger at the tournament, and all eyes should be on him to be a major component of Russia’s offense.


The preliminary roster announced by USA hockey includes two Ranger propects:  2018 first rounder K’Andre Miller, and 2017 third rounder Joey Keane. K’Andre Miller has been playing his freshman year with the University of Wisconsin while Joey Keane is competing in the OHL for the Barrie Colts.

K’Andre Miller is another player having some unprecedented success, with his being at the collegiate level. Miller currently has three goals and twelve assists for 15 points in 16 games. Producing at nearly a point per game as a freshman defenseman is extremely impressive, and becomes even more so as he is second in NCAA freshman scoring behind only Quinn Hughes, another US born defenseman drafted seventh overall.

At age 19, Joey Keane  is a year older than Miller and is competing in the OHL, a league some believe is a notch below the collegiate level skill wise. He currently has three goals and 15 assists for 18 points in 26 games. . Six players on the roster will be cut so it is possible Keane may not make the team, but his attending camp alone is impressive for a player drafted as an overage draft pick.

However, if Keane does end up making the squad,  the fact that he is a righthanded shot  is very important. He is one of the Rangers few right handed prospects, and with Miller being a lefty, the two could find themselves on the same pair for Team USA, a sight that many would assuredly love to see.


Without Lias Andersson, the Rangers still have two prospects representing Sweden in the World Juniors: 2018 first round pick Nils Lundkvist, as well as 2018 third rounder Jakob Ragnarsson. Both players are defensemen whose opposing handedness could see them on the same pair, should they both make the team.

Nils Lundkvist has been competing in Sweden’s top tier league, the SHL, for Lulea HF. For them, he has recorded one goal and five assists for six points in 23 games. With the SHL generally being regarded as the third best men’s league in the world, behind the KHL and NHL, Lundkvist is performing rather well for an 18 year old defenseman and should be a lock to make Team Sweden.

Jakob Ragnarsson is a long shot to make the team, but a camp invite is exciting nonetheless. Ragnarsson is currently playing for Almtuna IS of Hockey Allsvenskan, Sweden’s second tier league, or their equivalent to the NHL’s AHL. For them he has two assists in 17 games. For Lundkvist and Ragnarsson, point totals matter less as coaches in those European leagues often do not play younger players much. The difference is that Lundkvist is in a much more competitive league.

If Sweden suffers any injuries, it may open up a spot for Ragnarsson. For now, though, it’s safe to say that Lundkvist is almost certainly a top six defenseman for that team.


Lastly, Team Switzerland will have one Rangers prospect: 2018 fourth round pick Nico Gross. Gross is currently competing for the OHL’s Oshawa Generals. This season, he has recorded three goals and nine assists for 12 points in 28 games.

Gross is one of the Rangers lesser known prospects, but the Rangers scouts have been high on him for quite some time now. Not a notable point scorer, Gross is a very good skating defenseman. His upside is slightly questionable, but such is the case for many mid round draft picks.

In recent years, Switzerland has established itself as a booming hockey country, becoming a fairly competitive team in both the World Juniors as well as the World Championship and the Olympics. They very infrequently back down from challenges, and have been on the winning side of a number of upsets.

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That being said, NHLers like Nico Hischier  and Roman Josi are the exception rather than the rule as Switzerland does not  produce high end NHLers too frequently. As a result, Gross should have no trouble breaking into Switzerland’s top six. Most of his teammates will likely not have much, if any, NHL future. Barring injury, Gross is likely a lock to make it past camp. How long Switzerland lasts in the tournament is, of course, a question as well, but you simply just never know with them.

All of the teams will have training camps beginning in mid-December.  After finalizing rosters, the the tournament will begin on December 26  in Vancouver, British Columbia.   If you want to catch these future Rangers in action, many of the games will be televised on the NHL Network.