New York Rangers: North American prospect update

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EDMONTON, AB – DECEMBER 25: Brett Berard #21 of the United States skates against Russia during the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship at Rogers Place on December 25, 2020 in Edmonton, Canada. (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)

With the focus on the New York Rangers and the upcoming season, a look at the prospects in North America

The only Ndw York Rangers prospects in action in North America are playing in the NCAA with the Canadian Juniors still figuring out when they can get their seasons started. There are seven prospects committed to CHL teams with five prospects on American college rosters.  All are in action except for Defenseman Simon Kjellberg (6th round, 2018) whose season at RPI was cancelled.  Here’s how they are doing.

Brett Berard (LW) – 2020 5th round – #134

Brett Berard became the best known NCAA prospect in the Rangers system based on his play for Team USA at the World Junior Championships.  He won the gold and accolades for numerous hockey observers. He was singled out by Scott Wheeler and  Corey Pronman of The Athletic (subscription required).

Drafted in the fifth round in October, Berard looks to be a steal and should be penciled into a third or fourth line role in the future. on left wing  For now, Berard has returned to Providence College where he is coached by Nate Leaman, coach of the gold medal team at the WJC.

Providence is off to a so-so 4-4-2  start and they are in fourth place in the Hockey East Conference.   Berard has played in only four of the Friars’ ten games. The 18-year-old Berard got his first collegiate goal in his first game back, a 7-3 win over Boston University.

Berard (#21) scores on a spin-a-rama backhand, displaying what he showed at the WJC, s willingness to shoot the puck.  In four games, Berard has the one goal, has a plus/minus of -5 and has take one minor penalty.

The Friars re in action Wednesday  hosting UMass and next weekend they take on the eighth place Maine Black Bears in Orono.

Zac Jones (D) – 2019 3rd round – #68

Zac Jones is one of the most highly regarded collegiate prospects.  He had a solid WjC last season and is in his sophomore year at UMass.   The defenseman is the third leading scorer on the Minutemen with five goals and 13 points in 13 games.

Those number give him third place in scoring in the Hockey East as well, but it should be noted that UMass has played more games than any other team in the conference.

Here’s a look at this last goal, scored against Northeastern University on January 2.

Jones (#24) just fires a wrist shot from the blue line and it gets through a mass of bodies and into the net.  Jones turned 20 in October and he is clearly benefiting from a full season of NCAA hockey.

Massachusetts is in first place in Hockey East with a 9-3-1 record., outscoring the opposition 49-26.   Nationally, the Minutemen are ranked eighth overall.

Jones faces fellow Ranger pick Brett Berard this Wednesday and then UMass takes on Boston College this weekend.  It’s a big  home and away weekend against the Eagles, ranked second nationally.

 Riley Hughes (RW) – 2018 7th round – #216

Riley Hughes is a 20 year old right winger playing for Northeastern University.  The sophomore had one goal and four points in 34 games as a freshman and has shown more offensive ability this year.

Hughes already has three goals and four points in nine games for the Huskies. They are coming off a two game sweep of Merrimack this weekend.  Hughes scored a goal in the second game and finished the two games with five shots on goal and a plus/minus rating of +1.

Hughes scored on a wrist shot from the slot to give Northeastern a 2-0 lead in a game that they won 3-2.

Northeastern is in second place in Hockey East with a 5-3-2 record and they were nationlly ranked 15th before this weekend’s sweep of Merrimack.  They will get a boost when Devon Levi returns to the team from the WJC where he was the silver medal winning netminder for Team Canada.

Hughes is definitely showing more this year and is an important piece for a solid Northeastern hockey team.  The Huskies take on New Hampshire on Wednesday, then are off for nine days.

Eric Ciccolini (RW) – 2019 7th round – #205

Eric Ciccolini is a right winger who turns 20 this week.  He got off to a good start with Michigan, scoring in his first two games.  He then went through a six game scoreless drought, but has notched assists in his last two games, a split with Michigan State.

For the season Ciccolini has two goals and four points in 10 games. As a freshman he had one goal and 11 points in 26 games.

Seven teams are playing this season in the Big Ten.  Michigan is in fifth place with a 6-6 record.  They are getting reinforcements as three Wolverines were on Team USA at the WJC including first round pick defender Cam York.  Also from Michigan were forwards Brendan Brisson and potential top pick Matty Beniers.

The Wolverines take on Ohio State this weekend.

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