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30 in 30

Top prospects for New York Rangers

Forwards Jimmy Vesey, Pavel Buchnevich ready to thrive in NHL

by David Satriano @davidsatriano / NHL.com Staff Writer

NHL.com is providing in-depth prospect analysis for each of its 30 teams throughout August. Today, the New York Rangers.

The New York Rangers had been fairly quiet much of the offseason, trading for center Mika Zibanejad on July 18 but not signing any big-name free agents. That all changed Friday when they agreed to terms with free agent forward Jimmy Vesey.

The addition of Vesey likely will affect New York's other forward prospects in their push for a spot on the opening night roster. With the losses of Keith Yandle (traded to Florida Panthers) and Dan Boyle (unrestricted free agent), New York also has a spot or two open on defense. Training camp will determine which of the Rangers' young players get those final roster spots.

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Here are the Rangers' top five prospects, according to NHL.com:

1. Jimmy Vesey, LW

How acquired: Signed as free agent Aug. 19, 2016

Last season: Harvard (NCAA): 33 GP, 24-22-46

Vesey, 23, became the Rangers' best prospect the minute he agreed to terms on a contract with them. The 6-foot-3, 203-pound forward, who won the 2016 Hobey Baker Award as the top NCAA player as a senior at Harvard University, likely will step into a top-six role on a line centered by Zibanejad or Derek Stepan.

Video: Breaking News: Rangers sign Jimmy Vesey

"It's not just going to be given to me; I'm going to have to put in the work and perform on the ice," said Vesey, who became an unrestricted free agent Tuesday after the Buffalo Sabres failed to sign him. "But I thought New York was somewhere that I could plug in right away and be on the opening night roster."

Vesey had 56 goals in his final two seasons at Harvard and should help provide some scoring punch for the Rangers, who traded center Derick Brassard, their leading goal-scorer last season, for Zibanejad.

"I think that he's very confident in his ability, and when he looked at our team, I think he sees an opportunity to play," general manager Jeff Gorton said. "I think he likes the fact that some other players that we've brought in recently have gotten opportunities as young players.

Projected NHL arrival: This season

2. Brady Skjei, D

How acquired: Selected with No. 28 pick in 2012 NHL Draft

Last season: New York: 7 GP, 0-0-0; Hartford (AHL): 68 GP, 4-24-28

Skjei (6-3, 206) is set to take on a bigger role with the Rangers this season after he played in seven regular-season games and had two assists in five Stanley Cup Playoff games in 2015-16. The 22-year-old had 28 points in 68 games for Hartford last season, second among defensemen for New York's American Hockey League affiliate behind Mat Bodie's 36. He could be on the Rangers' top pair with captain Ryan McDonagh, who he played with during the 2016 postseason.

"As far as development goes, Skjei made some great strides this year and down the stretch in Hartford, and in the playoffs with the Rangers, he was on the right side a bunch," director of player development Chris Drury said. "The way he progressed this year, I could see him doing some good things come September for our team."

Projected NHL arrival: This season

3. Pavel Buchnevich, LW

How acquired: Selected with No. 75 pick in 2013 NHL Draft

Last season: SKA St. Petersburg (KHL): 18 GP, 4-4-8; Severstal (KHL): 40 GP, 12-17-29

Buchnevich (6-1, 176) appeared headed for a top-six role after the the losses of Brassard and Eric Staal (signed with Minnesota Wild) but probably won't find himself in one following the additions of Zibanejad and Vesey. The 21-year-old, who increased his point total in each of his four seasons in the Kontinental Hockey League, will have to play his way into the bottom six during training camp.

"He's going to be given every shot," Drury said. "He's obviously played in a men's league over in Russia. He played in the KHL against older, faster, stronger guys. The culture change of coming here, not only a new style of hockey but living in a new country, the new language is certainly real, but he is really committed to being here. He has been here all summer training. ... So he is doing all the right things."

Projected NHL arrival: This season

Video: 30 in 30: New York Rangers 2016-17 season preview

4. Nicklas Jensen, LW

How acquired: Trade with Vancouver Canucks, Jan. 8, 2016

Last season: Hartford (AHL): 41 GP, 15-10-25; Utica (AHL): 27 GP, 4-8-12

Jensen (6-3, 202) was traded to the Rangers along with a draft pick for forward Emerson Etem. The 23-year-old had 19 goals and 18 assists in 68 AHL games last season. He'll likely start in Hartford this season, but he would be one of the top candidates for a recall if an injury occurs.

"On the development side, I thought he did great things for us when he came to Hartford," Drury said. "He really turned our season around, created a lot of chemistry with [forward Marek] Hrivik, played really well down there, not just scoring but in all three zones. He's another guy who is anxious for an opportunity, and I'm sure he'll come back in great shape and ready to go in training camp."

Projected NHL arrival: Next season

5. Ryan Graves, D

How acquired: Selected with No. 110 in 2013 NHL Draft

Last season: Hartford (AHL): 74 GP, 9-12-21

The Rangers have a spot open on defense, but it likely will go to Skjei. Graves (6-4, 226) likely is at least another year from making the NHL roster.

"I think he turned a lot of heads [last] year in Hartford," Drury said. "Working with [Rangers assistant coach Jeff] Beukeboom, made good strides in a lot of different areas in his game. He was an AHL all-star. He did a lot of stuff with and without the puck, which was nice to see and I think coming from development camp, he was mature, he looked like he came back on even more of a mission, was bigger and stronger and his skating continues to improve."

Ryan, 21, is not related to former Rangers forward Adam Graves.

Projected NHL arrival: Next season

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