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Skjei, Buchnevich among Rangers' top five prospects

by Dan Rosen / NHL.com

NEW YORK -- The New York Rangers are trying to pull off the difficult task of winning now while maintaining a strong prospect pool. The Rangers haven't had a first-round draft pick for the past three seasons and don't have one in the 2016 NHL Draft.

They do have a handful of prospects who might be ready to make an impact in the NHL.

Here is a look at the Rangers' top five prospects, according to NHL.com:

1. Brady Skjei, D

How acquired: 1st round (No. 28), 2012 NHL Draft

Last season: University of Minnesota, Big 10: 33 GP, 1-9-10; Hartford, AHL: 8 GP, 0-0-0

Skjei, 21, signed with the Rangers on April 1 and made an immediate impact in Hartford despite being wowed by the strength of professional players, director of player personnel Gordie Clark said. It was a sign to Clark that Skjei (6-foot-3, 206 pounds) is close to being NHL-ready.

The Rangers are strong on defense, particularly on the left side with Ryan McDonagh, Marc Staal and Keith Yandle. Barring an injury, Skjei will start the season in Hartford but should be the first call-up candidate.

Projected NHL arrival: 2015-16

2. Pavel Buchnevich, LW

How acquired: 3rd round (No. 75), 2013 NHL Draft

Last season: Cherepovets, KHL: 48 GP, 13-17-30

Buchnevich (6-foot-1, 176 pounds) is a year away from coming to North America because he re-signed with his KHL team even though Clark said he told him he's ready to play in the NHL and could have competed for the top-six forward spot that used to belong to Martin St. Louis.

Clark said Buchnevich, 20, decided to stay in the KHL because he didn't feel he was ready to come to North America. He led KHL players 20 or younger with 30 points last season, according to EliteProspects.com.

Projected NHL arrival: 2016-17

3. Oscar Lindberg, C

How acquired: Trade with Phoenix Coyotes, May 8, 2011

Last season: Rangers: 1 GP, 0-0-0; Hartford, AHL: 75 GP, 28-28-56

Lindberg had another strong season in Hartford. He was second on the Wolf Pack with 28 goals, 56 points and 10 power-play goals, and first with 214 shots on goal and six game-winning goals. He had a team-high 16 points in 15 playoff games.

The Rangers are deep at center with Derek Stepan, Derick Brassard, Jarret Stoll, Dominic Moore and Kevin Hayes, who could play wing. Lindberg, 23, signed a two-year, one-way contract this summer and the Rangers believe he will make the team this season.

Clark called Lindberg (6-foot-1, 195 pounds) a "safe player who skates well." The 57th pick in the 2010 NHL Draft by Phoenix has played the wing at times and would be able to make the switch.

Projected NHL arrival: 2015-16

4. Brandon Halverson, G

How acquired: 2nd round (No. 59), 2014 NHL Draft

Last season: Sault Ste. Marie, OHL: 40-5-2, 2.63 goals-against average, .913 save percentage

Halverson, 19, became the first Rangers prospect to win 40 games in one season of junior hockey. He led the OHL in wins, finished tied for first with six shutouts, was third in goals-against average, and seventh in save percentage. He played for the United States in the 2015 World Junior Championship, stopping all 14 shots he faced in his only appearance. Halverson is the favorite to be the goalie for the United States at the 2016 World Juniors.

Halverson (6-foot-4, 185 pounds) might not be ready for NHL duty for three more years, which might be when the Rangers will start thinking about grooming a potential No. 1. Henrik Lundqvist turns 34 this season.

Projected NHL arrival: 2017-18

5. Dylan McIlrath, D

How acquired: 1st round (No. 10), 2010 NHL Draft

Last season: Rangers: 1 GP, 0-0-0; Hartford, AHL: 73 GP, 6-11-17

Clark said McIlrath (6-foot-5, 220 pounds) hit his stride in the second half last season with Hartford and should be NHL ready. The 23-year old requires waivers to be sent to Hartford, so the Rangers will be looking to give him every possible chance to make the NHL.

However, they already have seven NHL defensemen with McDonagh, Staal, Yandle, Dan Girardi, Dan Boyle, Kevin Klein and Raphael Diaz. Plus, Skjei's development could impact McIlrath's chances. If he can't make the roster this season, a trade could be in order.

Projected NHL arrival: 2015-16

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