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Traverse City Tournament 2019: Meet the Prospects

by Michael Obernauer

Rangers Hockey is back, and it's the rookies getting it all started at the annual Traverse City Tournament, beginning on Friday afternoon. Twenty-four players will wear the Blueshirt in three weekend games, and potentially a fourth, nearly all of them for the very first time. They'll be guided by new Hartford Head Coach Kris Knoblauch and his staff, and these 24 will be representing a pool of Rangers prospects that on Thursday was named by The Athletic as the "No. 1 farm system" in the NHL.

The round-robin stage gets started when the Rangers and Blue Jackets prospects face off at 3:30 p.m. Friday. The Blueshirts will compete in the Ted Lindsay Division, consisting of Columbus, Dallas and Minnesota. The Gordie Howe Division has tournament host Detroit, Chicago, Toronto and St. Louis; the division winners meet on Monday.

The Rangers' full schedule:
Friday 3:30 p.m. ET vs. Blue Jackets
Saturday 7 p.m. ET vs. Stars
Sunday 2:30 p.m. ET vs. Wild
Monday Time TBD, Placement Game

Five of the prospects who played in the 2018 Traverse City Tournament went on to play in NHL games for the Rangers in 2018-19 (three of them topped 40 games). NYRangers.com offers a look at the 24 players who will represent the Rangers in the 2019 Traverse City Tournament beginning with the players up front.

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From Richmond to Rangers, Zac Jones Keeps Raising the Bar

New York's 2019 Third-Rounder Continues to Exceed Expectations

by Michael Obernauer

NYRANGERS.COM -- The distance between Richmond, Va., and Plymouth, Mich., is a little under a thousand miles, but in the world of hockey it is not a well-trodden path. It is the kind of journey that Zac Jones, when he was growing up in Virginia's capital region, playing on a homemade miniature rink, could never even fathom.

"Not a clue in the world," Jones said. "Even last year about this time when I was chosen for that All-America (Prospects) Game, and I had not a clue in the world that that would be even an option. I guess I've always been a guy that kind of flew under the radar, and I like that."

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K'Andre Miller, Zac Jones Open Eyes at World Junior Summer Showcase

Defensemen Miller (2018 selection) and Jones (2019 selection) excel for Team USA at annual summer tournament

by Jess Isner

PLYMOUTH, MICH. - One is embarking on his second summer tour with the U.S. World Juniors National Team. The other is in the midst of his first go-round, with plenty still to prove and a dogged determination to do just that. 

Both prospects, aside from being defensemen drafted one year apart by the New York Rangers, have at least one other thing in common: They're never satisfied. 

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Blueshirts See a Bright Future as Prospects Break Camp

by Michael Obernauer

STAMFORD, Conn. -- Everything was being packed up on Friday afternoon, all the gear and the sticks, and the Rangers' prospects were saying goodbye to one another, for now. Some were heading out to the airport to catch a flight home, others shoring up plans for offseason workouts together in the coming weeks. Either way it was the end of something on Friday, but for the five days leading up to it this week, a group of 37 Rangers prospects filled a rink in southern Connecticut with the palpable sense that these kids have only just begun.

The Blueshirts' future was out on display this week at the 2019 Rangers Prospects Development Camp, and the future looks bright. There was Kaapo Kakko skating in a Rangers uniform for the first time, and while he was a fan favorite as soon as he was chosen No. 2 overall in last week's NHL Draft, he only endeared himself more to the Blueshirts faithful by his on-ice display of talent, and by taking time afterward to sign every autograph, pose for every picture. Igor Shesterkin was debuting in Rangers colors, too - he saved his best for last in Friday's scrimmage when he got across his goal crease to make a sprawling save against a 2-on-none break. Vitali Kravtsov, 19 years old and the team's top pick in 2018, was impactful on nearly every shift he took in his second go-round at this camp, giving a little window into what his skill mixed with some experience could be like.

And then, in the words of Tanner Glass, the newest member of the Rangers' Player Development group: "If you look down the down the list, we have some guys that have great potential that could be longtime NHLers. So as an organization, we're excited about the level of play here at the camp."

"Players are so good here," Kakko said on Thursday. "Fast. I like it."

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Kakko Takes First Steps as Rangers' Prospects Hit the Ice

by Michael Obernauer

STAMFORD, Conn. -- The past week has been life-changing for Kaapo Kakko, and he has spent that week under a spotlight that has never been so bright in his life. He arrived in Vancouver with most of the eyes and cameras trained on him and one other prospect. On Friday night he stepped onto the mantle, and into the Blueshirt, as the No. 2 pick in the NHL Draft. On Sunday he stepped foot in New York City for the very first time.

Monday, then, was a chance for him to return to a place that has always been familiar, somewhere he knows he always belongs: Kakko was back on ice again, and for the first time wearing his new Rangers colors.

He has won three major international tournaments in the past year; he has broken records in his home country's domestic league; he fulfilled his dream of being drafted into the NHL. Where does Kaapo Kakko go from here?

"It's easy. My next goal is to play in the NHL next season," Kakko said on Monday. "So that's it."

Kakko was speaking after the 2019 Rangers Prospect Development Camp kicked off on Monday morning at Chelsea Piers Connecticut. There are 37 players on the roster for the weeklong camp, seven of whom were drafted by the club on Saturday afternoon, and one other, Kakko, who was the Blueshirts' prize in Friday night's first round.

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Rangers Prospect Report: 04.08.19

by New York Rangers @NYRangers

Three Stars of the Week

  • Igor Shesterkin appeared in four playoff games during the past week as SKA faced CSKA in the Western Conference Finals of the Gagarin Cup Playoffs. Shesterkin earned a win in three of the four games during the week, allowing two goals or fewer in each contest, and he made 27 saves to earn a win in Game 6 of the series on Apr. 7 and force a Game 7. The Rangers' fourth round pick (118th overall) in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft has posted a 1.94 GAA in nine playoff appearances with SKA this year. Shesterkin appeared in 28 games during the regular season in 2018-19 and posted a 24-3-1 record, along with a 1.11 GAA, a .953 SV%, and 10 SO. He led the KHL in both GAA and SV%, and he was tied for first in the KHL in shutouts this season. In addition, Shesterkin's 1.11 GAA during the regular season in 2018-19 is the second-best GAA a goaltender has posted in one season in KHL history, and his .953 SV% in 2018-19 is tied for the second-best a goaltender has posted in one season in league history. He also became the fourth different goaltender to earn at least 10 shutouts in one season in KHL history.
  • Nils Lundkvist recorded a goal, which was his first career SHL playoff goal/point, registered three shots on goal, and posted a plus-one rating in Game 1 of Lulea's series in the SHL Semifinals against Frolunda on Apr. 7. The Rangers' first round pick (28th overall) in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft is the only SHL defenseman younger than 19 years old who has registered a goal/point thus far in the playoffs this year. In addition, Lundkvist is one of only two defensemen younger than 19 years old who have recorded a goal in the SHL Playoffs over the last four years (dating back to the 2016 Playoffs), along with Rasmus Dahlin. Lundkvist registered 10 points (three goals, seven assists) and posted a plus-seven rating in 41 SHL regular season games with Lulea in 2018-19. Over the last 30 seasons in the SHL (since 1989-90), Lundkvist is one of 14 defensemen younger than 19 years old who have recorded at least 10 points in a regular season, and his 10 points during the regular season in 2018-19 were tied for the 10th-most by an SHL defenseman younger than 19 years old over the span.
  • Riley Hughes registered a point in both of Victoria's playoff games during the week (one goal, one assist). Victoria was eliminated in the third round of the BCH Playoffs. The Rangers' seventh round pick (216th overall) in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft registered 21 points (four goals, 17 assists) in 15 games in the playoffs this year. Hughes leads the BCHL in assists and ranks third in the BCHL in points in the playoffs this year; he also leads BCHL rookies in points. He registered 58 points (24 goals, 34 assists) in 53 regular season BCHL games in 2018-19; he ranked fourth among BCHL rookies in goals and assists, and tied for fourth among BCHL rookies in points during the regular season. Hughes is committed to play at Northeastern University for the 2019-20 season.
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Rangers Prospect Report: 04.01.19

by New York Rangers @NYRangers

Three Stars of the Week

  • Morgan Barron tallied a goal and posted a plus-two rating to help Cornell earn a win in the NCAA East Regional Semifinal on Mar. 30 against Northeastern. Cornell's season ended in the NCAA East Regional Final against Providence on Mar. 31. The Rangers' sixth round pick (174th overall) in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft skated in all of Cornell's 36 games during the 2018-19 season, registering 15 goals and 19 assists for 34 points, along with a plus-nine rating and 26 penalty minutes. Barron was named to ECAC Hockey's First All-Star Team and the All-Ivy League First Team in 2018-19, and he was also named a finalist for ECAC Hockey's Best Defensive Forward. He led Cornell in several categories this season, including goals, points, power play goals (seven), and shots on goal (152). Barron also tied for the team lead in game-winning goals (four), tied for second on the team in assists, and tied for fifth on the team in plus/minus rating in 2018-19. He registered a point in 19 of the final 26 games of the season, recording 27 points (10 goals, 17 assists) over the span. Barron tallied a point in 24 of 36 games in 2018-19 (Cornell posted a 17-5-2 record in games which he recorded a point and a 4-6-2 record in games which he did not tally a point this season). He ranks fourth in the NCAA in shots on goal per game this season (4.22), and he is tied for 16th among NCAA freshmen and sophomores in points per game this season (0.94).
  • Patrick Newell agreed to terms on an entry-level contract with the Rangers on Mar. 30 (the contract begins in 2019-20). Newell, 23, skated in 39 games with St. Cloud State University this season, registering 21 goals and 26 assists for 47 points, along with a plus-35 rating and eight penalty minutes. He has been selected as one of the finalists for the Hobey Baker Award, given annually to the top collegiate player, in 2018-19. In addition, Newell helped St. Cloud State University win the Penrose Cup as the National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC) Regular Season Champions. He was a unanimous selection as the NCHC Forward of the Year, was named to the NCHC First All-Star Team, and received the NCHC Sportsmanship Award this season.
  • Riley Hughes tallied three points (one goal, two assists) in Game 7 of Victoria's second round series against Powell River in the 2019 British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL) Playoffs to help Victoria advance to the third round. The Rangers' seventh round pick (216th overall) in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft has recorded 18 points (three goals, 15 assists) in 14 games thus far in the playoffs. Hughes leads the BCHL in assists and ranks third in the BCHL in points in the playoffs this year; he also leads BCHL rookies in points. He registered 58 points (24 goals, 34 assists) in 53 regular season BCHL games in 2018-19; he ranked fourth among BCHL rookies in goals and assists, and tied for fourth among BCHL rookies in points during the regular season.
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Rangers Prospect Report: 03.25.19

by New York Rangers @NYRangers

Three Stars of the Week

  • Tarmo Reunanen tallied three assists/points in three playoff games in Liiga over the past week, and he logged at least 24:00 of ice time in each of the last two games during the week. The Rangers' fourth round pick (98th overall) in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft has registered five points (one goal, four assists), 28 shot attempts (14 on goal), and a plus-two rating in four playoff games this year, and he has averaged 22:04 of ice time per game thus far in the playoffs. Reunanen leads Liiga in shot attempts, is tied for first in assists, and is tied for third in points in the playoffs this year, and he leads defensemen in the league in assists, points, and shot attempts. Reunanen also ranks 14th in Liiga in average ice time in the playoffs. He has registered 30 points between the regular season and playoffs in 2018-19. Over the last five seasons (since 2014-15), he is one of four Liiga defensemen in their U21 season or younger who have registered 30 regular season and playoff points in a single season (along with Miro Heiskanen, Esa Lindell, and Sami Niku, all of whom are currently playing in the NHL). Reunanen tallied 25 points (six goals, 19 assists) in 58 games with TPS during the regular season in 2018-19. Reunanen, who turned 21 years old on Mar. 1, 2019, led Liiga defensemen who were in their U21 season or younger in goals and points, and ranked second in assists during the regular season in 2018-19. Over the last 10 seasons (since 2009-10), Reunanen is one of five defensemen in Liiga who recorded at least 25 regular season points in either their U21 season or younger (along with Sami Vatanen, Esa Lindell, Ville Pokka, and Sami Niku). He also ranked 12th in Liiga in average ice time during the regular season (21:14), and he ranked second among players who are in their U21 season or younger in the league in average ice time.
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Hard Work Comes First for Lauri Pajuniemi

by Pasi Tuominen

Finnish forward Lauri Pajuniemi, a fifth-round draft choice of the Rangers in 2018, is enjoying an upward trend with TPS Turku of the Finnish Liiga.

Pajuniemi, 19, finished the regular season with five goals and 13 points in 44 games played. In late February, he clocked his career-high time-on-ice and later got some chances in the top six.

"I was able to do better and better as the season progressed," says Pajuniemi. "I started relatively slowly and was struggling a bit with self-confidence. But later things started working out and the coaches gave me more responsibility. As the playoffs started, I felt it was the best time of the year."

A skilled right-hand shot with some penalty killing chops, Pajuniemi is hoping to become a key player for TPS in the playoffs. He won't take anything for granted, though.

"I've improved my all-round game. Consequently, I've seen more time on ice on the penalty kill. I've gained more trust, but on the other hand, I wish I had scored more points during the regular season."

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Rangers Prospect Report: 03.18.19

by New York Rangers @NYRangers

Three Stars of the Week

Jake Elmer agreed to terms on an entry-level contract with the Rangers on Mar. 15, and he registered three points (one goal, two assists) in two games with the Lethbridge Hurricanes of the Western Hockey League (WHL) during the week. The 6-1, 190-pounder finished the regular season with a WHL career-high 18-game point streak (19 goals, 16 assists over the span), including a nine-game assist streak. Elmer established WHL career-highs in several categories in 2018-19, including goals (39), assists (42), points (81), plus/minus rating (plus-26), shorthanded goals (seven), shots on goal (253), and game-winning goals (eight). Elmer led the WHL in shorthanded goals, tied for ninth in game-winning goals, tied for 12th in goals, tied for 13th in points, and ranked 15th in shots on goal this season. In addition, Elmer received three of the Hurricanes' team awards in 2018-19: Three Stars Award, Fan Favorite Award, and Community Relations Award. Lethbridge begins the first round of the 2019 WHL Playoffs on Friday, Mar. 22 against the Calgary Hitmen.

Morgan Barron tallied two assists/points and recorded 10 shots on goal in three games during the ECAC Hockey Quarterfinals, helping Cornell defeat Union, two games to one, and advance to the ECAC Hockey Semifinals in Lake Placid. In addition, Barron was named to the All-Ivy League First Team and was named a finalist for the ECAC Hockey's Best Defensive Forward award in 2018-19. The Rangers' sixth round pick (174th overall) in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft has tallied 32 points (13 goals, 19 assists) in 32 games this season. Barron has registered a point 17 of the last 22 games, and he has recorded 25 points (eight goals, 17 assists) over the span. Barron has tallied a point in 22 of 32 games in 2018-19 (Cornell has posted a 15-5-2 record in games which he has recorded a point this season). He leads Cornell in several categories this season, including goals, points, power play goals (six), and shots on goal (141). Barron also ranks second on Cornell in assists and ranks fourth in plus/minus rating (plus-nine) in 2018-19. He ranks third in the NCAA in shots on goal per game this season (4.41). Barron is currently one of 14 NCAA freshmen or sophomores who are averaging at least 1.00 points per game this season. Cornell plays Brown in the ECAC Hockey Semifinal on Friday, Mar. 22.

Tarmo Reunanen registered two points (one goal, one assist) and posted a plus-two rating in his final game of the regular season on Mar. 14 against Ilves, and he also recorded two points (one goal, one assist) while making his Liiga playoff debut on Mar. 16 against JYP. The Rangers' fourth round pick (98th overall) in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft tallied 25 points (six goals, 19 assists) in 58 games with TPS during the regular season in Liiga in 2018-19. Reunanen, who turned 21 years old on Mar. 1, 2019, led Liiga defensemen who were in their U21 season or younger in goals and points, and ranked second in assists during the regular season in 2018-19. Over the last 10 seasons (since 2009-10), Reunanen is one of five defensemen in Liiga who recorded at least 25 points in either their U21 season or younger (along with Sami Vatanen, Esa Lindell, Ville Pokka, and Sami Niku). He also ranked 12th in Liiga in average ice time during the regular season (21:14), and he ranked second among players who are in their U21 season or younger in the league in average ice time.

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