Rangers Land In 8th At Traverse City

Let’s be honest, that title makes it sound as if the Rangers did better than they did. Oh 8th place, that’s not horrible! We’ll just ignore the fact there were only eight teams in the tournament.

Is it great to come in last place at a prospect tournament? No, it’s not. But a couple things to keep in mind here.

First of all, these are young prospects who are just joining the organization. That means they’ve never played together. Sometimes guys click right away, sometimes they don’t. What I care about is how the guys looked individually. I know this is a team game but do these prospects look like they are on the right track? Are they doing the things necessary to succeed as a pro? If the answer to both of those questions is “yes”, then I couldn’t care less what the score of the games were.

Guys like Brady Skjei (who unfortunately got injured in the first period of the third game and missed yesterday’s final), Keegan Iverson and Adam Tambellini all got better as the tournament went on. Those are the things I like to see. After their one and only win, coach Ken Gernander said:

“I like the fact that for three straight nights now we’ve shown pretty good improvement,” head coach Ken Gernander said. “The first night I wasn’t thrilled with some of our efforts, but each night it’s gotten better and better, and consequently, our team has gotten better and better.”

That’s all I expect to get out of a prospect tournament. If you can manage to win the games as well, that’s even better. If not, no big deal to me.

The other reason I’m not concerned with the Rangers coming in last place? Take a look at their roster for the one game they actually won:


Look closely at the last line for each prospect, i.e. where the Rangers got that player from. You’ll notice “free agent invite” appear 12 times. That means 12 out of the 20 players who suited up were invited specifically for this tournament. In other words, they aren’t Ranger prospects at the moment. If this team, with a bunch of guys trying to find a contract anywhere they can, managed to place highly at this tournament I would’ve been shocked. It is also the reason why I chose not to give daily updates on the tournament this year. I didn’t have a reason to follow most of the guys playing each night.

So then the question comes up, why did the Rangers need so many extra players?

Let’s start with goaltending. We all know Mackenzie Skapski is still recovering from hip surgery so he is out. Igor Shestyorkin is in Russia so he couldn’t play. Other than Brandon Halverson, our other goalies in the system were too old to be in this tournament which meant the team needed goalies. And it’s a good thing they got two as Halverson got hurt before the tournament started and never ended up playing a game. So right away, the Rangers had a random player in the most important position each night.

As for defense and forwards, it comes down to age. A lot of our younger players are either still in school (Cristoval “Boo” Nieves) or over in Europe (Pavel Buchnevich). A lot of those planning to play in Hartford this year are too old to go to this tournament. Does that mean the organization doesn’t have any prospects? I’m not sure having a bunch of 23-year olds rather than 19-year olds means there is no one in the pipeline. But this is what happens when you trade your draft picks trying to get that last piece for the big team.

Either way, I’m not worried. Yes I would’ve liked this mish-mosh team to have done better. I’m sure the Rangers brass would have as well. But I’m not writing off the pipe line because they came in last. The organization hasn’t won this tournament since 2007 and while a lot of the current Rangers have come from elsewhere, there are still plenty who came up and have done just fine in the NHL. (See: Ryan McDonagh, Derek Stepan, Chris Kreider, JT Miller, etc.)

Speaking of those current Rangers, training camp officially opens tomorrow with physicals for all players. Then on Friday, the boys hit the ice for the first time this season. Doesn’t it feel like we were just asking if next season could start already? Well, next season is here!


(Photo: Melissa Andus)


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