New York Rangers prospects continue to stand out, Lafreniere decision expected shortly

Frank Curto

While the New York Rangers sit and wait for the NHL and NHLPA to work out a deal to start the 2020-2021 season, the Blueshirt prospects continue to give fans something to talk about.

Eight prospect players were highlighted in the New York Rangers prospect report that was made available on Monday.

Here is a look at how they are doing as of Nov. 23.

Players:

Nils Lundkvist registered five points (three goals, two assists) in three games during the past week; he tallied an assist and posted a plus-two rating in 23:14 of ice time on Nov. 19 against Orebro, recorded two points (one goal, one assist) and a plus-two rating on Nov. 21 against Linkoping, and established a single-game SHL career-high with two goals and tied a single-game SHL career-high with seven shots on goal on Nov. 22 against Farjestad. The Rangers’ first-round pick (28th overall) in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft has registered nine points (five goals, four assists) and 46 shots on goal in 15 SHL games in 2020-21, and he has averaged 20:37 of ice time in the 15 contests. Lundkvist is tied for first among SHL defensemen in goals this season, and he also leads SHL defensemen who are in their U21 season or younger in goals and points in 2020-21. His 46 shots on goal this season are the fifth-most by an SHL defenseman; he has already recorded half as many shots on goal as he did all of last season while only playing in one-third as many games (46 shots on goal in 15 games this season – 3.07 shots on goal per game; 92 shots on goal in 45 games last season – 2.04 shots on goal per game). Lundkvist leads Lulea in shots on goal, and he is tied for the team lead in goals and power-play goals (three) in 2020-21. Lundkvist ranks second on Lulea in average ice time this season, and his 20:37 average ice time per game is the highest among all SHL players who are 20 years old or younger. He has registered 21 career SHL goals, which is the third-most by a defenseman while in his U21 season or younger in league history. In addition, Lundkvist’s 55 career SHL points are the fourth-most by an SHL defenseman while in his U21 season or younger in league history.

Eric Ciccolini recorded the game-winning goal on Nov. 19 against the University of Wisconsin and was on the ice for the game-winning goal in overtime on Nov. 20 against the University of Wisconsin. The Rangers’ seventh-round pick (205th overall) in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft has recorded two goals/points in three games with the University of Michigan thus far this season, and he has also registered eight shots on goal and a plus-three rating in the three contests. Ciccolini tallied 11 points (one goal, 10 assists) in 26 games in his freshman year at the University of Michigan in 2019-20, and he ranked second among Michigan freshmen in assists and tied for third among Michigan freshmen in points last season.

Lauri Pajuniemi tallied a goal and posted a plus-one rating on Nov. 21 against HPK. The Rangers’ fifth-round pick (132nd overall) in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft has registered three points (two goals, one assist) and 32 shot attempts (18 of which have been on goal) in eight games with TPS in Liiga in 2020-21.

Vitali Kravtsov led all skaters with five shots on goal and 20:34 of ice time on Nov. 18 against SKA, and he established a single-game KHL career-high in ice time in the contest. Kravtsov also played on Traktor’s first line in each of the team’s three games during the past week. The Rangers’ first-round pick (ninth overall) in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft has recorded 11 points (eight goals, three assists), a plus-eight rating, and 67 shots on goal in 22 KHL games with Traktor this season. Kravtsov leads Traktor in goals, even-strength goals (seven), and shots on goal per game (3.0), is tied for second on the team in shots on goal and is tied for third on the team in plus/minus rating in 2020-21. Among KHL players who are in their U22 season or younger in 2020-21, he ranks first in goals, is tied for second in plus/minus rating, and ranks third in points this season.

Tarmo Reunanen tied for the game-high with nine shot attempts (three of which were on goal) and posted a plus-one rating in 26:54 of ice time on Nov. 18 against JYP, and he also registered a goal, recorded six shot attempts, and posted a plus-two rating while skating in a game-high 28:58 of ice time on Nov. 21 against TPS. The Rangers’ fourth-round pick (98th overall) in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft has recorded one goal, 18 shot attempts, and a plus-three rating in five games with HPK in Liiga this season, and he has averaged 24:56 of ice time per game in those five contests.

Leevi Aaltonen was loaned to IPK in Mestis (Finland’s second-highest professional league) during the past week, and he registered three points (two goals, one assist) in two games with IPK during the week. The Rangers’ fifth-round pick (130th overall) in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft has also recorded two assists and 17 shot attempts (12 shots on goal) in 10 games with KalPa in Liiga in 2020-21.

Brett Berard is expected to begin his freshman season at Providence College on Nov. 27, as the Friars are scheduled to play their first regular-season game in 2020-21 against Boston College. The Rangers’ fifth-round pick (134th overall) in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft skated in 41 games with the U.S. National U18 Team as part of the U.S. National Team Development Program (NTDP) last season, registering 16 goals and 18 assists for 34 points, along with a plus-15 rating and 46 penalty minutes. Berard led the team in game-winning goals (four), tied for second on the team in goals, ranked third in points, and ranked fourth in assists in 2019-20. He skated in 13 games against United States Hockey League (USHL) opponents last season, tallying 18 points (seven goals, 11 assists) in those 13 contests, and he led the USHL in points per game (1.38).

Riley Hughes is expected to begin his sophomore season at Northeastern University on Nov. 27, as the Huskies are scheduled to play their first regular-season game in 2020-21 against UMass Lowell. The Rangers’ seventh-round pick (216th overall) in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft tallied four points (one goal, three assists) in his freshman year last season, and he was one of seven players (and one of three freshmen) who skated in each of the team’s 34 games during the season.

A Decision on Alexis Lafreniere

Rangers first-round draft pick Alexis Lafreniere has yet to be invited to the Canadian World Juniors team. The Rangers have not made a decision on whether they would like him to play for them or wait until the team’s training camp will begin for him to skate with the team.

Time is running out for the Rangers to make a decision.  Per Adam Kimelman, the IIHF has ruled that all teams must be together one week before entering the bubble in Edmonton on Dec. 13.

The Jan. 1 rumored start date for the NHL could be pushed back to February which may give the Blueshirts more of a reason to allow Lafreniere to play for Team Canada.