Oscar Lindberg and Danny Kristo are clearly ready for more demanding challenges. With four goals in two games, Lindberg has continued his offensive production from Sweden and at this stage is well beyond the average prospect considering his experience in the SEL. Kristo too – being older, physically ready and with a senior world championship under his belt – is clearly a hot candidate to make the Rangers while key players such as Ryan Callahan continue their injury recoveries.
However, Traverse City is also useful to point out deficiencies in the prospect pipeline and while not as exciting to fans it’s just as important. The Rangers have shipped ten goals in two games. They were clearly outdueled in net against the Hurricanes and the defense has come up short in both games.
Of course, it has only been two prospect games and the full complement of prospects are not available (college commitments etc.) but these games can provide some insight. At this stage it appears the Rangers next wave of forwards are a lot more pro ready than the rest of their prospects.
Defensively the Rangers are counting more and more on at least one of Brady Skjei or Dylan McIlrath emerging as an NHL regular. Beyond the two first round Ranger draft picks, Conor Allen and Calle Andersson are likely the next best defensive prospects within the system but neither can be considered sure fire pro calibre just yet. Allen in particular faces an important season in his career. He will need to evidence a strong learning curve at the AHL level to be a legitimate NHL option in the near future.
At this stage, the Rangers must also be increasingly concerned about the depth in goal, especially with the Lundqvist contract situation still in need of resolving. The organisation has no sure fire prospect on his way to the NHL and indeed, the stable of goaltenders at the AHL level including players such as Jeff Malcolm (who was awful positionally against the Sabres) is full of question marks, at best.
No doubt that the Rangers organisation (and the teams fans) can be encouraged that Traverse City has already shown players such as Danny Kristo and Oscar Lindberg are ready for greater things but as an organisational measuring stick, the struggles so far in Traverse City are far more telling. That’s not a bad thing.