Examining five prospects most likely to make it on Rangers roster

There may still be nearly two months until the Rangers take the ice for training camp, but the club’s offseason business is essentially complete considering there isn’t much cap space remaining to work with. While a majority of the lineup is locked in, there are a few spots that will see friendly competition between prospects and new signings during the weeklong camp in late September.

Players such as Vitali Kravtsov, Zac Jones and Nils Lundkvist are barely considered prospects anymore. Each of the three has 25 or fewer NHL games to his name and will be tasked with impressing Rangers management during training camp to maintain standing with the organization. For the sake of this article, however, we’ll consider them prospects.

Whether they make the opening-night roster outright or are recalled to fill in due to injury, here are the top five prospects most likely to be in a Rangers jersey this upcoming season:

1. Vitali Kravtsov

After going home to Russia to play in the Kontinental Hockey League instead of accepting his American Hockey League assignment from the Rangers last season, Kravtsov signed a one-year, $875,000 contract for the 2022-23 season in what is presumably his last shot in New York. There is a spot on the Rangers’ roster that is Kravtsov’s for the taking; all the 22-year-old needs to do is prove he deserves it. The Rangers would be in a great spot if Kravtsov can convincingly earn a spot in the opening-night lineup — not just to reap the benefits of his offensive upside, but to keep their cap situation under wrap.

Potential lineup spot: Right wing in the middle six

Vitali Kravtsov and Zac Jones
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Getty Images; Bill Kostroun

2. Zac Jones

Since the Rangers traded Patrik Nemeth to the Coyotes and lost Justin Braun in free agency, they have an opening on the left side of the third defensive pairing, presumably next to Braden Schneider. Aside from Lundkvist, Jones has the most NHL experience among the rest of the Rangers’ defensive prospects. In 12 games last season while filling in amid injuries, Jones recorded two assists and was a minus-7 with eight shots on goal.

While head coach Gerard Gallant may prefer a veteran presence back there, or maybe a bigger player than the 5-foot-10, 175-pound Jones, he would make for a tremendous option to quarterback the second power play — his specialty at Massachusetts.

Potential lineup spot: Left side of third defensive pair

3. Will Cuylle

There is no question Cuylle is physically ready to make the jump to the NHL. He plays with a physical edge that the Rangers could use in their bottom six should an injury arise or things go awry with players such as Ryan Reaves, Sammy Blais or Dryden Hunt.

Cuylle went through an adjustment period in his first season with the Rangers’ AHL affiliate, the Hartford Wolf Pack, in 2020-21, when he finished with two goals and three assists in 18 games. The Rangers may want him to prove he can dominate at the AHL level before he joins the varsity club.

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Potential lineup spot: Wing of the bottom six

4. Brennan Othmann

The tricky situation with Othmann is that he cannot be assigned to the AHL. Because he won’t turn 20 until Jan. 5, Othmann can only be assigned back to the OHL or to the NHL roster. He’s coming off a breakout season, racking up 50 goals and 97 points in 66 games with the OHL’s Flint Firebirds. Othmann also recorded nine goals and 15 assists in 19 playoff games.

Potential lineup spot: Wing of the middle six

Brennan Othmann
Brennan Othmann
Bill Kostroun

5. Matthew Robertson

If there is apprehension over Jones’ size, Robertson is certainly the other option, with an NHL-ready build. The Rangers have already gotten a look at Jones and Lundkvist, but Robertson has yet to make his NHL debut, and the organization may want to see what they have in the 6-foot-4, 201-pounder.

Potential lineup spot: Left side of third defensive pair

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