By Brian Monzo
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For the longest time, rebuilding a team in New York City was not an option.  Being competitive while rebuilding? Not possible.  Right?

The New York Rangers have kind of defied that.  Since the lockout in 04-05, they’ve made the playoffs all but one season.  They’ve drafted well, had some good and bad signings and made some great trades (Brian Boyle, Ryan McDonagh and perhaps Tim Erixon come to mind).

What has impressed me the most is how they have drafted.  In 2004 they drafted Ryan Callahan and Brandon Dubinsky.  Marc Staal was drafted in 2005.  In 2006, Artem Anisimov was selected in the 2nd round.  Michael Del Zotto and Derek Stepan were picked in 2008.  These players are huge assets to the Rangers now, and in the future.

Here are the next five reasons the Rangers may have some very good years ahead of them:

5. Dylan McIlrath, defenseman (drafted 10th overall in the 2010): Tough, aggressive and mean.  At 6’4, close to 220 lbs, McIlrath (nicknamed ‘the Undertaker’) is going to be something the Rangers have not had since Jeff Beukeboom — a huge defenseman that will scare opponents.  He doesn’t bring a ton of offense to his game, but as his skating improves, so will that.  He is still 2-3 years away from being NHL ready.

4. JT Miller, forward (drafted 15th overall in 2011): A model of what the Rangers like – gritty, hard-working players that make things happen.  Miller had 15 points in 21 games playing for the U.S. National Development Team in the USHL.  Has the making of Ryan Callahan.  My guess is he will be an NHL player in 3 years.

3. Christian Thomas, forward (drafted 40th overall in 2010): Son of longtime NHL’er Steve Thomas.  Thomas was taken in the 2nd round in 2010, and has emerged as perhaps the Rangers best offensive prospect.  In the OHL last season, he scored 54 goals in 66 games, opening eyes everywhere.  At 5’9, 170 lbs, he isn’t huge, but should add some muscle.  One thing is for sure — he has a lot of people excited.  He could be seen wearing a Rangers jersey in the next two seasons.

2. Chris Kreider, forward (drafted 19th overall in 2009):  He has been amazing in international play, and his two years at BC playing college hockey have really good.  His skating and his hands are dynamic.  Consistency and his mental game need to improve.  If they do (and they should), the Rangers will have themselves a heck of a player.  He will be playing his junior season at BC, so it’s tough to put a timetable on his turn to professional hockey.

1. Tim Erixon, defenseman (drafted by the Flames 23rd overall in 2009 — acquired in June via trade): I know the Rangers didn’t draft him, but Erixon is the best prospect the Rangers have at this time.   When Erixon (son of former Ranger Jan Erixon) couldn’t agree to a contract with the Flames, the Rangers made the move — and a good one.  He plays on both ends of the ice, and has a tremendous nose for the game.  He doesn’t pack a load of offense, but has enough talent to put up points and may even be able to play on the power-play.  I expect Erixon to find his way onto the NHL roster this season.

September is here — which means hockey season is close.

Follow me on Twitter: BMonzoNHL660

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