No. 1 looks like a valuable player. 4

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Beginning August 28, and the USA TODAY Network will release our fifth annual ranking of the top 10 prospects in the New York Rangers organization.

These preview accounts, with one set to be published each day through September 8, are based on conversations with over 20 stores in total. They include coaches, trainers and executives who have worked closely with these young players, pro and amateur scouts from around the world and many of the prospects themselves. Any Calder Trophy-eligible players – 25 or younger and who have not played more than 25 NHL games in a season, or six or more games in two previous seasons – are considered.

No. 4: LW Adam Sykora

There is one picture that, in Tomas Chrenko’s mind, perfectly captures the essence of Adam Sýkora.

It was lifted at the end of last season’s penalty kill, moments after the young striker threw himself in front of three shots in a row.

“He was laughing after the last blocked shot,” HK Nitra’s general manager recalled on the phone in August. “He was so happy.”

“That’s Adam,” he said before pausing, chuckling to himself and adding, “I think he likes it more than scoring goals sometimes.”

In a prospective world where skill worthy of attention gets all the attention, Sýkora has made a name for himself by enjoying the grunt work.

That all-time mantra made him a fan favorite for HK Nitra and drew the Rangers to him with the No. 63 overall pick in the second round of the 2022 NHL draft.

Adam Sykora in action during New York Rangers development camp at their training facility in Tarrytown, July 5, 2023.

Adam Sykora in action during New York Rangers development camp at their training facility in Tarrytown, July 5, 2023.

Since then, he has been on the fast track. Sýkora played the last three seasons in the top level of the Slovak Hockey League and signed his entry-level contract with the Blueshirts last year before turning 18. (He turned 19 on Thursday.)

He appears to have been ticketed for AHL Hartford this coming season, with a chance to work his way into the NHL conversation within the next year or so.

“During my summer preparations, I tried to be stronger and harder in every part of my body,” he said at Rangers’ development camp in July. “I think I’m going to be ready for it.”

Despite being listed at a diminutive 5-foot-10, 172 pounds — don’t be surprised if that weight goes up after he reports for training camp due to added muscle mass — multiple sources -share confidence that Sýkora is up to the challenge of playing in the AHL.

Part of the reason is physical. His tree-lined thighs – “He gets so much torque from his legs,” said one European scout – and advanced conditioning routines allow him to withstand the pounding required to maintain his confident style. his to play.

It has also helped him become the best captain in the Rangers prospect pool. Indeed, tests at a development camp bore that out, with coaches telling Sýkora that he posted the fastest times.

“When he was younger, I didn’t think he would be that good as a skater, but this is due to his hard work,” Chrenko said. “At the end of the movement, he is still ‘looks fresh as it is in such good condition.

The other part is mental.

It’s not just about blocking shots, throwing body checks or putting yourself in harm’s way. It is a strength to keep his motor running high every shift and out against opponents in every situation.

“He plays like he’s not afraid,” Chrenko said. “He goes everywhere. If he thinks it will help the team, he will take any part.”

That attitude is evident through good times and bad, making it feel more authentic. Chrenko took that into account last season as HK Nitra struggled.

“He was under pressure because we could get out of the league,” the GM said. “He played the whole season under pressure and I can’t say a bad word about Adam. He was always 100 % with hard work, always giving 100% energy, always smiling, positive, supporting his players. That’s great about him. He’s still a kid, but he was giving supporting the older players with his energy and enthusiasm.”

Sýkora’s combination of speed and hustle makes him a good candidate to play on the matchup line once he reaches the NHL.

One scout said he was arguably the best prospect in the 2022 draft class, while Chrenko described him as the top defensive back and first penalty killer on an HK Nitra team with a lot of players. more experienced than him.

These are clear strengths, but his scoring abilities are considered limited. Sýkora managed 21 points (eight goals and 13 assists) in 38 games for HK Nitra last season, as well as four more (one goal and three assists) in eight playoff games.

Much was due to his willingness to fight through traffic and make a home in the dangerous areas, hunting for tips, rebounds and broken plays. And while Chrenko noted he was “more creative and confident with the puck” last season, scouts are skeptical about how much offense is in the tank.

“He’s a pest, but his upside is probably in the bottom six in the NHL,” said one scout.

“He doesn’t have an outside shot,” said another.

There is no shame in developing an effective front six who excels on the PK, creates damage and sacrifices himself for the good of the team every night, and that is certainly the direction that Sýkora is taking.

Every lineup needs those types of players to win – and the consensus is that he is better equipped to succeed in that role than any other young player in the Rangers system.

The closest comparison is Brett Berard, another undersized, high-energy forward who came in at No. 7 in this year’s organizational prospect rankings. They will be in direct competition for a place in the future, with three scouts voted to give Sýkora a better chance of keeping.

There is value in having a player who not only understands his role, but embraces it with every fiber of his being – and, importantly, has the tools to do the job. to do

“He’s a great example to our young players in the organization of how hard work can help you reach your goals,” Chrenko said. “Obviously, he’s a talented guy. But the biggest reason he’s signed an NHL contract now is the hard work.”

Vincent Z. Mercogliano is the New York Rangers beat reporter for the USA TODAY Network. Read more of his work at and follow him on Twitter @vzmercogliano.

This article first appeared on Rockland/Westchester Journal News: Adam Sýkora: NY Rangers No. 4 in the 2023 prospect rankings

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