The Rangers entered the draft with 10 picks. They left with 10 players, resulting from a pair of trades, and a disappointed fanbase. This weekend was when all the maneuvers made last trading deadline came to fruition and New York knocked it out of the park. Sadly, after a strong first day of the draft, the Blueshirts sure looked like they spit the bit on Day 2, causing consternation and anger amongst the faithful.
The three grades I posted below- and yes, I know grading after a draft is somewhat of an exercise in futility - reflect how most of us feel. Each grade is bolstered by what was done on Day 1 and dropped down at least a grade by Day 2's events. More times than I can remember Gord Clark and the scouting staff go off the board, possibly in attempt to show they are the smartest men in the room, rather than going chalk and making the safer and probably better pick.
For Day 1, I would have preferred Oliver Wahlstrom, who seemed to be gifted to New York when Arizona too Barrett Hayton. But the Rangers opted for Vitali Kravtsov and i can understand somewhat the rationale for the pick. Trading up to get K'Andre Miller was fine, My issue there was surrendering the 48th pick to move up from 26 to 22, especially when St. Louis only parted with a 76 to go from 29 to 25, making New York's trade an overpayment. I like Nils Lundkvist a lot, but with Joe Veleno having slid from protected a early-teens' selection to 30, I might have gone Veleno and attempted to get Lundkvist at 39 or packaged the 39th pick with a third rounder to move up. My day 1 grade would have been an A-, lowered by half a grade because of what was surrendered to move up four spots and an inability to maximize the picks by packaging picks to move up or down to grab certain players like Kravtsov and Lundkvist, though GM Jeff Gorton did indicate fewer conversations, both in terms of the RFAs and picks, took place than expected.
If Day 1 was an A-, Day 2 was an F. First, selecting who many experts ranked as the fifth or sixth best goalie made little sense. Compounding the questionable nature of selecting Olof Lindbom at 39 was the presence of the following notable players still left in the board, even after Mattias Samuelsson, Jonathan Berggren, Serron Noel, Jesse Ylonen and Jared McIsaac, is inexcusable. The aforementioned notables that could have been selected at 39 included: Ryan McLeod, Bode Wilde, Jack Drury, Ruslan Ishakov, Jonathan Tychonick, Kirill Marchenko, Adam Ginning, Akil Thomas, Calen Addison, Jacob Olofsson, Filip Hallander, David Gustafsson and Jacob Olofsson . In round 3, after New York selected Jacob Ragnarsson, Niklas Nordgren, Jakub Lauko, Blake McLaughlin and Riley Stotts all were picked.
If you were a defenseman or a European-born player, New York was the place for you. Of their 10 picks, six were blueliners while six of the 10 were from overseas. Three forwards were picked, incluing the first pick in Kravtsov and last pick in the seventh round of Riley Hughes, who New York dealt a pick to Carolina to acquire the pick and one of the selections I like most. Joey Keane at 88 has some upside, he same with Nico Gross at 101, compared to where he was projected, but beyond that, the Day 2 was vastly overwhelming and in my opinion, as said before an F, or at best a D, factoring in who was passed on in addition to actually was selected.
Overall, the grade is a B- for me
. The Day 1 grade and importance of those players pushes the overall grade higher. However, the poor selections and use of assets on Day 2, cognizant that Gorton and Clark likely forgot more about hockey that I will ever know, drags down the grade. If these players don't pan, coupled with the questionable picks over the past several years, as others in the blog have pointed out, a changing of the guard in the scouting department may be required.
The picks do keep with the theme of long-term rebuild. Kravtsov might come over this season or more likely after it and is probably two years away. Miller is heading to Wisconsin and needs a least a year or probably two there. Lundkvist should be left in the Swedish league so he can work on his areas of growth. None of the picks made are expected to make a difference this season with the hope that the two European wingers added this off-season lengthen and provide depth to a weak future wing crew.
To me, the winners were the Red Wings, Islanders and Blackhawks. Detroit, after grabbing Zadina and Veleno, who slipped way too far, get Berggen and McIsaac in the second. Islanders picked Wahlstrom and Dobson, two possible top-five picks at 11 and 12, then nabbed Wilde and Ishakhov in the second. Chicago had Boqvist come to them at 8 and added Nicolas Beaudin at 27. Jack Wise slipped to 69 and then lucked into Nordgren at 74. Those three teams got A while Buffalo and Carolina had to be that range as well.
Here are the other grades referred to above. I will post some of the scouting reports and rankings from each of the players later. But wanted to get a new blog up with my grade and what others thought as well.
Let me know what your grade was.
Chris Peters, ESPN
First-rounders: A highly-skilled player with size, Vitali Kravtsov's ability to attack opposing players and confidence in making plays at a time of year when it's harder to do those kinds of things really stood out. His puck skills are high end, and he has a good shot. He's still developing more of a power game, but already shows a propensity for getting to the middle of the ice and going to the harder areas for the sake of offense. It is unclear what his contract status is in the KHL, but another season or two in Russia where he can be a top-line player will get him to the Rangers ready to make an impact.
Pound-for-pound one of the strongest players in the draft, K'Andre Miller spent much of the year rounding out his game and furthering his education as a defenseman. He has become more confident with the puck, making good passes and carrying it a little bit more. His defending is also another area where I've seen remarkable improvement. Miller keeps a lot in front of him, uses his size to keep players to the outside and can lower the boom. His upside is enormous, though, given his brief time playing the position. He could be a monster at the next level if he hits his ceiling.
What jumps out to me about Nils Lundkvist is that he's not very big, but he's a very good defender. He's smart in the way he takes players off the puck and gets in the way really well, closing gaps quickly and identifying opportunities when the opposing player is vulnerable. On top of that, he has really good passing skills and can help his team get the puck up and out after he gets it. After taking more of a shot with the Miller pick, Lundkvist is a nice, safe option with clear pro instincts.
Draft assessment: I really liked the Rangers' first round, where they addressed needs and added some high-upside players who should fit into their plans nicely in the not-too-distant future. I wasn't as big of a fan of their Day 2, though. They went off the board a bit to get goalie Olof Lindbom, who finished the season on a remarkably high note, but had been average for most of the season. I do like Joey Keane, who took big steps forward developmentally this season in Barrie. The grade hinges largely on their first round, but I thought we'd see the Rangers make a bigger splash than I believe they did at this point
If there were picks the Rangers made where I thought “damn, that could work out well,” it was their very first pick in Vitali Kravtsov at No. 9, and their very last pick Riley Hughes at No. 216. In between that, we got a mixture of solid to decent prospect. K’Andre Miller is very good. I didn’t love him in top 20, but he has potential. Nilsm Lundkvist at No. 29 was high for me, as was the goalie Olof Lindbom at No. 38, despite the fact I thought he was a top tier goalie prospect in the class. I didn’t have Joey Keane on my board, but I heavily considered him and didn’t mind that pick or the Nico Gross one. I give the Rangers a good grade, because at the end of the day, Kravtsov is a hell of a player, Miller a very good one, and they got talent on Day 2, but I think they could have gotten more at the same time
The addition of Vitali Kravtsov thrusts an immediate blend of size, speed and scoring ability into the Rangers' farm system, whereas No. 22 pick K'Andre Miller could make this B grade look a whole lot more like an A if he grazes his high ceiling.