Day Two of the NHL Draft was mostly about defense for the Rangers. Of the six players selected, four were D meaning that the team totaled six blueliners over the two days. Six of the ten picks are D. While there was a need for it, did they take too many at the expense of filling a scoring need?
It seems as if GM Jeff Gorton’s eggs are all in one basket. By going off the board to select talented Russian Vitali Kravtsov at ninth overall last night. He definitely has high end potential. After looking at some highlights, he’s got the size and hands to become something special. It’s a boom or bust pick. They’re banking on him to deliver. It’s the only way to justify not selecting Oliver Wahlstrom, who fell to number 11 right to the Islanders.
Don’t forget the team moved up four spots to grab K’Andre Miller, who really sounds like a mature player that should bolster the blueline in the long run. I love how he told Amanda Borges how he wanted to give back to the community. He seems like a great kid with good upside. Adding a quality skater like Nils Lundkvist at 28 seems good on paper. He’s not flashy but should be a solid NHL player. Maybe not top pair. But a three or four is possible.
I can’t help but wonder why Gordie Clark reached for 17-year old Swedish goalie Olof Lindbom at number 39. He wasn’t ranked as high as some of the other netminders, who were still available. Is goalie really a need with top prospect Igor Shestyerkin a year away from coming to North America? Don’t forget they also have Adam Huska and Tyler Wall in the system. Plus Alexandar Georgiev expected to be the backup goalie behind Henrik Lundqvist.
It’s a puzzling pick. If they were gonna go mostly D, why not take Bode Wilde in that spot? He dropped despite being highly thought of by Pierre McGuire and other scouts. He could’ve been that big, righty defenseman the team lacks. Instead, he fell right into the Islanders’ lap at number 41. Much like the first round with Wahlstrom. Lou Lamoriello really had a great draft.
That isn’t good news for Garden faithful. There was a lot of frustration with this draft. Myself included. It remains to be seen how the players they took will pan out. Hopefully, we’re just overreacting. It’s easy to be negative when it comes to this team’s history. They’ve passed on good players numerous times. We don’t want to revisit anymore nightmares of Rangers past. I almost feel as though I’m describing Scrooge’s Christmas past.
Both Jacob Ragnarsson (son of former NHLer Marcus) and Nico Gross sound like promising prospects. Ragnarsson has the pedigree and Gross sounds like he has the character that Canadians love. I don’t know much on Joey Keane but he plays on the same junior hockey team as Gross. They both play for the Barrie Colts in the OHL. Keane is American while Gross is Swiss. Keane put up 44 points and a hefty plus-45 in ’17-18 while adding seven helpers in the playoffs.
One of the pressing needs remains a righty shooting forward who can finish. Outside of top pivot Mika Zibanejad, the current roster doesn’t boast anyone else who’s a big threat. Jesper Fast is our second best righty. He’s all grit and heart. But not more than a 15-goalscorer in a good year.
I harped on this issue in the last post along with the lack of Finnish players. Well, they finally took one in the fifth round, grabbing Finn Lauri Pajuniemi at number 132. He’s not a big player going 5-11, 182. However, he sounds like a hard worker in the Finnish mold. Watching him speak to Borges in a draft interview, you can tell he was overjoyed and shy. A kid like that is worth rooting for. Here it is:
He obviously has never been to Madison Square Garden. Let’s hope one day he’ll make it. He will get to participate in prospect camp. Always fun to follow.
The final pick was another Swede in defenseman Simon Kjellberg. He went in the sixth round at number 163. There isn’t much on him. I guess I’ll have to look into it.
It’s hard to gauge this draft. It seems like they could’ve done better. Maybe even gotten both Wahlstrom and Kravtsov. Maybe they should’ve moved down if they really loved Kravtsov and recouped another pick. Who knows.
I wonder about all these defensemen and how they’ll fit into the long-term plan. This isn’t a short-term fix. We’re talking about players who are years away. What about Ryan Lindgren, Libor Hajek, Brandon Crawley and Sean Day? Is Tony DeAngelo still part of the team’s plans? What about John Gilmour or Rob O’Gara? Both seem like fringe NHLers who can be backups.
Will Gorton invest long-term in Brady Skjei or make him earn it on a bridge deal? He doesn’t feel like a top pair guy. Not everyone is. They think Miller has a higher ceiling. I hope that’s true.
What is clear is one thing. The Rangers are going to be bad. For how long, I don’t know. With the Hurricanes making a very interesting five player trade with the Flames by acquiring Dougie Hamilton, unsigned prospect Adam Fox and grinder Michael Ferland in exchange for Noah Hanifin and Elias Lindholm, they likely improved. They’re expected to move Jeff Skinner freeing up salary with gifted second overall pick Andrei Svechnikov likely ready. Look for them to trade Justin Faulk.
Everyone in the division is better on paper. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing unless you’re Henrik Lundqvist. It’s never easy to do this. But it has to be done. I’m glad Ilya Kovalchuk signed with the Kings, fulfilling his destiny. Let them have him.
I guess it’s all about the future.