Rangers Draft mostly North American players with a twist

If Day One wasn’t a surprise with Alexis Lafreniere going first and Braden Schneider being a player they targeted by trading up to number 19, then the Rangers Draft on Day Two was again mostly focused on North American players with a twist. The twist is a unique one if it works out.

As noted yesterday, Rangers brass decided it was time to move on from former 2017 seventh pick Lias Andersson by trading him to the Kings for a second round pick. Apparently, letting Andersson play for HV-71 back home in Sweden really helped his stock. Teams checked in on him. So, give them credit for being able to net a number 60 pick from LA for the disgruntled center.

The end result was the selection of Will Cuylle. A young left wing who patterns his game after Tom Wilson. He’s posted back-to-back 20-plus goal and 40-plus point season in the OHL for the Windsor Spitfires. The 18-year old Toronto native is listed at 6-3, 204 pounds. With the ability to finish off one touch passes along with a willingness to get the jersey dirty, he sounds like the type of gritty player the Rangers can use. We’ll see how fast he develops.

In the third round, the Blueshirts liked Sweden’s Oliver Tarnstrom with pick 92. A lefty center who’s the son of former NHL defenseman Dick Tarnstrom, he’s currently playing for AIK in Sweden. He went from scoring a goal in two contests for the AIK Junior National Team to partaking in three games for AIK with no points so far. There isn’t much to go on. He is 6-1 and just 163 pounds. So, he’ll have to get stronger.

In Round Four, the Rangers went with a goalie by grabbing Canadian Dylan Garand out of Victoria, British Columbia. Taken at number 103, Garand is a 6-1, 172 pound netminder who moves well laterally and can recover in time if he misreads a shot. He sounds technically sound. In ’19-20, he posted good numbers for the Kamloops Blazers of the WHL. It was a breakout year with Garand going 28-10-3 with a 2.21 GAA, .921 save percentage and four shutouts in 42 games. He represented Canada at the Hlinka Cup posting a 1.51 GAA and .857 save percentage in two games. At the very least, he sounds interesting.

The Rangers are very deep in net with Igor Shesterkin and Alex Georgiev the tandem for next season. Tyler Wall will enter his first pro year at some point with the Wolf Pack. Adam Huska has been loaned to HMK Slovan of Slovakia. Olof Lindbom is in his second year with Mora IK in Sweden. Now, they’ve added Garand. A rare North American goalie to the prospect pool. He isn’t the only netminder they added.

In the fifth round, the organization decided it was worth dealing away a pair of seventh round picks to the Sharks for pick 127 to select center Evan Vierling. After spending part of last year with the Flint Firebirds, he was dealt to the Barrie Colts of the OHL where his production increased. After going 2-8-10 in 15 games with the Firebirds, Vierling was over a point-per-game with the Colts by tallying 12 goals and 22 assists for 34 points in 28 games. Perhaps that improvement was enough to impress Rangers scouts. Elite Prospects describes the left shooting pivot as a two-way, defensively reliable player who is capable of scoring. It also sounds like he doesn’t mind battling opponents in the corners. If it works out, maybe Vierling becomes a quality depth center who will be effective in a secondary role. Those kind of high character players help.

With their own fifth round pick at number 134, the Rangers liked Brett Berard from East Greenwich, Rhode Island. A gritty undersized American left wing who’s listed at 5-9, 163, Berard is of no relation to former Islander and Ranger Bryan Berard. He played for the U.S. National Development U18 team in ’19-20 where he had 34 points (16-18-34) in 41 games with 46 penalty minutes. He also played in the USHL and tallied 18 points (7-11-18) in 13 games. Someone even compared his style to a poor man’s Brad Marchand. They should be so lucky. The bottom line is he’s a fifth round pick. That doesn’t mean he can’t pan out. It’s not always where you drafted, but how well you develop. Berard will attend Providence College this year.

With their sixth round pick, the Blueshirts selected center Matthew Rempe out of Calgary. The big story with the 165th pick is his size. He’s 6-8. The tallest forward ever if he makes his NHL debut down the road. At 6-8, 236, he at least sounds intriguing. In his first season with the Seattle Thunderbirds in the WHL, he did alright by registering 12 goals with 19 helpers for 31 points while racking up 53 penalty minutes over 47 contests. For a guy with his size, Rempe sounds like a solid three zone player who works hard. I wonder if his height will work against him when it comes to skating. He should be interesting to follow.

In Round Seven, the Rangers had a little fun with their final pick by throwing a twist into the Draft. They did it by taking a goalie from Sweden in the same round they stole Henrik Lundqvist in 20 years ago. How’s that for irony? Especially with Lundqvist set to sign with the Capitals tomorrow. Even cooler is the number 197 pick is named Hugo Ollas. Haha. Has there ever been a NHL player named Hugo before? Insert cheesy The Girl Next Door references. Good movie. Elisha Cuthbert. Case closed. Even better, Ollas is 6-8, 238. So, they took a Swede in the identical round they got Lundqvist in 2000. His name is Hugo. And he’s 6-8. Naturally, the scouting report says he goes down on his knees early (butterfly effect) and uses his size to cut off angles. Ollas is described as “well schooled.” He currently is playing for Linkoping HC J20 back home. In seven games, he has a 2.40 GAA and. 894 save percentage. Who knows. Maybe we’ll see him one day in five or six years.

That’s gonna do it for this Rangers Draft. I’ll try to have more on the prospects with no live NHL hockey until next year. Vitaly Kravtsov is 6-2-8 with St. Petersburg SKA. There’s that. I think there’s a good chance Pavel Buchnevich gets traded soon. I’m not suggesting it’ll happen in the off-season. But he looks expendable given what Kravtsov could bring. I expect him to be on the team sometime in 2021.

In other news, the Senators acquired former Pens goalie Matt Murray yesterday for Jonathan Gruden and a 2nd round pick Wednesday. Now, the two-time Cup winner becomes Ottawa’s new number one goalie at age 26. He wasn’t as consistent for Pittsburgh the past two seasons and lost his job to Tristan Jarry. We’ll see if he can help the rebuilding Senators improve. Murray is expected to sign a extension. He’s a Group II free agent.

Anthony Duclair will be looking for a new NHL team again. The Sens waived him. The former Rangers prospect who was packaged to the Coyotes in the Keith Yandle deal, has yet to find a home. He’s gone from NYC to Arizona to Chicago to Columbus and to Ottawa. He can score goals, but isn’t consistent. Defense is lacking. I wish him luck.

The Devils made it official by placing Cory Schneider in waivers to buy him out. He had two years remaining with $12 million owed. That translates to $2 million in dead cap space over the next four years. Mackenzie Blackwood is a restricted free agent. They’ll be looking for a new backup.

The goalie market is flooded. It’ll include veteran Corey Crawford, who Blackhawks Teflon GM Stan Bowman indicated won’t be back after spending 14 seasons with Chicago. He is a two-time Stanley Cup champion that still wants to play. Based on his performance against the Oilers, he still has something left at 35.

Alex Wennberg was also waived by the Blue Jackets, who bought him out. A playmaking center who never got back in John Tortorella’s good graces, the 26-year old should draw interest. Would the Rangers come calling if they walk away from Ryan Strome, who looks to be headed to arbitration?

Veteran Kyle Turris is also available after the Predators corrected a mistake by buying him out. That’s $2 million in dead cap space for Nashville through 2026. Wow. They also swung a deal with the Wild for Luke Kunin. A good move although they had to include a number 37 and 70 to Minnesota, who took Nick Bonino’s salary. The Wild sent back a 101 to complete the transaction.

The Golden Knights haven’t found a taker for veteran Marc-Andre Fleury. Even with them offering to include a first round pick, nobody bit. The problem for Vegas is Fleury is signed through 2022 with a cap hit of $7 million. They don’t want to buy him out due to the dead space it would create. With so many goalies available on the market tomorrow, it’s why teams are staying away.

Braden Holtby, Anton Khudobin and Jacob Markstrom headline the available goalie list that includes Cam Talbot, Thomas Greiss, Crawford, Jimmy Howard and now Schneider. Lundqvist will go to Washington. So, you can cross him off.

Finally, Justin Williams announced his retirement. The epitome of a clutch player, he won three Cups and always came up big for both the Hurricanes and Kings. Happy trails.

About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included separate stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also interned for or hockey historian Stan Fischler and worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil telecasts. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has covered consecutive Staten Island Yankees NY Penn League championships in '05 and '06. He also scored Berkeley Carroll high school basketball games from '06-14 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree. The Battle Of Hudson administrator and chief editor can be followed below on Twitter and Facebook.
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