The New York Rangers were surprisingly busy on Saturday, making two pretty big trades, one expected one and (to this point) not making one they probably should. The below is a grade for each move the Rangers made and reasoning behind the grade.
Please note that each move is looked at in a vacuum. So the Carl Hagelin trade will look at the return only and NOT what the Rangers did with the return picks. Those will each be graded separately. Note that each move is linked to our corresponding article you can re-visit to see our coverage.
Trading Carl Hagelin, the 59th overall pick and the 179th overall pick to the Anaheim Ducks for Emerson Etem and the 41st overall pick. (Coverage here)
Analysis: Moving Hagelin was something we probably could have seen coming. With the Rangers strapped by the cap, and their refusal to move any of the biggest problem contracts (hint: Dan Girardi, Tanner Glass and Kevin Klein) they needed to get creative. Moving Hagelin hurts, mainly because he's such a brilliant defensive player and has been a core member of this team for a lot of years.
At the very least, however, the Rangers moved him once they realized they were not going to be able to afford him and they moved him before entering contract negotiations where any snags would have driven his value down lower. The Rangers were able to move up in the draft (from 59 to 41) and they got a former first round pick in Etem.
I'm higher on Etem than most. In juniors he was a prolific goal scorer (his final year in the WHL saw him score 61 goals in 65 regular season games and then another seven goals in seven playoff games), he's put up 75 points his last 72 AHL games (I'm excluding his rookie year in the AHL when he notched 16 points in 45 games) and he has 112 games of NHL experience (just 31 points, though).
His numbers are eerily similar to J.T. Millers, and everyone from Anaheim that I've talked to agreed that -- again, similar to Miller -- he never got a fair shot with the Ducks and could explode in the right situation.
With this move the Rangers got four years younger, a player with a much higher offensive ceiling, a fast (but not as fast as Hagelin) skater and a guy with far more RFA control than the team had left with Hagelin. The downgrade, of course, is Etem is still unproven in the NHL and he's a significant downgrade defensively. The latter is somewhat negated by Jesper Fast, who is projected to be a replacement for Hagelin who is just as fast, just as good defensively and might even be able to add the same offensive punch.
There's enough risk to keep this move out of the "A's" territory, and I would have liked to see Hagelin earn more than just an extra 18 spots in the draft, but the Rangers might have gotten a star in return themselves so I'm pretty happy with what Glen Sather and company did here.
Selecting Ryan Gropp with the 41st overall pick. (Coverage here)
Analysis: This is a really tough pick to judge, because while I'm removing Gropp from the Hagelin trade I am grading these picks while also keeping in mind who the Rangers passed over to get them. And when the Rangers came up to the podium at 41 Daniel Sprong (Adam's profile here), Oliver Kylington (Adam's profile here) and Jeremy Bracco were all still on the board and all three were consensus first round picks. The Rangers passed on all of them to take Gropp.
Now, keeping in mind it's their job to obviously love the picks, Jeff Gorton told Adam in the scrum after the picks that Gropp was the 6th ranked forward on the Rangers draft board. As in, the sixth best forward in the draft behind names like Connor McDavid, Jack Eichel and Dylan Strome. And Gorton also insinuated other teams were very high on Gropp as a sleeping elite talent in the draft and they wanted to move up to make sure they could snag him.
Originally I hated the pick, mainly because of who the Rangers passed up on to make it, but as I dug deeper into Gropp the pick started to grow on me -- although the risk's are there. Watch his highlight video -- and yes, I'm aware any prospect has an amazing highlight video -- and you see a player who has a nose for the soft areas of the ice, has a finishing touch most players at his level don't have and is an underrated passer.
The notion his numbers benefited from playing on a line with first round pick (drafted 16th overall by the Islanders) Matthew Barzal is incorrect. Gropp actually had slightly better point-per-game metrics with Barzal out of the lineup when he needed to carry the offensive load himself.
In summary: The pick grew on me, but there is definitely risks in passing up some falling talent to grab him where they did.
Trading Cam Talbot to Edmonton for the 57th overall pick, 79th overall pick and the 184th overall pick. (Coverage here)
Analysis: I'm basing this grade off the offers we know Glen Sather had in his pocket over the week leading up to the draft. Going into the draft Sather rejected an offer worth two second round picks and then on Friday Darren Dreger reported Sather had an offer that included a first round pick. Both offers -- even if the first round offer was for a future year -- were better than what Sather ended up getting.
Sather got greedy and got burned for it. Trading Talbot was the right move, but the landscape changed beneath the general managers feet and he never adjusted. Really bad asset management here.
Trading the 57th overall pick for the 62nd overall pick and the 113th overall pick.
Analysis: The Rangers got their man (more below) and earned another pick with a quick move. In a deep draft, these moves are underrated and important.
Selecting Robin Kovacs with the 62nd overall pick. (Coverage here)
Analysis: This is a really good, smart pick. Adam's analysis in his prospect review (before the Rangers made the pick) is here. From his story:
Why is he in the Rangers' range of late 2nd? Well, I'm honestly not sure. Hockey Service claims they were close to making him a top-30 talent, while Future Considerations ranks him as their "most underrated" player available in this draft. I think there's a concern on upside, perhaps. Kovacs seems like a guy who could easily end up as a second-third line tweener. But there is certainly top-six upside and perhaps even some hope as a low-end first-line winger.
The Rangers had their eye on him and got him at 62. Kovacs led his SHL-2 team in scoring (17 goals and 11 assists in 52 games) which is exceedingly rare. There's also this:
Robin Kovacs (NYR, 3rd round, 62) had the most goals (17) by a junior in Allsvenskan. Filip Forsberg won that award in 2013 with 15 goals— Mike Gorton (@MGorton_9) June 27, 2015
Love the pick. Especially because in some circles he was ranked as the 8th overall European skater (no small feat) and as high as 30th overall.
Selecting Sergey Zborovskiy with the 79th overall pick. (Coverage here)
Analysis: The only thing saving this pick from being an "F" is the scouting community I talked to expressing their love of Zborovskiy being a late blooming player other teams had been contemplating reaching for as well. He's an enormous defender and he has some significant offensive upside from those I've talked to -- although you'd never know it from his 19 points in 72 WHL games. There is a ton of truth behind it being his first year in North America, though, and adjusting to a completely different country isn't exactly easy.
The problem with this pick is how early it came. ISS had him ranked 145th and I've also seen him ranked 179th and off the board completely. I'm all for going boom or bust, but there were safer options in the third round.
I might eat my words with this one, but there were better options on the board. Hopefully I do have to put my foot in my mouth here.
Selecting Aleksi Saarela with the 82nd overall pick. (Coverage here)
Analysis: Total boom or bust pick here, but at the time in the draft I think this is exactly what the Rangers needed to do. Saarela had 12 points in 51 Finnish League games. He also had a spectacular U18 and U19 season for Finland.
From his elite prospects scouting report:
A dangerous offensive winger that creates energy through scoring chances. Possesses good hockey sense as well as good hands and stickhandling ability. A smooth and speedy skater who has a lot of jump in his step. Not very large in stature; however, his diminutive size doesn't deter his scoring prowess, and that is what he will have to rely upon to be successful. (Curtis Joe, EP 2014)
Again, the Rangers passed on some falling talent here, but when you draft for skill you can't really complain about the pick.
Selecting Brad Morrison with the 113th overall pick. (Coverage here)
Analysis: With this pick the Rangers actually grabbed a falling talent. Morrison's draft rankings were sort of all over the place (some as high as 60 others as low as 170) but overall he hovered around the 75-85 expectation. To get him at 113 was good work.
Selecting Daniel Bernhardt with the 119th overall pick. (Coverage here)
Analysis: The Rangers ended up passing on Dmytro Timashov to make this pick. Bernhardt had a great year in the junior league in Sweden (61 points in 44 games) and has some serious upside, but Timashov was one of the furthest falling players in the draft and the Rangers let him go to make this pick.
Selecting Adam Huska 184th overall.
Analysis: This is a Benoit Allaire special. The Rangers claim they had Huska ranked very high on their draft board and Allaire insinuated you never know how the goalie situation is going to turn out in a few years so the Rangers wanted control over him. Huska's numbers are pretty poor to this point in his career, but I'll defer to Allaire on this one.
Bringing in Lukas Bengtsson on a tryout.
Analysis: Every year quality players are passed up on and don't get drafted. Bengtsson is an older (he's already 21) defenseman who has a wealth of offensive potential. In the junior league in Sweden last year he notched 31 points in 43 games and then had four points in nine SEL playoff games (he must have gotten called up). These are the types of player you need to bring in after the draft. Hopefully he sticks.