2016 NHL Draft Grades: New York Rangers Edition

Last year I started doing a full draft day grades for the New York Rangers.

My favorite picks? Robin Kovacs (A), Aleksi Saarela (B+) and bringing in Lukas Bengtsson for a tryout (A). I think I got all those right, even though the latter two ended up not working out for the Rangers due to the Eric Staal trade and Bengtsson signing in Pittsburgh.

My least favorite picks? Sergey Zborovskiy (D), Adam Huska (C), and the Cam Talbot trade (F for not getting the 1st for him when they could).

I was right on the Talbot bit, couldn’t have been more wrong on Huska and seem to be in the process of being proven wrong with Zborovskiy, although the jury is still out there.

Overall what this has told me is that I’m AMAZING at this (no I’m not biased at all, why do you ask?).

So let’s get crack-a-lacking! Remember that grades are based on the player selected, where they’re selected, who was on the board when they were selected and anything else I feel is needed to add in.

Selecting Sean Day in the 3rd Round (81st Overall) (Coverage Here)

Grade: A+

Analysis: Day is only the fourth player in history to earn ‘exceptional player’ status; allowing him to enter juniors as a 15-year-old rather than having to wait until he turned 16.

The situation put enormous pressure and expectations on Day, and when he didn't hit the unrealistic expectations right away people soured on him. As a result, Day is the first player granted exceptional player status to not be taken first overall.

In the weeks leading up to the draft I started compiling what information I got along with my own personal draft rankings to see who the Rangers might target with their first pick in the event they didn't make any moves up or down the board. In my most optimistic mocks I never saw Day falling all the way to the Rangers at 81 overall.

Part of me is hesitant to write this because it continues to foster unrealistic expectations. But when you really sit down and look at Sean Day, he has one of (if not the) highest ceilings of any player in this draft; top four-drafted guys included. Day has the skill set to become an elite two-way defenseman in the mold of Victor Hedman or Drew Doughty. The tools are there, all of them, and it’s a skill set that should have your mouth watering.

With that being said, there’s a reason why he fell 80 spots further than any “exceptional” player before him. To this point Day hasn't been able to put everything together. For a player with such an enticing toolbox offensively, his numbers have been underwhelming. He’s on a bad team — and that’s important to mention — but you still expect more out of him there.

Here’s what isn’t up for debate: Day is easily one of (again, if not the) best skaters in the draft. His passes are crisp and his ability to move with the puck is very Keith Yandle like. To say he fills a need in the system is an understatement and he’s someone who could have been taken much, much, much higher than he was.

If Day puts everything together he’s going to be a steal on a level you can’t really fathom right now. But as high as his ceiling is, he could easily never put everything together and just bottom out.

At the time of the pick, though, and where the Rangers sat on the board there was not a single player better than him to take. This is a very high reward opportunity for no risk. The Rangers should be thanking their lucky stars he fell to them — reportedly they were ready to move up if they thought they needed to — and potentially have an elite player at a position most coveted in this league.

Selecting Tarmo Reunanen in the 4th Round (98th Overall) (Coverage Here)

Grade: A

Analysis: There were more polished prospects on the board when the Rangers picked Reuanen, but he desperately filled a need for adding a puck-moving defenseman in the system.

Reunanen and Day fit the mold Gordie Clark has run the later-round ship the past three years: Taking risks on players with enormous talent who have seen their stock dropped for various reasons. With Day it was the question on his commitment and heart (I have a lot to say about how these are baseless claims, but that’s for later). With Reunanen — like Anthony Duclair and Saarela before him -- it was an injury that dropped him down the board.

I originally had this grade at a B, but after some early research, I bumped it up to an A. Why? Because Reunanen’s numbers two years ago were the same as Olli Juolevi (the 5th overall pick by Vancouver) in the same league before he got hurt last year.

The hope is he follows in the Duclair/Saarela mold as well. Reunanen can get picked in the import draft, and it would be interesting to see how he looks in the traditional junior leagues. Otherwise, developing with men in Finland isn’t an issue, either. His U17 and U20 numbers were really impressive.

Risky, but at this point in the draft you take your chances.

Selecting Tim Gettinger in the 5th Round (141st Overall) (Coverage Here)

Grade: B+

Analysis: This is a prototypical best player on the board pick from Clark, although the team had been targeting Gettinger the whole day. Gettinger’s lowest draft day ranking came from Future Considerations which had him at 92nd, while his highest ranking had him at 51st by ISS Hockey.

Gettinger is a true goal scorer who saw a modest improvement in his second year with the Greyhounds of the OHL.

In Adam’s coverage of him (linked above) he talked about how Gettinger went into the year with the expectations to become a first round pick. He struggled a big out of the gate but started putting things together later.

From Adam:

He very well might just need some time to grow into his body. And has legitimate upside as a third-line winger who can go in the slot on power plays and play penalty kill minutes. With some developmental luck he could perhaps even become the top-six power forward teams covet.

These are the types of players you take “risks” on at this point int he draft. And I’m tossing quotations around risk because at 141st overall you’re not really taking a risk on a guy like Gettinger. If he doesn’t work out exactly how you want him to it was a fifth round pick, but the upside is there for this to turn into a pretty big steal.

Selecting Gabriel Fontaine in the 6th Round (171st Overall) (Coverage Here)

Grade: C-

Analysis: Fontaine is an interesting pick for the Rangers. For starters, he’s an overage who went undrafted last year. That’s not a knock on him — good and even great players go undrafted all the time — but the Rangers passed up on some real talent to grab him here. Mainly Dmitry Sokolov who went to Minnesota in the seventh round.

It just feels like Fontaine would have been available in the seventh round, or even to invite to camp after the draft. Adam has seen him play a bit, thinks he has some real potential as a defensive center in the NHL and added some nice offense despite all those defensive needs heaped onto him.

At this point int he draft you’re swinging for the fences anyway, but I think there were better risk picks on the board than where the Rangers ended up landing.

Selecting Tyler Wall in the 6th Round (174th Overall) (Coverage Here)

Grade: B

Analysis: You might be scratching you head at the Rangers making another pick for a goaltender. In fact, the one position that isn’t in dire need of an infusion of talent would be between the pipes, yet there Gorton and company were calling Wall’s name 174th overall.

Two things to note about this pick: The Rangers have often cited picking “best player available” when they get deeper into the draft, and you’d have to assume this fit that mold. In fact, the top goalie prospect in the Rangers pipeline (and maybe one of the better goalie prospects in the league) is Igor Shestyorkin who was taken two rounds after the Rangers splurged on Brandon Halverson in the 2014 draft. We scratched our heads then too, Clark talked about how he was the best player available and now he’s the top goalie prospect in the system and has flown by Halverson.

Outside of Wall having the BEST last name for a goalie, the talent difference in where he played is pretty large.

Wall is committed to play at UMass Lowell next year, where some of the better prospects in the league have come from.

Ultimately, I trust Benoit Allaire as much as I do Clark. If he wants a goalie I give it to him, so hard to complain here.

Selecting Ty Ronning in the 7th Round (201st Overall)

Grade: A+

Analysis: Scouts and pundits were shocked Ronning lasted as long as he did. Around the middle of the fourth round Adam was gushing about how Ronning was a great value there let alone where the Rangers landed him three and a half rounds later.

Coming off a shoulder injury last year (sound familiar) Ronning exploded for 31 goals and 59 points in 67 WHL games.

Ronning was widely considered to be one of the biggest steals of the draft based of where the Rangers got him, which is always a good thing in terms of value. He’s a smaller player -- which probably scared off some scouts — but he has a hell of a shot and has put up really good numbers at all levels he’s played in. I know the junior junior league numbers don’t mean much, but Ronning put up 77 goals and 153 points in 72 PCBHL games.

He’s a guy to watch, especially since he’s about a year behind in development due to his injury last year, but I expect him to surprise some people.