We are less than two weeks away from the 2016 NHL Entry Draft in Buffalo. Last year, the Rangers originally had no picks until 89th overall, but we knew that Cam Talbot plus one of Carl Hagelin or Kevin Klein would be traded. Ultimately, the Rangers ended up with four selections in the top-90, including ones as high as 41st (Ryan Gropp) and 62nd (Robin Kovacs).
The outlook this June is pretty similar. The Rangers are not scheduled to pick until late in the third round; 80th overall. However, the rumor mill is heating up. A potential expansion draft in 2017, a tight salary cap, a weak prospect pool, and the desire to give the roster a different look all make trades once again possible. However, things are far more uncertain this time around. There are probably 10 different players whom management, rightly or wrongly, might decide to move. Or, unlike last year, there's a very real chance nobody of significance is moved. Or, that they're moved, but for picks in 2017 or other assets.
It's Schrodinger's Draft for the Rangers. We just have to assume all of these possibilities will happen. It's an extremely difficult situation to forecast, so we're going to have to compromise specificity for the sake of covering everything. In the next few weeks, I will highlight a few draft-eligible prospects of interest who could be targets for the Rangers should they make a trade that gives them a selection in that territory. After, I will profile some players who are projected to go in the territory the Rangers already do own picks.
Boris Katchouk, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL)
Position: Left Wing
Birthday: June 18th, 1998 (17 years old)
Height/Weight: 6'1, 192 lbs
2015-2016 Stats (Including Playoffs): 75 GP, 30 G, 31 A, 65 PIM, +10
NHL Central Scouting: 25th (North American Skaters)
Hockey Prospect: 22nd
McKeen's Hockey: 25th
ISS Hockey: 27th
Future Considerations: 31st
Craig Button (TSN): 49th
Corey Pronman ESPN): 69th
Katchouk is a player who stood out to me often when I was watching the Greyhounds, where he was teammates with Rangers' goaltending prospect Brandon Halverson. Katchouk is a jack of all trades, master of none. No particular skill set of his is alone incredible. Rather, it's the whole package that is enticing. Though he's not particularly tall, he has a thick, muscular frame, and he uses it well. He is a powerful skater and I imagine it's intimidating for a defenseman when he's accelerating through the neutral zone. This enables him to create lots of transition chances. He's exhausting to watch, and I would think even more exhausting to play against. Every shift he is tenaciously skating and attacking the puck. Offensively, he has an above-average shot but excels mostly in battles for pucks in the slot. He shields the puck well and that combined with his motor makes him very effective when driving to the net.
He can dish the puck well enough to make him versatile. You wouldn't know it from first impression, but he's capable of producing some crazy goals once in a while.
Defensively, he knows where to be and works hard to create turnovers, which makes him an effective penalty killer. This next clip not only shows that, but also the previously mentioned transition ability.
There aren't many negatives with Katchouk. A scout told me that he doesn't exactly come off as an intellectual and that sometimes success and recognition can get to his head. That's not particularly uncommon for any teenager, let alone one who is quickly rising among the ranks. Good guidance from coaches plus a responsible locker room should keep that in check as he grows older. There are no glaring weaknesses in his game. I think it's just a question of what his ceiling is. Does he have enough offensive instincts to consistently produce at higher levels, where defensemen will be a better match for his speed and strength? Or is he just a high-octane depth forward in the NHL?
Will Katchouk hit that next level in his offensive game, like Max Pacioretty did following being drafted? Or is he like Viktor Stalberg, who dominated with his physical gifts at lower levels but was reduced to a depth role in the NHL? All it takes is one team to think optimistically, and Katchouk will be taken towards the end of the first round. If not, then he almost certainly is taken in round two. Aside from personally being a fan of Katchouk, I see him as the kind of prospect that Rangers' Head Scout Gordie Clark is usually enamored with.