It is time for another year of preparing for the NHL Draft, and as usual I will take a bunch of shots in the dark at guessing which player the Rangers will draft late in the second round. It’s always tough waiting around as all the top talent is taken by other teams but... wait, hold on...
I have just been informed that the Rangers have a first-round pick this year. Insanity! The Rangers own the 21st pick, which is their highest selection since they took J.T. Miller at 15th overall in 2011. Unfortunately, this is one of the weakest draft classes in some time, but nonetheless there are plenty of quality players who will be available to the Rangers. Over the next few weeks, I will attempt to cover the players I think the Rangers’ should covet.
Conor Timmins, Sault Ste. Greyhounds (OHL)
Position: Right Defense
Birthday: September 18th, 1998 (18 Years Old)
Height/Weight: 6’1, 185 lbs
2016-2017 Stats (including playoffs): 78 GP, 8 G, 61 A, 79 PIM, +55
NHL Central Scouting: 18th (North American Skaters only)
Craig Button (TSN): 25th
ISS Hockey: 28th
The Nation Network: 39th
FC Hockey: 44th
Corey Pronman (ESPN): 44th
Jeff Marek (Sportsnet): 45th
Every year it seems I look towards the Soo Greyhounds for inspiration on draft-eligible players, and this year is no different. An OHL employee pointed me in the direction of Timmins two years ago as a rising talent, and his evaluation has been justified so far. Timmins was heavily leaned on by a Greyhounds’ team that surprised many with how competitive they were in what was supposed to be a transition season.
Timmins is the opposite of Sean Day in that his strengths don’t immediately jump out at you, but rather take a while to become appreciated. He’s a good skater, and can carry the puck. He’s not going to take on entire five-man units by himself and dangle end-to-end, but he can carry the puck and move play up the ice. His passes are crisp and strong, which allows for plays to start quickly from him at the point.
The biggest selling point on Timmins is his brain. As with any 18-year-old, he’s not perfect, but mentally speaking he’s pretty close to professional levels. It’s incredibly easy to imagine him thinking the game like a quality NHL defenseman with a few more years of improvement. His poise with the puck is tremendous, and I put together a few clips from my viewings of him as examples.
As these clips show, he is not fazed by pressure. He is not intimidated into dumping the puck up the ice, but rather will work his way out of pressure and find an outlet. The assist in the last clip aside, these are plays that won’t show up on highlight reels, but are important. Most defensemen touch the puck in the defensive zone over two dozen times per game. A defenseman like Timmins who can confidently make plays from the back end and ensure maintained possession up ice will gradually tilt the ice in his team’s favor. He’s a very good balance between high-reward plays while limiting the risk.
The puck poise and passing ability have manifested in offensive production. Here’s an impressive chart from NHLNumbers’ Jeremy Crowe.
CHL first-time eligible dmen since 2012/13 in 5v5 pts/gm vs PP pts/gm.— Jeremy Crowe (@307x) March 28, 2017
Conor Timmins' season keeps looking even more impressive... pic.twitter.com/nb0R2xuPhc
Timmins’ insane five-on-five production is almost unmatched over the last five years among draft-eligible CHL defensemen. He projects more as a second-unit power play guy, but his ability to move the puck in tight areas makes him an excellent even strength point producer much like Brady Skjei.
Defensively, Timmins is pretty polished. His gap control is very good. His stick is overaggressive sometimes, but in general he keeps the play in front of him and doesn’t give up much space one-on-one. His coverages in man-to-man are excellent. The improvements necessary are pretty typical for any defensemen like him. He needs to get stronger, and he needs to fine-tune everything else.
Extremely Loose Comparables
Clearly, if Stralman and Brodie should not be the expected projection for Timmins but rather the best case scenario. More realistically, he projects as a #2 or #3 defenseman. Jon Cooper has repeatedly spoken to the idea that Anton Stralman isn’t a Norris-caliber defenseman, but he’ll bring out the best in one (such as Hedman). Currently, Mattias Ekholm is playing that role next to P.K. Subban in Nashville. I see Timmins in a similar light. He’ll bring out the best in whomever you pair him with.
All teams, but ESPECIALLY the Rangers given their depleted prospect pool, must select the best best player available in the first round. That being said, right-handed defensemen is by far the biggest need within the organization at all levels. That Timmins is one certainly does not hurt his case. Admittedly, Timmins might be a slight reach at 21st overall, but picking him there could certainly be justified. Maybe more ideally the Rangers trade down a few spots and take him later in the first round.