It was announced today that the New York Rangers have placed defenseman Sergey Zborovskiy on unconditional waivers for the purpose of mutual contract termination.
The #NYR have placed Sergey Zborovskiy on unconditional waivers for the purpose of terminating his contract.— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) June 19, 2018
The Rangers drafted Zborovskiy in the third round of the 2015 draft (79th overall). He was one of three third-round picks (along with Robin Kovacs 62nd overall and Aleksi Saarela 89th overall). Saarela was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes as a part of the Eric Staal trade, while the Rangers terminated their contract with Kovacs in October 2017.
This evaluation was very hard for me to get through for two reasons. First, I’m a huge fan of the Rangers’ scouting staff. Secondly, it is not fun to criticize an 18-year-old who is just a month away from being drafted. But I can’t figure out what the Rangers were doing when they selected Zborovskiy in the third round of this past draft.
At 6’4 and 190 pounds, Zborovskiy is huge for an 18-year-old. Size is nice, but is also becoming less and less meaningful with every passing NHL season. Zborovskiy does use the size well, though. He’s an absolute monster along the boards and does a good job of pinning forwards, not allowing them much room to move. He also is vicious in front of his goaltender. He uses his long wingspan to give forwards with the puck a hard time, and it makes him particularly useful no the penalty kill, where it’s important to limit the available ice.
However, the bulk of his game is lacking. The other side of the coin when it comes to his physicality is that he is reckless. He takes a lot of unnecessary penalties. His skating is also, though not quite at Donnay levels, below par. He struggles to keep up with speedy wingers and watching him skate back for pucks dumped into the corners is incredibly painful. When he does get the puck in the defensive zone, he lacks the poise to make the right decisions and often gives the puck away.
In the offensive zone, he can control the puck and isn’t afraid to move down low with it. He also has a pretty strong slap shot. However, the offensive upside is limited; just three goals and 16 assists in 71 regular season games this past season.
Here is the good news. Zborovskiy is only 18, and it was his first season both playing and living in North America. So he’s very raw. Ryan Graves, a similarly built defenseman who made significant strides between the time he was drafted and now, is an example of why you sometimes just need to give a player time to marinate. So I understand that this the Rangers taking a leap of faith and hoping that the dice roll favorably on Zborovskiy in his development. But these kinds of players are there to be taken in the later rounds of the draft. There was so much talent left on the board at 79th overall, but instead the Rangers opted for a massive project who has the look of a third-pairing defenseman. I very much hope to be wrong about Zborovskiy, but I, along with many WHL people, am mystified by this selection.
Zborovskiy signed his entry-level contract with the Rangers in July 2016 after spending two seasons in the WHL with the Regina Pats.
OFFICIAL: #NYR have agreed to terms with defenseman Sergey Zborovskiy on an entry-level contract.— New York Rangers (@NYRangers) July 26, 2016
He remained with the Pats in 2016-17 and played for Team Russia in the World Junior Championship. This past season, he played in the Rangers’ organization with both the Hartford Wolf Pack (10 games, zero points) and their ECHL affiliate, the Greenville Swamp Rabbits (17 points in 47 games).
By terminating his contract, the Rangers have opened up another contract slot and created more space for their incoming defensive prospects.