25. Ryan Lindgren, Left Defense
2017 Ranking: N/A
Acquired Via: Trade (2018)
Acquired in the Rick Nash trade from Boston, Lindgren is a physical, shutdown defenseman. Here is the video of his greatest hits (pun intended) I put together at the time of the deal.
Lindgren is, in theory, what one might imagine as a new age example of an old-school defenseman. He plays that smashmouth style, but is under 6-feet tall and not a pylon. He’s a tremendous skater who will be able to keep up, stride-for-stride, with just about any NHL winger.
While the Rangers should and will encourage him to play this way, pro hockey will be an adjustment for him as players are quicker and anticipate better. There were a few times in the AHL where he whiffed on hipchecks. Big hits are great, but no coach is going to care if he’s also getting beat clean consistently and disrupting the team’s defensive shape.
The big concern with Lindgren lies in the offensive side of the game. He’s a decent passer of the puck in the defensive zone and can certainly join the rush, but his puck skills are negligible, his offensive awareness is below average, and his shot is not particularly threatening.
Here is the caveat. Former University of Minnesota Head Coach Don Lucia was extremely old school in his handling of defensemen. Unless you were a legitimate offensive stud, you were directed to play conservatively. Get rid of the puck before the neutral zone, limited touches in the offensive zone, etc. The Rangers have seen the impact of this previously with Brady Skjei, who had limited offensive production at Minnesota under Lucia before producing a fair share in both the AHL and NHL.
In 10 games with the Wolf Pack last season, Lindgren actually produced two goals and two assists in 10 games. He was encouraged to join the rush and even got power play time. Though I don’t imagine he will be used in that role long-term, it’s an indication that the Rangers do want to push him to contribute more on the offensive side. Still, his production at lower levels of hockey is not much.
I see Lindgren as a potential third-pairing, penalty killing defenseman in the NHL, and I think he has a pretty decent shot at reaching the NHL level. I imagine the Rangers internally value Lindgren higher than I do. For me, the limitations on his game lead to me favoring players with higher upside over him.
24. Ville Meskanen, Wing
2017 Ranking: N/A
Acquired Via: Free Agency (2018)
(Written by European Correspondent Alex Nunn)
Free-agent signing Ville Meskanen was a key offensive piece for Liiga’s Ilves last season. He led the club in points-per-game with 44 in 48, and, much like fellow Finnish Rangers’ prospect Patrik Virta, posted consistently strong underlying numbers throughout.
Meskanen is a right-hand winger with good size and a heavy release. He makes solid decisions on when to get the puck away and can score from anywhere in the offensive zone such is the velocity behind his shot. He’s not a dangler but navigates through traffic well and he retains possession in one-on-one battles using his frame and big stride.
There’s not a ton of diversity to Meskanen’s game nor is he overly flexible on the ice, so he’ll likely live and die by his offensive production. He’s someone the Rangers are right to gamble on given the lack of legitimate organizational depth at his position and 2018/19 should see Meskanen adjusting to North America with Hartford.
23. John Gilmour, Left Defense
2017 Ranking: 21
Acquired Via: Free Agency (2016)
After what was a turbulent rookie season in Hartford, Gilmour lived up to his abilities last season in Hartford. His production dramatically increased, producing 26 points in 44 games for an offensively barren Hartford team and making the AHL All-Star Game, where he won the Fastest Skater competition.
The purge of the Rangers’ roster at the trading deadline created an opportunity for Gilmour, among many others. He was a bright spot. For sure, at times his inexperience showed on the defensive side. But his skating stood out in both ends of the ice and he contributed a decent share of offense.
At 25 years old, Gilmour is what he is. Are there still areas to learn and improve beyond just 28 NHL games? Yes, and specifically under Head Coach David Quinn and a new system. Really, though, we’re looking at a player who could be a third-pairing or #7 defenseman. Is that going to make or break the Rangers’ rebuild? No. But as we see every trading deadline, cheap defensemen who can skate have value. Gilmour will be heavily in the mix for a roster spot out of training camp.
22. Ty Ronning, Right Wing
2017 Ranking: 22
Acquired Via: Seventh Round (2017)
In his overage WHL season, the diminutive forward went berserk. He absolutely demolished the Vancouver Giants’ franchise record for goals in a season, scoring 61 in 70 games. Here are some of the goals I had viewed.
As I’ve made note of before, Ronning is interesting because one would typically expect that a 5’9 (generously) scorer would rely on a finesse game. That’s not so, though, because Ronning does so much of his damage above the crease with deflections, puck battles, and rebound chances. Pound-for-pound, he is one of the strongest 20-year-old hockey players out there, and so combined with his competitive nature his size is hardly a problem.
It’s hard to write about Ronning’s long-term outlook without coming off as a buzzkill. Ronning has rightfully received plenty of attention and praise for his performance last season, and that’s fully earned. However, lack of context has created a level of hype that I’m not sure is really fair to him. His 61 goals in 70 games is a hell of a feat, but at the end of the day he was a 20-year-old going up against teenagers. That doesn’t mean it’s irrelevant, but it has to be weighted accordingly.
The Rangers will use Ronning in the preseason and be open-minded, but most likely he will spend the 2018-2019 season in Hartford. There’s no doubt about his work rate. He’s going to give everything every shift, and he has smarts to be an effective forechecker. The size isn’t really a concern for me. Instead, his NHL fate will depend on how much offense he can bring to pro hockey. He has a fairly good chance at turning into a bottom-six NHL forward. Two years removed from being one of the last players taken in the NHL Draft, that’s as good as anyone could have realistically hoped. Right now Ronning looks like a phenomenal selection by the Rangers.
21. Morgan Barron, Left Wing
2017 Ranking: 27
Acquired Via: Sixth Round (2017)
Though he played center in high school, Cornell Head Coach Mike Schafer moved him to left wing for his freshman season, which I believe was the right move for him both in 2017-2018 as well as long-term. I got to speak to both Schafer and Barron following Barron’s two-assist performance against Boston University at Madison Square Garden in November, which you can read about here.
Barron started the season absolutely on fire, producing four goals and eight assists in his first 14 games for Cornell. He cooled off dramatically after that, which wasn’t totally unexpected, and finished with 11 points in the next 26 games. Still, considering he was a true freshman playing in the ECAC, which is a conference heavily filled with players in their 20s, generating 18 points in 33 games and playing a top-six role for a team which made the NCAA tournament is inarguably a successful season. Particularly for a sixth-round pick.
The plan for Barron has not changed. He is going to spend at least two more years with Cornell. He already is doing a good job of utilizing his size along the perimeter, and though his value around the circles is evident, I’d like to see him rotate down low more often and use his strength around the crease as well. Beyond that, it’s just about developing more consistency. We’re looking at a number of years before he might reach the NHL, but so far he looks like good value as a sixth-round pick.