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Blueshirt Banter 2018 New York Rangers Prospect Rankings: 20-16

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2017 NHL Draft - Portraits Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

20. Michael Lindqvist, Right Wing

2017 Ranking: N/A

Age: 23

Acquired Via: Free Agency (2018)

Here is a scouting report from one of our European correspondents, Alex Nunn, followed by a few thoughts from me.

Alex:

Michael Lindqvist made an impressive step-up to the SHL with Färjestad last season scoring a team-high 20 goals, good for tied-fifth among all league skaters while playing significantly fewer games than most due to mid-year injury. His production was perhaps a little too special-teams reliant, but he’s a player who can punish in all situations nonetheless.

Although too a solid (if unspectacular) playmaker, Lindqvist’s bread and butter is his high-end release. He’s a strong skater with good speed and a shoot-first mentality who finds dangerous pockets of space well and can finish one-on-one. There’s not much to his game defensively, though Lindqvist gets back and always puts in a shift.

As a right-hand scoring winger he fills a need for the Rangers’ organization, much like fellow European free-agent signing Ville Meskanen. And similarly to Meskanen, Lindqvist will spend the early part of 2018/19 adjusting to the North America game while perhaps competing for a roster spot against one another.

Adam:

As Alex mentioned, one of the concerns with Lindqvist’s production in the SHL this past season is how reliant he was on the power play; 10 of his 22 goals were scored with the man advantage. The other concern is that his shooting percentage was a very high 27.8%. He did not even score at this rate in Swedish’s second division the previous three seasons. Therefore, there’s plenty of reasons to question whether his breakout 2017-2018 season is really repeatable.

Nonetheless, Lindqvist is exactly the kind of player the Rangers should be signing. At worst, he proves to be fool’s gold and is relegated to the AHL or returns to Sweden with no harm done. The upside is a 20-plus goal scoring winger, which is the kind of upside the Rangers sorely lack from wingers in their prospect pool outside of the recently drafted Vitali Kravtsov.

19. Olof Lindbom, Goaltender

2017 Ranking: N/A

Age: 18

Acquired Via: 2018 Draft (Second Round)

In what was maybe their most surprising selection in years, the Rangers took Lindbom 39th overall this past summer.

I’ll say this. Lindbom fits the mold of a Benoit Allaire goaltender. At 6’2, he has the ideal frame for a modern NHL goaltender. Whether coincidental or inspired, he mirrors fellow Swede Henrik Lundqvist in style. He plays deep in his crease and tracks the puck well. You can see that from one example from my viewings of him at the U18 World Championship back in April.

The foundation is there and I don’t imagine Allaire will have too much trouble getting started with him.

As Greg Balloch of InGoal Magazine, who is much more informed than I, alluded to in June, the concern with Lindbom is athleticism. Not so much in terms of stretching for saves, but rather t-pushes off the post, lateral movement across the crease, and so on.

Again, I’m no goaltending expert. But in my opinion the top goaltender available in the draft was Lukas Dostal, with Jakub Skarek a close second (Balloch had them third and second, respectively.) So my personal preference would not have been Lindbom.

But the bigger problem with this selection is philosophical rather than specific to Lindbom. Take a look at what the Rangers have done in goal recently. Lundqvist was a seventh-round pick. Igor Shestyorkin was a fourth-round pick. Adam Huska was a seventh as well. Cam Talbot and Aleksandar Georgiev were signed as free agent prospects. Goaltending can be addressed by adding a number of them in bulk as late-round picks and free agents. Lindbom is a perfectly good goaltending prospect, but is he meaningfully better than one of the many the Rangers could have drafted three or four rounds later? I don’t believe so. In the process, they passed up on a number of skaters with the kind of quality difficult to find beyond the top-50 picks or so.

18. Joey Keane, Right Defense

2017 Ranking: N/A

Age: 19

Acquired Via: 2018 Draft (Third Round)

After going undrafted in 2017, the Rangers scooped Keane up with the third-round pick acquired from Boston in the Nick Holden trade. Keane is a smooth skating, two-way defenseman. On the defensive side of the puck, he is very well-rounded. That skating ability allows him to win many races and close on puck rushers. He is very aware of his surroundings on controlled plays in the defensive zone and always seems to pick up his man and win puck battles.

He put up a decent amount of offense - 12 goals and 32 assists in 64 regular season games - though it should be noted that he played with some tremendous offensive players including 2018 second-overall pick Andrei Svechnikov. As a pro, he seems likely to contribute mostly transition offense. He’s not someone who makes big plays in the offensive zone, but he’ll rack up a decent share of assists just with his passes through the neutral zone and quick movement from the point.

Indeed, Keane is a master of the little things. He’s not going to be the focal point of a defense, nor the guy who gets the accolades, but shift-by-shift he tilts the ice in his team’s favor. Mitch Brown of The Athletic tracked some microstats in the CHL last year, and he found the Keane was as good as anyone at creating zone exits and entries. In general, his team had the better share of offensive opportunities with him on the ice.

Currently, Keane is playing for the USA’s U-20 team at World Junior development camp. He survived initial cuts and was singled out by USA Hockey’s John Vanbiesbrouck as one of the more impressive players in camp.

It’s important to note that Keane is 19 years old, so he has one year of development fewer than most players drafted in 2018. His upside is perhaps as a #4 defenseman who can play a number of roles and be relied on against top lines. In my opinion the Rangers should have gone for one of the multiple players available at 88 with massive upside, but in a vacuum Keane is a pretty defensible pick and certainly a quality prospect.

17. Patrik Virta, Wing

2017 Ranking: 28

Age: 22

Acquired Via: 2017 Draft (Seventh Round)

(Written by European Correspondent Alex Nunn)

2017 seventh-round pick Patrik Virta met every realistic expectation in his post-draft year. As a middle-six forward with the occasional foray onto TPS’ (of the Finnish Liiga) top line, Virta matched his goal tally (14), more than doubled his assist total (26), and continued to post strong underlying numbers among his team-mates for a second consecutive season.

For the most part Virta’s production was spread out across the season minus a couple of red-hot patches. He was able to influence most games throughout, if not directly on the scoreboard then by creating chances and driving possession. His smarts and on-ice awareness are his biggest strengths and he used them well to create space and find line-mates.

Virta exercised an out-clause in his TPS contract earlier this summer which would allow him to sign in the KHL. He’ll spend next season with Slovakia’s Slovan Bratislava, a bottom-half club who should be able to offer Virta consistent top-six minutes at either center or wing. It’s a step up in quality of competition and a challenge that I think makes a lot of sense for him at this stage if he’s not going to North America just yet.

16. Jakob Ragnarsson, Left Defense

2017 Ranking: N/A

Age: 18

Acquired Via: 2018 Draft (Third Round)

(Written by European Correspondent Tobias Pettersson)

Jackob Ragnarsson is a two-way defenseman who was a regular on Almtuna’s 3rd pairing in HockeyAllsvenskan (Swedish second division). While his playing style is more focused on the defensive aspect of the game, he has a knack for finding himself in scoring positions when he joins the rush. He doesn’t look natural going forward but his 13 points (4+9) in 47 games (15:24 TOI/GP) is very impressive for a teenage defenseman in Allsvenskan. Defensively, he uses his skating to his advantage to stay in position and to keep his gap control pretty tight. He plays a fairly aggressive style defensively. He needs to fill out his frame to back up his physical style.

For next season I expect Ragnarsson to become a more important player for Almtuna, earning a bigger role for the team while improving in every aspect but especially with the puck. His numbers through J18/J20 (Swedish juniors) along with his rookie season in Allsvenskan show there’s offensive ability there to work on.

His NHL projection is still that of a more defensively minded two-way D-man. His ceiling is second pairing if he improves a lot offensively, but a more likely projection is third pairing.

Click here for links to the rest of our prospect rankings.