The New York Rangers have one of the best farm systems in the NHL. Rangers General Manager Jeff Gorton has done an excellent job in stockpiling young talent. Over the past few years, Gorton has added Leevi Aaltonen, Filip Chytil, Brett Howden, Lias Andersson, Kaapo Kakko, Vitali Kravtsov, Karl Henriksson, K’Andre Miller, Matthew Robertson, Zachary Jones, Libor Hajek, Tarmo Reunanen, Adam Fox, Nils Lundkvist, and Igor Shesterkin.
Even though the Rangers have quite a bit of prospect depth, there is still a noticeable gap. Their right-handed defensive depth gets bleak rather quickly. After Fox, Lundkivst, and Joey Keane, the Rangers do not have anyone else in the pipeline. Given the demand for right-handed defensive talent in today’s NHL, the New York Rangers need to add some depth on the right side in the pipeline.
In addition, the Rangers could always use more winger depth. When you look at the depth chart on DobberProspects.com, you will quickly notice how the talent level tails off pretty quickly. After Aaltonen, the upside crashes and burns pretty fast. The Rangers do have prospects like Tim Gettinger, Ryan Gropp, and Patrick Newell, but their ceilings are pretty low. At best, the Rangers could get a bottom-six forward out of that group in a few years time.
The right wing depth is similar to what the Rangers have on the left side. Obviously, Kakko and Kravstov lead the charge and then the talent level fades out. Ty Ronning and Vinni Lettieri both have low ceilings. Ronning has third line potential, but his NHL ETA seems to be far out. Lettieri projects to be a fourth line if/when he ever becomes a fixture on the NHL roster. With that being said, he seems destined to be an AHL scoring threat.
Since the 2016 Entry Draft, the Rangers have selected quite a few prospects from Finland and Sweden. They have drafted Reunanen, Andersson, Calle Sjalin, Patrik Virta, Lundkvist, Olof Lindbom, Jakob Ragnarsson, Lauri Pajuniemi, Simon Kjellberg, Kakko, Henriksson, Aaltonen, and Edstrom. Looking ahead to the 2020 Draft, it is almost a given that Gorton will draft a prospect from Sweden or Finland.
In addition, Gorton does not draw too many assets from the CHL. In fact, in the 2019 Draft, the Rangers only took one prospect from the CHL (Matthew Robertson, Edmonton Oil Kings). The Rangers have not selected a prospect from the QMJHL since the 2016 Entry Draft and prior to the 2019 draft, the Rangers had not taken a prospect from the WHL since 2016. Gorton has added a few OHLers over the years. In 2018, he drafted two: Keane and Nico Gross.
Something that caught my eye reviewing the Rangers’ draft history was much American talent Gorton has found in the past two drafts. He has selected four Americans, three of who have played in the USHL. Before the 2018 Draft, the Rangers had not drafted a USHL prospect since 2015.
At this stage, it’s abundantly clear that the Rangers are a long shot to compete in the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Yet, they have far more talent that the Ottawa Senators, Detroit Red Wings, Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota Wild, Anaheim Ducks and the Columbus Blue Jackets. With that being said, the Rangers chances of obtaining a pick in the top five is not good, but they can still end up with a top-10 pick. Given that this year’s draft class is one of the best we have seen in a while, a top-10 pick would still be an excellent result.
Unfortunately for the Rangers, adding a RHD with a top-10 pick will not be easy. There is only one defenseman in the top ten (Jamie Drysdale, Erie Otters, OHL) who fits that bill. Drysdale projects to be the 5th-6th overall selection. He is one my favorite skaters in this draft class. When you watch him on the blue line, you will notice how explosive his foot work is. Drysdale’s lateral movement and edge work make him the most-touted defenseman in this class.
Jamie Drysdale has been having quite the start to the season. His improvement in passing and QBing the play is remarkable. Last night he had a strong showing against Windsor scoring 1G 2A.— TPEHockey (@TPEHockey) September 29, 2019
Drysdale is my #9 for the #2020NHLDraft pic.twitter.com/D9xjQdZQPC
Instead, I would hold off on taking a defenseman that early. There is a chance that Dylan Holloway (University of Wisconsin, NCAA, C/LW), Tim Stützle (Adler Mannheim, DEL, F), Anton Lundell (HIFK, Liiga, C/LW), Noel Gunler (Luleå HF, SHL, RW/LW) and Rodion Amirov (Tolpar Ufa, MHL, LW) will be available for the picking. If the Rangers are looking to grab a winger who possesses strong defensive awareness then Lundell or Amirov would be solid options. If Gorton is looking to add a playmaker, then taking Holloway, Stützle or Gunler would make sense.
In addition, the Rangers can find some solid wingers in the second and third rounds. For example, Gorton could draft Alex Laferriere (Des Moines Buccaneers, USHL, RW), who is rising up draft boards due to his robust offensive production. They could also look at Luke Tuch (USNTDP, USHL, RW), Ozzy Wiesblatt (Prince Albert Raiders, WHL, RW) or Lucas Reichel (Eisbären Berlin, DEL, LW).
Going back to the RHD depth concerns, the Rangers should be paying close attention to Braden Schneider (Brandon Wheat Kings, WHL, RHD) and Helge Grans (Malmö Redhawks J20, SuperElit, RHD).
Schneider is a great puck-moving defenseman. He evades traffic well as a puck-carrier but does seem to slow down when he gets to the offensive zone. Occasionally, he will take a bad shot from the point, but bad shot selection can be addressed in development. On the flip side, Grans is a tank (6’3’, 192 lbs) and has been dominant in the SuperElit this season. So far, he has mustered 19 points in 17 games. In order for the Rangers to draft Schneider or Grans, they would be better off trading down on draft night. Schneider and Grans are projected to be late-first-round selections. With a top-10 pick, it would make absolutely no sense to use that pick on Schneider or Grans.
If the Rangers want to wait on addressing their RHD depth, they can sit tight and wait for Topi Niemelä (Kärpät, Liiga, RHD), Michael Benning (Sherwood Park Crusaders, AJHL, RHD) or Ruben Rafkin (Windsor Spitfires, OHL, RHD). However, when you look at their draft tendencies, they will likely have Niemelä higher up on their draft board.
It’s worth noting that (before the deadline) the Rangers are projected to have their own first round pick and Dallas’ third round as well as their own third in the first three rounds of the draft. That situation could change dramatically after the deadline and before the draft itself. All-in-all, this draft class is stacked and the Rangers should be able to walk away from the draft with a few studs in their back pocket.
I want to thank Joe Fortunato and Mike Murphy for letting me write a guest post on Blueshirt Banter. I write for several sites including FC Hockey (QMJHL & US Prep School Scout), DobberProspects (Buffalo Sabres scout/writer), WingsNation and JetsNation. You can follow me on Twitter @JoshTessler_.
Stats from Eliteprospects.com