The Rangers are on the verge of signing WHL forward Jake Elmer to an entry-level contract, according to TSN’s Bob McKenzie.
UPDATE: The team has officially announced the signing of Elmer.
OFFICIAL: #NYR have agreed to terms with free agent forward Jake Elmer.— New York Rangers (@NYRangers) March 15, 2019
Elmer, 20, has skated in 66 games with @WHLHurricanes of the @TheWHL this season, registering 38 goals and 40 assists, along with a +24 rating and 41 penalty minutes. pic.twitter.com/wWGkFBA36q
Elmer, 20, plays right wing for the Lethbridge Hurricanes. The 6’1 forward has 38 goals and 40 assists in 60 games. By WHL standards, Elmer is a well-rounded player. He’s a decent skater and has pretty good skill on the puck. He can beat defenders on his own to create offense. His wrist shot consistently beats goaltenders and he can set up some creative passes for teammates. Though he’s not an overwhelming physical presence, he does backcheck hard and fights for pucks.
Blueshirt Banter reported back on February 26th that the Rangers had sent four scouts to watch Lethbridge play Saskatoon, and in that game Elmer was, in my view, the best player on the ice. Here are a few of his notable from that game (#20 in red).
Here are some further thoughts on Elmer from a scout in Western Canada:
“Decent gamble. Certainly a bit of a late bloomer. Good IQ. Good level of skill. Anyone signed at this point is certainly more organizational filler than surefire NHLer but he’s a better bet than they’ve made in the past.”
There are reasons to be skeptical of Elmer’s long-term potential. He is centered by Dylan Cozens, whom some scouts are ranking as high as third overall for the 2019 NHL Draft. Suffice to say that Elmer has benefitted from Cozen’s presence. He is also a 20-year-old in a league full of teenagers and has an underwhelming prior track record; Elmer recorded just 53 points in his previous 116 WHL games coming into the 2018-2019 season. When a nondescript player suddenly starts producing points as an overager on a line with a blue-chip prospect the alarm bells start to ring.
There are reasons to believe in Elmer’s upside, though. For most of his WHL career he played on the Kootenay Ice, who have been absolutely terrible. Not exactly a great spot for someone like Elmer to produce points. He was traded to Lethbridge last season but mostly received depth minutes. Could it be that Elmer simply needed an opportunity in an offensive role to blossom?
And while Cozens has certainly helped Elmer’s cause, but I don’t think he is merely riding coattails here. As the prior clips should show, Elmer is capable of creating his own offense.
Elmer is hardly a grand slam of an addition, but he is a worthwhile no-risk gamble. The Rangers currently have just 43 of 50 contract slots filled, and that number will likely increase in the summer as the Rangers cut ties with some minor leaguers who have worn out their welcome. As such, they have plenty of room for a decent lower-tier prospect who should have enough ability and hockey IQ to make for a competent pro player.