Potential First-Round Selections for the Rangers
With the Rangers reportedly discussing the possibility of adding a first-round pick, here is a look at three players who might be of interest.
We'll see what happens in the next hour; if anything at all. But there has been discussions of the Rangers moving Cam Talbot to get into the middle of the first round. In fact, San Jose, sitting at ninth overall, has reportedly offered their selection in a bigger deal.
So, just in case, I've done a quick write-up of three players I'm a fan of who could be available for the taking in that range. All three are very different kinds of prospects but intriguing in their own way. Let's hope the Rangers have a decision to make in this area of the draft. Fingers crossed!
Zach Werenski, Defenseman, University of Michigan
Werenski is affiliated with Michigan... for now. There are rumors that he might decide to leave for the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League next season.
A decently sized defenseman at 6'2 and 206, Werenski is just an all-around package. He skates very well for his size and also thinks the game well in both directions. On the defensive end, it's the size, speed, and intelligence that makes him a fantastic shutdown defenseman in the mold of Marc Staal. He's perfectly capable of dealing with crafty wingers through his long reach and agility, but he also has the muscle the contain the bigger forwards. One might look at his 8 penalty minutes in 35 games and determine that he's "soft," but this is by no means the case. He just possesses all the tools necessary to not get caught often; there's no need for him to take penalties.
Offensively, he's a bit raw in terms of carrying the puck up the ice, but he's getting there. He's still perfectly acceptable in that regard, but the ceiling for him, in that regard, is much higher. I'd like to see him take the initiative to carry the puck deep and be a bit more versatile in the offensive zone. He has a very good shot but also dishes the puck very well, and thus was the quarterback of Michigan's power play. Nine goals and 16 assists are fantastic numbers for a 17-year-old defenseman in the NCAA. Noah Hanifin has stolen Werenski's thunder. In just about any other draft he'd be a top-five pick. He's exactly the cornerstone, two-way defenseman the Rangers would love to add.
Travis Konecny, Center, Ottawa 67s
Konecny is getting hype for the wrong reasons in many circles. He wasn't very high on some scouts' lists up until the Top Prospects Game, where he was the best player on the ice. Giving rise to a player because of a one-game sample is naive.
That being said, he's still deserving of a long look in the top-15. Konecny has great hands and scores a lot of pretty goals. Despite his 5'10 and 170 frame, he wins battles in the slot and can score from those dangerous areas. He's the kind of guy who just seems to always know where to be in the offensive zone. Combine that with a dynamic wrist shot, and you end up scoring 29 goals in 60 games despite having virtually no talent around you, as Konecny did this past season with Ottawa.
Away from the puck, he's a bull. Always first in on the forecheck looking to make a hit and/or force turnovers. Just, in general, a high-octane, hardworking player. The big issue for Konecny is in his durability. He's suffered a decent number of injuries the last few years and it creates skepticism of how well he'll hold up against grown men in the NHL. Jeff Skinner, in terms of that aspect as well as the total package, might be a decent comparable.
Pavel Zacha, Center, Sarnia Sting
Zacha is a guy who entered the 2014-2015 season projected to be a top-five selection. Unfortunately for him, the season didn't go particularly well. Two separate suspensions, some injury issues, and the World Junior Championships limited how much he played in the OHL this season; just 37 games plus five playoff games. That not only limits scouts' viewings of him, but also didn't allow him to get into a groove.
However, the skill set is absolutely there. Perfect combination of size and skill to potentially become a legitimate first-line power forward; something that's becoming pretty rare. He's a physically imposing player at 6'3 and 215 pounds, and uses it dominate puck play along the walls. He's a perfectly capable skater for someone of his size, and he has great hands to beat defenders or set up teammates; he and Nikita Korostelev, whom I previously profiled, made a number of nice combination plays together this season.
Aside from the lack of playing this season, Zacha might scare teams off just because of how raw he is. In this draft there are enough prospects with a similarly high ceiling but having shown more consistency. Thus, Zacha has fallen. There's also the issue of him still dealing with utilizing his size and strength in the right ways. He gets arms up too high in hits, and it results in penalties and suspensions.
Zacha is probably the first real "boom-or-bust" player who gets taken in this draft. If all ends up well, he could end up like a Joe Thornton or Ryan Getzlaf. But that's a tremendous leap of faith. In the Rangers' case, their prospect pool leans to the "safe" side with a lot of polished players but lacking in upside. Taking a gamble on a guy with a seriously high ceiling might be a smart move.