Last week I covered the potential NYR picks if they decide to go defenseman in the first round. of course, there is the possibility that they want to draft a forward. The interesting thing about the forwards is that all the potential “game breakers” have a glaring issue, whether it be size or injury history. In this post, I will be covering four forwards who have been linked to the Rangers. These forwards do not include centers Lias Andersson, Elias Pettersson, or Nick Suzuki, all of whom would probably be a surprise if they fall this far. Suzuki is projected to go around 12-15, Andersson 14-17, and Pettersson some say can even go top-five. As previously done, I will be listing them in order of my priority.
Klim Kostin (RW, 6’3, 196 lbs)
Kostin is probably one of the most intriguing forwards in the group because he is likely to be available. Originally seen as a potential top-ten pick, Kostin dropped due to a pair of factors. The first is a shoulder injury, and the second is his lack of production in the KHL. To sum him up, Kostin is your big power forward with incredible hands around the net. He loves to be a force and when he causes a commotion he can easily get the puck to a teammate to score. His preferred way to score, though, is to power through the defense and around the goalie to tuck in pucks. He loves to simply dominate a defenseman or two and crash the net.
He is a fine skater and that is what makes him such a threat when he was playing in the MHL (KHL minors). Some people, however, are concerned about his 0 points in 8 KHL games this year. However in the KHL, he is playing against grown men who are hockey pros. Kostin, whose game is revolved around punishing the other team with a surprise stop and start and his powerful skating, likely won’t be a factor as a 17-year-old against 25-year-olds, yet. Kostin also played 4th line minutes because, as we saw with Pavel Buchnevich, unless you’re on a lower tier team, a teenager will not get ice time in the KHL. Flyers’ 22nd overall pick German Rubtsov had 0 points in 15 KHL games this year, then went to the QMJHL and had 22 points in 16 games on a poor team.
As mentioned earlier, Kostin plays an aggressive power forward game and his shoulder injury provides a major concern. Not only do we know nothing about his shoulder injury recovery, but we don’t know if that may change his game to be a little more timid. Fortunately, I don’t think that will be the case, as when interviewed at the combine, Kostin sounded pretty cocky (he also said he will be coming to North America this year). Usually the cocky players know why they are good and remain doing what they do.
My other concern with the shoulder injury is that if the NYR want to draft Kostin, I’d love him to be the game breaker we can use as an all around weapon. He has the power forward game, he has the nastiness, and he has the ability to set plays up when in close. But I’d really love him to get a better shot. A shoulder injury, depending on its severity, may prevent that. All in all, if the Rangers have had their doctors look at the shoulder –which they are allowed to do– I think it is hard to pass on a potential top power forward who has an attitude to be the best on the team. People love his “I am here to win and win only” attitude in Russia and is commonly viewed as a leader in international tournaments and his regular league team.
Kailer Yamamoto (C, 5’9, 160 lbs)
One of the more interesting prospects and knowing my luck, a future Islander, Yamamoto is an offensive dynamo. He is simply a point scoring machine. You don’t get 99 points in your draft eligible year by being lucky. The only thing that Yamamoto has against him is his size because honestly, the kid can do it all. He is a good skater that can dance around players or breeze past them. He has great vision to set plays up and he has a pretty sweet snapshot, especially in the slot. He isn’t afraid to get to the front of the net and look for tips (that I am unsure how that will translate to the NHL given his size).
As a 5’8 center, size is certainly a concern, but there are more small players in the NHL recently and Yamamoto did extremely well in the draft combine this past weekend, among the best in both agility/balance section and anaerobic fitness (showed above). The concern, of course, is his weight, which is honestly too light and may cause him to understandably drop. I usually don’t care about size, especially if the player is super skilled, but drafting a kid under 150 pounds is admittedly risky. That said, we can keep in mind that Kailer’s older brother Keanu is 170 pounds and 5’9, so there may be room to grow for a potential right handed Mats Zuccarello clone. I truly love Yamamoto and won’t be upset if we take him but taking him over Kostin may be difficult for me.
Ryan Poehling (C, 6’3, 185 lbs)
Poehling is a player that is projected to go right before the Rangers’ pick, but there’s always a chance he is available. Poehling is a big boy center that has a lot going for him investment wise. He plays a power forward game and is a strong skater that has a nasty wrist shot and desire to tip pucks. A lot of scouts rave about his intelligence in the offensive zone to set plays up as something that separates him, and although his stats of 13 points in 35 games can be concerning, we cannot forget that he is the youngest NCAA player this year. This kid was 17 years old and still was able to produce against players who may be 3-5 years older than him.
As a power forward, Poehling is most successful when he decides to control the puck, as he is difficult to knock off the puck. But I wish he could use some of his offensive zone intelligence to improve defensively and not lose his man as much. However that is a common concern with 18 years olds nowadays, and he likely will develop in that area while in the NCAA.
Poehling had a 46% faceoff percentage this year, which again is not bad for his age. For comparison purposes, great prospects and other freshmen like Henrik Borgstrom (FLA) are a little bit worse on the dot, but I think it is worth believing that he gets better in that department. Poehling also got off to a slow start offensively but began to pile points up later, suggesting he got used to the competition. That may spark a breakout year in the NCAA next season. I like Poehling but my heart doesn’t tug for him like it does for Kostin or Yamamoto, as they have a higher ceiling.
Shane Bowers (C, 6’0, 178 lbs)
Bowers has been linked to the Rangers by some of the NHL writers and Jess Rubenstein of Prospect Park/Blueshirt Bulletin. I think Bowers is a a player that shows the divide between how the NHL used to be and how it is changing. He is a good player, I genuinely like him as a hockey player. He does everything right, responsible defensively, faceoff ace, plays hard gets to the net and makes his teammates better.
But with all of that said, I really don’t know many first rounders who only had 51 points in 60 games. Now those aren’t bad stats at all, but for our first first-rounder in four years, I am more inclined to go with more talent over a safer pick. Some of his biggest fans say that Bowers will only improve while at Boston University, a great program that develops players. The Rangers obviously have multiple ties both management wise and player wise with BU, so their interest in Bowers can be expected.
Bowers is the perfect player for a team that loves to play the cycle and be responsible on both ends of the ice. He is smart and trustworthy and will obviously start filling out more as he gets older. My only thing is I personally, and once again this is just me, don’t see enough of those high end skills that can potentially make him a good top-six forward. He seems to me like a perfect depth option that can be a solid scorer on the 3rd line with the ability to move up a line here and there. He would also be a solid all-situation guy.
Again, Bowers is a solid 200 foot player, but he has a really low 5v5 P/60 in a high scoring league, and that to me is really concerning. If you don’t believe in stats that’s you but to me that is a pretty significant red flag.