Hey everyone. Sorry for the brief hiatus, I was studying for an entrance exam and with it finally behind me, I can put all my focus into hockey. Without further ado, here is the continuation of my prospect rankings.
28. Chris Nell G- It’s hard to believe that only four years ago the Rangers had arguably the worst goaltending prospects. Our future after Henrik Lundqvist looked bleak but then all of a sudden, BOOM we have a farm. Chris Nell was one of the recent acquisitions that added to an already deep crease and apparently, the Rangers have liked him for a while.
Two seasons ago, Nell had an astounding year on a pretty poor team for Bowling Green. I don’t really spend a lot of time watching college hockey, and when I do Bowling Green is certainly not at the top of my list. According to the sbcollegehockey.com, it is possible to attribute Nell’s less remarkable season to an unexpected death in the family.
The Rangers have had some good success in finding goalies in the unknown college hockey schools (Cam Talbot), so there is nothing I see wrong with getting a goalie who has shown the ability to carry a bad team. Nell has been known to be a more aggressive goalie, giving the Rangers a large variety in their goaltending pool style wise. Given the goalie depth in North America right now (Halverson, Georgiev, Nell) it can be fair to assume Nell will be getting a good amount of games with the Swamp Rabbits in the ECHL next year.
27.Morgan Barron C – Honestly, I am not a huge fan of taking North Americans late in the draft. To me, those picks are pretty much reserved for the European guys that seem to be sliding. Morgan Barron was not even a CHL/USHL pick he was a Canadian Prep School kid, which confused me quite a bit. I don’t have much to say about Barron because the only thing I watched about him were interviews with him after the draft.
Barron is a big center who plays with speed and strength that helped him be a force in high school. Unfortunately, that competition isn’t exactly the definition of a top league. The good thing about Barron is that he is going to Cornell University, which means the Rangers maintain his rights for four years. He is someone that the Rangers will be keeping a watchful eye over.
Barron is known to be a leader on the ice, and using his Chris Kreider-esque frame was leaned on heavily by the coaching staff. It is clear that Cornell hasn’t produced the best players recently outside of Riley Nash and Colin Greening, but I think Greening may be a good hope of what Barron can be. Greening was a similarly sized prospect and was blessed with the ability to skate. He also came to Cornell from a lower level league before being a consistent producer from his sophomore to senior years. A long term prospect, Greening wasn’t an NHL regular until he was 25, seven years after his draft. He pretty much settled in as a fine 4th liner before cap issues forced him into the AHL.
26. Sergey Zborovskiy D – I have an ulterior motive for Zborovskiy making the Rangers. It is sort of an inside joke but for the people who are reading this who know the name Maksim Tikhonovich, Zborovskiy is him.
In all seriousness, Zborovskiy was a shocking pick up by the Rangers in the 3rd round in 2015. He was projected to go much later but after consultation with a close friend in the Regina Pats organization, the Rangers reached for a guy who was moving up in the draft rankings. Zborovskiy did improve his scoring numbers significantly over the year, which is something a lot of us hoped and thought needed to be done. Unfortunately for him, his massive increase in points is likely attributed to the fact that he played on a stacked WHL team.
While his ability to close the gap while defending on the rush has improved over the three years I am not sure how effective he would be against older and more physically developed players this year. Zborovskiy had among the highest GF%Rel in the WHL this year, which seems nice, but he also had one of the highest QoT’s (quality of teammates) for a defenseman as well. A really interesting point made by Adam Herman in his prospect ranking is that Zborovskiy played a good chunk of time at the mid/end of the season with the top players. Interestingly enough, and this doesn’t go in Zborovskiy’s favor, when looking at his season trends, Zborovskiy’s per 60 stats at 5v5 actually start taking a steep turn downwards.
It seems odd to me that a player who now is playing with a bunch of top players is observed getting a steep decline in his production. We cannot even attribute it to shot percentage dips, as his primary assist rate is going down at the same rate as his goal production. It’s an interesting scenario that I would like to delve a little deeper into in hopes to getting a potential answer, but if Zborovskiy is to have a future as an NHL player, improving his skating so he can be actually efficient in shutting rushes down is imperative. Similarly to other prospects in the Rangers system, Zborovksiy does not have a high ceiling. This first year as a pro will be telling of what his real ability is as he moves from a top tier team to well not one.
25. John Gilmour D – Matt Bod… Uh sorry, wrong small puck moving defenseman. John Gilmour was the appetizer college free agent we signed last summer before the main course of Jimmy Vesey. There was nothing to hate about the signing. We lacked defensemen prospects, this guy seemed pretty good and continued to grow. On a pretty bad Hartford team this year, Gilmour was one of the brighter spots offensively from the back end. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about his defense.
Gilmour bled shots and goals against and it seemed pretty clear that he physically was not ready for the demanding defensive responsibilities of pro hockey. He had a GF%Rel of -12.42 while being one of the better offensive guys, so while he produced at a reasonable clip he was on the ice for a lot of goals against. At one end of the spectrum it can be seen as disappointing but at the other end, we can say that well, Hartford sucked in the entirety and now we know he can produce well in the minors.
In a sense, he is very similar to Matt Bodie who the Rangers traded to Buffalo. Gilmour, just like Bodie, impressed quite a bit at training camp by flaunting his offensive ability and skating but when sent down the defensive portion of the game became simply too much of a detriment for them. He is 24 years old so there isn’t much more development to do, but I am excited to see if he got stronger over the summer. It can be defining for him to make a name for himself as a possible call up if the Rangers need an offensive defenseman.
24.Brandon Crawley D – It’s no secret I wasn’t the biggest fan of the pick when it happened, but Crawley is an example of perhaps being a prospect that has more than what meets the eye. Crawley is known to be one of the more impressive defensive defensemen in the OHL over the last couple of years. If we look at Crawley’s stat line, there really isn’t much pointing to him having an NHL career, at 20 years old you expect even the most defensive minded players to put points up, but I give an exception when a player is on a team like the London Knights.
Crawley was tasked very similarly to Brady Skjei when he was in the NCAA to be the defensive guy on his pair. He had to take care of the partner who made the high-risk plays, and had to be one of the anchors on the penalty kill. As I mentioned I am not a huge fan when a player can’t produce, but Crawley is pro hockey ready and I feel that it played a big role in the Rangers drafting him in the 4th round this summer.
It should also be worth noting that when people reference “defense first” about a defenseman, it usually means that they are actually pretty bad, since it’s a safe term for things that pop out like blocking shots and big hits. There aren’t many advanced stats available at the junior hockey level but for the ones we do have, I think it is fair to say Crawley was a defensive beast. He had a GF%Rel of 14.54 at the end of the season, and that was with a drop off in the last three weeks. Only Olli Juolevi (5th overall, 2016) had a higher QoC than Crawley among London defensemen and he had a GF%Rel of NEGATIVE 6.49.
Using a very primitive list of Goals Against per 60 I made, Crawley had the lowest GA/60 on the Knights, and it’s honestly not even close. Crawlet’s GA/60 was 2.01, Juolevi came in at 2.94 and Mitch Vande Sompel came in at 2.77. Crawley is a strong defensive defenseman that if he improves on his skating can be a quality pro hockey player. The ceiling isn’t very high, but if the Rangers can get a regular bottom pair or even 7th defenseman out of him, it’s a win.
23. Vince Pedrie D – Pedrie, along with Neal Pionk and John Gilmour, are the members of the NYR prospect pool that were undrafted, and were an attempt by Jeff Gorton to add offensive defensemen to the cupboards. “If you don’t shoot you can’t score” was Vince Pedrie’s motto over the course of his NCAA career. and he lived that motto to a tee with 167 shots on goal as a defenseman this year in 39 games. That didn’t change on a poor Hartford team when he against pros had 23 shots in 9 games.
The key thing for Pedrie is to improve defensively. As a skater and offensive force he has shown his aptitude but in order to not be in the same position as Gilmour he must show he can take care of his own end when called upon. Pedrie produced more than Gilmour in the NCAA, plus with a stockier build appeared to be less of a defensive problem than Gilmour. The two players are essentially the two different main kinds of offensive defensemen, while Gilmour is more of a play maker, Pedrie is a gunner. I have Pedrie ranked ahead of Gilmour due to albeit brief viewings of them in Hartford, as well as Pedrie’s absolutely insane ability to produce shots.
22. Patrick Virta C/RW – Ok so I am probably biased towards the European late round picks the Rangers made this summer, but a lot of that is due to the information that is made public by their leagues. Virta plays in the TPS Finnish League, which interestingly enough has produced three NYR prospects in the last two years: Virta, Tarmo Reunanen, and Alex Georgiev.
Virta is a buzzsaw on the ice, extremely tenacious and extremely fun to watch. What seemed to be a recurring theme with the Rangers this draft is they were looking for guys who are likely as close to being NHL ready as possible. Virta is definitely a guy who can maybe make the jump to the NHL as early as next year as a member of the bottom-six. Virta is an undersized forward, but it seems like over the last few years the Rangers are very interested in getting a guy who can be annoying on the forecheck with their speed and quick hands in front of the net. Virta is definitely that.
When he was drafted I mentioned that one of the things that really stood out to me is the fact that Virta was one of the top possession players in the entire league. Virta is playing to a 59.7% CF%, which is solid, but taken with a grain of salt as Liiga does not provide information like QoT/QoC and zone starts. Virta is the top forward on his team in Corsi as well, so I think it is possible that he is less of a product of the team and that it is more of a product of his play.
Another thing that can attribute to the Rangers’ love for Virta is the amount of respect he gains from his team. At only 21, Virta was given an ‘A’ by TPS and is expected to get a lot more responsibility this year. This season will be important for Virta to take the greater responsibility and establish himself as one of the top players in Finland.
21. Adam Tambellini C – It is hard to believe that Tambellini was the first of the three NYR 3rd rounders that included Pavel Buchnevich and Anthony Duclair, but hey, hockey and the draft are weird. Tambellini was always known to have a great shot, and while he has improved on pretty much every asset of his game in the AHL, a poor Hartford team hasn’t exactly allowed his offense to blossom. He can skate and efficiently carries the puck for zone entires, he is dangerous from the slot in, and he is earning the trust of his coaches.
Unfortunately for him, Hartford didn’t have anyone who could’ve helped him produce, and while it would’ve been ideal for Tambellini to put that team on his back, only so much is possible. Tambellini tried to carry the team with more ice time, but his production could’ve been way better with a legit offensive center in the minors and a team that didn’t let goals up every other time the puck was in their end. His stats, especially his GF%, do not look pretty, but that Hartford team was so poor you honestly may have to give him a mulligan.
Tambellini, made most of his better plays last season on the powerplay, whether that be because it allowed him more time and room to unleash his shot or simply because he is a power play specialist. I think it shows that Tambellini would be most effective with a playmaker that can draw guys towards him and open Tambellini up.
Hopefully in what seems like a make or break year, Hartford can finally provide him with a few options. With some healthy players and the offseason moves, plus wild cards like Filip Chytil/Lias Andersson, it’s possible Tambellini has those options. It’s unlikely that Tambellini will be a top-six guy but if he does have an NHL future, I think this season from hell helped improve his all around game to a point where he wouldn’t be a liability if relied upon for powerplay points from the bottom-six.