The Rangers Need Truly Elite Talent (and a Little Bit of Luck)

With the dust settling on Saturday’s lottery, the long wait for the 2018 NHL Draft drags on. As Dave and Pat have noted, the ninth overall pick that the Rangers possess is by no means a death knell.  Trading up is a possibility, but conventional wisdom holds that unless Jeff Gorton can maneuver into the top three, it’s better to hang onto the pick and see if some classic #HockeyMan folly results in a very good player falling into the Rangers’ laps. Being an optimist, I’d be fine with this strategy.

However, there’s a counterargument, which in my mind starts starts here, with a tweet from noted smart Rangers fan and friend to the blog @HockeyStatMiner:

As you can see, there are a lot of brand names on this list.  The Rangers are all but guaranteed to land themselves a good-to-great NHL player at ninth overall, unless they totally Hugh Jessiman the situation (Jessiman was the 12th overall pick in 2003, but you get my point).  But are any of the names on the list above truly franchise-changers?  No.  The best players are core pieces, but they’re not the guy you build a team around.

What’s come into sharp relief for me watching these stress-free playoffs so far is that the number one priority for building a true contender is elite talent.  Look at the teams and players that are still competing.  Sure, one could argue that the Golden Knights lack a truly elite player, but the fact that both William Karlsson and Jonathan Marchessault played at a point-per-game pace this season can’t be discounted either.

And that brings me to the second part of the equation.  In addition to elite talent, all hockey teams need some sort of luck.  Sometimes, luck shows up in the form of a PDO hot streak, and other times as a fortunate penalty call (or non-call) at a crucial time in a playoff game.

If the Rangers have designs on turning their fortunes around quickly, they’ll need a different form of luck.  They’ll need one of their current young players or upcoming draftees to outperform his draft position and turn into a franchise cornerstone.

There is actually an example of this happening to the other Madison Square Garden tenant in recent history.  In June of 2015, the New York Knicks selected Kristaps Porzingis fourth overall in a draft that, beyond consensus #1 Karl-Anthony Towns, didn’t boast any “sure things”.  Many Knicks fans grimaced and booed the pick, immediately flashing back to memories of Frederic Weis, the European big man the Knicks chose instead of Ron Artest.  In case you’re not a basketball fan, Artest went on to become an NBA All-Star and Champion.  Weis never played an NBA game.

But the Knicks bet on Porzingis’ ceiling, and despite a knee injury and general mismanagement around him, they were right.  Porzingis is a truly elite player.  He’s the type of player you can build a contending team around in the NBA.  In many ways, his situation in New York is comparable to the mess that Connor  McDavid is currently dealing with in Edmonton.  Their teams are bad through no fault of their own.

To bring it back to hockey, there are some examples of this happening in the NHL in recent memory.  Patrice Bergeron was drafted 45th overall.  Anze Kopitar?  11th.  Mark Scheifele?  7th.  Brent Burns? 20th.  I’m obviously focusing on skaters here, but how about Henrik Lundqvist? 205th.  You get the point.

The Rangers got very brief glimpses at Lias Andersson (7th overall) and Filip Chytil (21st) last season, so it’s too early to draw conclusions about them.  The whole point of accumulating draft picks, as the Rangers have done over the last 18 months, is to give themselves as many chances as possible to strike gold.  And while scouting is a massive component in the drafting process, luck often prevails over wisdom.

So perhaps our strategy as fans this summer should be to break out our lucky charms – you know, unwashed jersey you’d wear or the lucky keychain you’d clutch during a tense playoff series – as the Rangers make their draft choices in June.  Either that, or back the truck up for John Tavares, but that’s a story for another blog post.

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35 thoughts on “The Rangers Need Truly Elite Talent (and a Little Bit of Luck)

  • May 3, 2018 at 7:15 am

    Actual wisdom in this post—value is everywhere if you know how to find it, in any line of work. Except for the line about Tavares, hah.

  • May 3, 2018 at 7:24 am

    I think back at the year we landed a kid who was slated to be a major contributor, and top 3-5 pick, but fell into our lap at around the 10th pick. He was going to be our savior, but died at a young age in Russia. Yes, Cherapenov, sorry for the spelling if incorrect, would have done just that. We had some lousy luck, as did the kid, who died of a heart attack. We all know that a draft is a crap shoot, but with all the picks we have to work with this season, and the number of very talented kids available, I sleep well at night at the thought of one, or more, will be wearing Ranger blue soon!!!!!!!!!

  • May 3, 2018 at 7:29 am

    Good talent at 9th pick but super luck to turn that into elite talent right away

  • May 3, 2018 at 7:35 am

    I keep every pick and draft the best available at the time regardless of position.

  • May 3, 2018 at 8:02 am

    They need young, skilled forwards. I don’t know if they get that at 9.

    The Rangers evidently do not think so because it’s no secret that they want to move into the top 5, where they are guaranteed to get one there.

    • May 3, 2018 at 8:30 am

      If you look at mock drafts the skilled forwards are gone by the 9th pick. One of the defenseman would most likely be available at that spot.

      • May 3, 2018 at 9:34 am

        Yeah, the only way this happens is if the teams 4-8 go for a bunch of defenseman leaving someone like Wahlstrom at 9. It’s very unlikely.

      • May 4, 2018 at 7:51 am

        Agreed James, I see Dahlin, then the elite forwards going, then D men. Which is not the worst thing but it is the reason why the Rangers will try to move up and grab one of the 3-4 top forwards.

    • May 3, 2018 at 12:19 pm

      Posted on the other BSB, but definitely worth sharing here:

      • May 4, 2018 at 7:54 am

        The top 10 rankings is generally the way I see it as well. So either they move up or “reach” for Farabee at #9. I think at that point, maybe they trade down.

  • May 3, 2018 at 8:15 am

    It’s a good article, but it’s weird that you talk about Marchessault and Karlsson without pointing out that Marchessault went undrafted (nice job by the Rangers there letting him go after a year in Hartford) and Karlsson went #53. It ties in nicely to your point about luck but those dots are never connected.

    There are TONS of examples in recent years of elite talent lasting much further than 9. Giroux (22), Barzal (16), Kucherov (58), Marchand (71), Tarasenko (16), and Kuznetzov (26) are just a few from the last decade that I can think of. At the end of the day, anything outside the top 3 has historically been more about luck than anything else – it’s just a question of sometimes passing on the “safe” pick for the low floor, high ceiling type that this organization has seemed to avoid for as long as I can remember.

    And of course, never forget who the 9th pick in 1986 was!

    • May 3, 2018 at 10:06 am

      My understanding is that Marchessault was the main reason he didn’t end up a Ranger, not the front office – he saw a quicker/better path to the NHL with Columbus. He had contract offers from both and said money was not a factor (which may have been a fib…but I suppose we have to take him at his word, and the difference probably wasn’t all that much money at that stage in the process). To be fair to all involved, he is a very rare case, to break out at 26-27 like he has to become a near PPG player…he got more chances from more teams than a lot of players do.

  • May 3, 2018 at 8:58 am

    The trick in finding elite talent is having a scouting staff capable enough to do so. Our scouts have for the most part been at this since Sather came here in 2000. In that time, nearly 20 years and over a hundred of draft picks, we have found only one elite player. We have picked in the top 10 and top 15 many times with nothing to show for it except Staal, far from a star. Montoya, Mcilrath, Jessiman, that right there is a firable offense but most of these clowns are still here “scouting” the next bust. Drafting Anderson over Middlestadt is their most recent brilliant move, while Andersson may still turn out to be good to decent 3 line forward, thats not what you are looking for at #7 overall. The kid’s biggest issue is he isnt a good eneough skater to be an elite forward. I have zero confidence in this group’s ability to find an elite player. The only way for that to have happened was if we won the lottery. That would have idiot proofed them from finding the next underwhelming or bust of a player high in the draft.

    • May 3, 2018 at 10:44 am

      I just find it really bizarre how they keep plucking gems (comparatively speaking – not necessarily stars) from the trash heap in later rounds or even outside of the draft, but keep whiffing on earlier round picks. It’s like they have first pick stage fright or something. To be clear, I am not saying Andersson is a bust or Chytil is a future MVP candidate by any means when I note this…but it’s entirely possible they did it again last year – in the same round even!!! – and managed to select the better player later. Time shall tell on that one of course, but they really need to quit playing it what they consider to be safe with the earlier picks (Andersson), drafting for perceived need (McIlrath), or going off the board trying to be the smartest guy in the room (Gropp, I’d say, but that is a bit speculative), and just go for the best upside that also doesn’t have a huge red flag attached to it.

      • May 3, 2018 at 3:46 pm

        Chytil will probably end up the better offensive player of the two, but that won’t necessarily make him a better player than Andersson … and if they had grabbed Chytil with the 7th pick there would have been thousands of fans claiming that we picked him too early.

        Besides, this idea that the Rangers whiff so much in the 1st round is a fallacy — did they whiff by selecting Skjei, Kreider or Miller? Sure McIlrath turned out poorly, partly because the whole game changed a couple of years after his selection, partly because of injuries … and let’s not bring up players selected 15+ years ago, the scouting staff has changed enough that the sins of the distant past don’t apply anymore. When you look at the numbers you’ll find that only 50-60% of the players drafted in the 1st round have NHL careers … and of those players only a small percentage actually turn out to be elite — and more often than not they are found in the first few picks of the draft, something we haven’t had.

        • May 3, 2018 at 4:23 pm

          I should have used a different term than “whiff” – I meant they’ve not been great at finding above-tier value in early rounds, yet somehow have been pretty good at that in later rounds. The context of my usage of whiff was in regard to plucking gems, but that was clunky. In the early rounds, go for ceiling. Get your more stable but limited bets in later on. I feel like they’ve gone for things other than upside with their initial draft picks (doesn’t have to be first round) a wee bit too often. But, in fairness, Day was a pick that I was fully behind, and they went for upside then of course. I’d like to see more of that, even if Day doesn’t work out either. You’re right that the Rangers don’t get top few picks often these days (obviously), or even top ten…so, swing for the fences when you do.

          As for Skjei, Miller, Kreider, they were fine picks. But again in the context of plucking gems out of the sea of possibilities…don’t really qualify. They are “got what you’d have expected to get there” types. I don’t assign bonus points for simply not failing. And for what it is worth, although I’m not on him as hard as some fans…Skjei had a sneaky-bad season…hopefully a long offseason to recoup and a system change will help him get back on track next season.

          Honestly, I think you’d have seen about the same reaction to either Andersson or Chytil taken at seven last draft. Both would be reaches there, but the better offensive prospect usually draws better initial reactions. Andersson only a slight reach though in hindsight, since I don’t think he was making it past the Kings in any case. I’m essentially fine with Andersson, to note, even though it might seem like I’m kind of bagging on him…but it certainly took some warming up to for me. I wasn’t outraged on draft night…but I certainly wasn’t floored, either.

          • May 3, 2018 at 6:21 pm

            I see what you’re getting at …. but considering Skjei, Miller and Kreider were all 2nd half of the 1st round picks, I think they hit the nail on the head with all of them. Were they home runs? No, but they’re all good solid doubles, maybe even a triple here and there.

            You can count on your two hands (some drafts even just 1 hand) the home runs in draft selections. This group of scouts has done a good job overall with our 1st round picks … unfortunately we just haven’t had enough of them (1st round picks) over the last 5 years.

    • May 3, 2018 at 4:01 pm

      Quality of scouting plays a significant role in what happens to your team. Tampa has to have the best GM and scouts in the league. Look at their picks other than their superstars: Kucherov 58, Point 79 Namistikov 27, Cirelli 72, not to mention Johnson and Gourde who werent drafted! You think the Rangers would be better with those players?

      • May 3, 2018 at 6:37 pm

        … and yet they still haven’t won a SC since Torts was there, they haven’t even made a SC Final.

        • May 3, 2018 at 9:25 pm

          The Lightning lost to the Blackhawks in the 2015 Cup Finals, after beating the Rangers in the semifinals.

  • May 3, 2018 at 9:56 am

    The scouting staff is the key to all of this. Look back at Detroit and all the later round picks who turned out darn good. No trading up because the price is too high, just keep all the picks and your chances increase to find a diamond in the ruff!

  • May 3, 2018 at 10:50 am

    I think part of that luck comes with good scouts and also from rebuilding. I mention in jest I would like to see us recruit scouts from Nashville(D man scouts) and Winnipeg(Forward scouts). But I do mean that. Look at the forwards the Jets have drafted. Laine, Ehlers, Scheifele, Little and Copp. They draft elite talent and good depth that’s why they have such an impressive forward group. Nashville drafted Weber, Josi(and rounder), Ellis, Ekholm(4th rounder) and Jones to name a few. They have along history of drafting solid D men.

    when you draft as well as these teams have a few things happen.
    1. you have the pieces to add what you need when a trade opportunity comes along. Seth Jones for Ryan Johansen anyone? That was a win-win for both teams and Nashville was long quality D men.

    2. Next you show patience so you don’t overpay so much for what you need. Look at the package Boston gave us for Rick Nash. If you were Nashville was there ever a trade there close to that return? probably not. In The Jets case they gave up a late 1st rounder for Paul Stasny. Sounds not so great on the surface, but Stasny has fit well with Ehlers and Laine. And The Jets can afford to move a first as they have a deep prospect pool. Trouba requested a trade last year and held out for part of the season. He’s looking pretty good today. That’s patience.

    3. Teams bring silly deals your way when you have cap space and they are desperate. Martin Erat for Filip Forsberg? This may be one of the worst trades ever.(had nothing to do with cap space but everything to do with win now, I guess) Even with the Islanders taking Boychuk and Leddy for draft picks because of cap concerns with Boston and Chicago. That’s luck too, but that luck is somewhat self created, because you really need to be in rebuild mode, have cap space and willingness to take pounce when it’s there.

    So we need luck in drafting the right players, but we need to create some of our own luck too. Bringing in elite scouts and keeping open cap space are going to help us on that front.

    • May 3, 2018 at 11:07 am

      Everything you say is true.
      I think there is more information today (regarding the draft eligible) than ever before. We can try to draft a thoroughbred, but just like the Kentucky derby, none of the draftees have ever played a game against real NHL talent yet. Until these guys lace up the skates and play with the big boys, you just never know how they will perform.

      I am sure we will get a very good player or two, but if you want to be relevant in 2018/19, we will need to sign a stud. That may not be on draft day, but after July 1st.

      • May 3, 2018 at 11:27 am

        AMEN Sal. I will say I am enjoying searching through the draft picks data. And agree the information is very good now a days. You’re right about the need to sign stud talent. Or trade for it. If we take 10 picks in this years draft. a bunch of those folks will never make the NHL as Rangers. It’s the way it goes. But they can be used as trade bait.

      • May 3, 2018 at 3:49 pm

        So far 2019/20 looks like the year we may see more studs available for signing …. I don’t see Tavares as being in the least probable, although I guess anything is possible.

        • May 3, 2018 at 4:17 pm

          I don’t see Taveres coming to The Rangers even if we paid him what he wanted. I could be wrong. That’s fine. I am not sure if we will or won’t make the play offs next year. It’s too early to tell as the rooster is not even close. To your point 2019-20 is going to be more realistic for us having a decent chance to make the play offs and actually compete. When you look at the teams left in the playoffs, they are a lot better than we were last year. We have a lot of work to do…but we are have a decent core as a starting point.

  • May 3, 2018 at 1:35 pm

    People are nailing it….scouting and player development are the key.Lower level players in the AHL and ECHL need to be playing the Ranger system at the NHL level to develop into key pieces.

    People keep forgetting Gettinger and also I believe Howden will see ice time next year. Sean Day needs to be really molded next year in the AHL as well as Hajak and Lindgren who I think will be a regular in the line up mid season on. (I think he’ll be our gem)

    We will get a very good player at 9, keep our picks and replenish the cupboard. Depth is as much a key to winning a cup

    • May 3, 2018 at 1:48 pm

      I think Gettinger, Day and Ronning will all be staples in Hartford next year. I actually think Howden makes the team out of camp as 4th line center. That may be a long shot but i think he is going to be a pleasant surprise. Hajak I can also see making the big team out of amp too. Lindgren is interesting. Hartford for certain, but I also feel he has an outside chance of making the team or like you say getting a call up mid season. He (and Howden) going to bring toughness to the line up in a way we need.

  • May 3, 2018 at 1:44 pm

    As Rangers fans, maybe we keep our “lucky charms” stored away. They haven’t seemed to be of any help thus far.

  • May 3, 2018 at 2:09 pm

    The Rangers agreed to terms with free-agent forward Ville Meskanen. The 22-year-old collected 24 goals and 20 assists in 48 games this past season for Ilves in the Finnish Elite League.

    This is the second signing of UFA by the team in two days!!!!!!!!!!!

  • May 3, 2018 at 4:11 pm

    They used a seventh overall to essentially replace Oscar Lindberg. I don’t care if chytil turns out better than jagr, that’s indefensible drafting.

    • May 3, 2018 at 6:16 pm

      Why do you even bother rooting for this team? I’ve never seen you make a positive post about any player, coach, or front office member. And please enlighten me as to how Lias Andersson—a Swedish national team captain at age 19—equates to Oscar Lindberg, who’s a healthy scratch for Vegas now? At 19, Lindberg was playing bottom six in the SEL. Just to highlight the absurdity of your comparison, at age 19 Andersson had 30 points (13 G, 17 A) in 54 games between Frölunda, the AHL, and the NHL. He added 7 points in 7 world junior tournament games this season too. I’d say in 7 NHL games at age 19 Andersson already looks like he’ll easily be a better NHL player than Lindberg.

    • May 3, 2018 at 6:41 pm

      What Mancunian said …

      … and if Chytil turns out to be better than Jagr (not happening) or even a shade or two less, then you should be incredibly impressed with their drafting.

  • May 3, 2018 at 11:19 pm
  • May 4, 2018 at 12:47 pm

    Gorton needs to leave his lucky charm at home. Didn’t work at the lottery.
    @ #9 if most holds true, we either get the last d-man out of the 4 selected behind Dahlin. Looks like it will go Hughes, Dobson, Bouchard, Boqvist. Boqvist has fallen a lot since U18 because of defensive concerns. Dobson and Bouchard are typical conservative hockey GM picks – skating + skill + SIZE = NHL Dman. Hughes is the most complete just undersized.

    For forwards, look at Jesperi Kotkaniemi (C). At U18, I think was the best and has shot up the draft rankings as a result. I would be okay with Farabee (LW), not so much of a reach. Got a little forgotten because Jack Hughes really minimized his role by being the primary puck handler.

    Not a huge fan of Wahlstrom, reminds me of Kreider and being a selfish player.

    Stock piling talent is the best move and not by position. We can get protoypical dman later, i.e. K’andre Miller (Love this guy), Mattias Samuelsson (Son of Kjell), Rasmus Sandin (Maybe at 26), Alex Alexeevey (31), Ryan Merkely (Fell a lot – very gifted, very scary defensively), Cale Addison (undersized). Not sold on the Nils Lundvist. Didnt see to much at U18. Undersized. Would much rather get Miller. Wonder where Ty Smith goes. Was ranked as high as 5 and is falling. Captained Canada’s U18 and didn’t score a point. Was terrible. Maybe he was tired and falls into mid 20’s. Could be a steal as one of those late pick elite guys.

    Trading Namestikov makes sense to me. If we use Stepan trade as gauge & others, we should probably be able to get Edmonton’s #10 plus or Vancouvers #7. Zucarrello is a #13-16. I like Joe Veleno a lot. He is a Patrice Bergeron clone.

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