New York Rangers 2018 Draft Review (Part 1)

vitali kravtsov

The 2018 Draft has come and passed. In the first real draft of the rebuild, the Rangers have supplemented the 2017 first rounders that were able to debut on Broadway this spring with three more first rounders. Over the last couple of years, I have noticed a few strategies, or trends with the Rangers in their selection of prospects. First, I feel like they acquire positions in bunches. When we had no goaltenders in the system the Rangers went on a run in three drafts and were able to select goaltenders to revamp the prospect pool along with adding a few undrafted.

The 2017 draft seemed to revolve around building through the middle as the Rangers selected Chytil, Andersson and even Barron to give them centers with varying levels of offensive potential to blend with a fairly young group of top-dix centers in Zibanejad and Hayes. During the deadline the Rangers built upon that center depth by getting Howden but they also seemed to focus on getting defensemen that can play a puck moving game. Rykov, Lindgren, and Hajek provided the Rangers a group of defensemen that all seem like they can be quality pros at the same time.

In this 2018 draft we see a continuation of this as in the 10 selections that were made, 6 defensemen were chosen. If I were a betting man, I would expect the Rangers to select some more wingers in next year’s draft or get some wing prospects in the highly anticipated trades.

The Rangers also tend to draft an overage every draft. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, D+1, D+2 players have extra “data” so you can project what they become. In the 2018 draft, the Rangers selected 2 overage players. This was one of the most critical moments of the rebuilding Rangers, they came out with some high ceiling prospects but they also at least in my opinion made some questionable selections as well. At the end of the day, these 10 young guys are now hopefully future Rangers and we hope for their success. In this review of the draft I hope to give as much information as I can about some of these players and what we can try to expect.

Round 1 Pick  9, Vitali Kravtsov RW

Let us start with the big gun. Kravtsov joins this new core of Rangers forwards and gives us a winger with size that just oozes skill and plays with speed. One of the things that Gordie Clarke mentioned when interviewed about Kravtsov was that his head is through the roof. I highly suggest looking at any of his games or highlights so you can see for yourselves how fast he is able to not only make quick decisions but also to make a scoring chance out of nothing.

Kravtsov is a beautiful skater that is able to use his strong and long legs to burst into open lanes. He is seemingly a zone entry and puck possession machine against grown men in the KHL at 18 years old. The effectiveness of his play style likely only improves as he himself grows into a pro body. The control Kravtsov has of the puck in the offensive zone is also something to behold as seen in games his hands keep up with his skating allowing him to break out of a tight situation to generate a scoring chance.

Kravtsov should also make Rangers fans happy in his willingness to go to the net and with those quick hands he is actually a threat in the blue paint. Overall he is a complete offensive weapon that due to the way he seemingly knows where everyone will be is a threat as both a goal scorer and playmaker. I think it is fair to expect a potential top line winger out of Kravtsov that can be evenly split in terms of goals and assists. I personally believe this is why Gordie mentioned him as the 2nd best forward in the draft. I don’t necessarily agree with that however, seeing how creative he is and how he has multiple ways of putting the puck in the net, you have to be attracted to that. Having multiple points of attack makes it all that much harder for an opposing team to adjust to you.

The Rangers are clearly trying to build a team that plays with speed and tries to possess the puck and they have taken a chance on a kid that has the speed, the skill, and the size to be a threat in multiple facets of the game. I also don’t necessarily believe he is as one dimensional as maybe implied during the draft.

Defensively, he isn’t physical but at the same time I find it hard to be as a winger teenager in the KHL. He has the same intelligence in the offensive zone as he has defensively but looks to defend with his stick and intercept potential passes more than potentially closing a guy off along the boards. While you’d obviously like a player to be great at everything, I think that as he gets stronger we may see more of a physical edge to his game in this regard. Regarding NHL readiness, I feel that similar to Chytil he is so darn close due to how he played against pros, and with the KHL being a better league than the Czech league it is safe that Kravtsov should be a player by the 2019-2020 season.

It seems as if Kravtsov only has 1 year left on the deal allowing him to come over at the same time as the Rangers other top 10 prospects Igor Shestyorkin, and Yegor Rykov but there were also some reports that said he may be able to opt out and sign his ELC. Honestly, with Kravtsov being pegged to be a top 6 player on his KHL team, I wouldn’t mind him playing in the KHL this season against top competition. On the other hand, being able to play with potential teammates like Brett Howden and acclimate himself and his game to the smaller ice may be valuable as well. At the end of the day I truly believe we got ourselves a top line winger, he may not win the Art Ross but we should all be excited for his skill.

Round 1 Pick 22, K’Andre Miller LD

Athleticism. That is all you have to say about K’Andre Miller. The huge left handed defenseman in my opinion can be one of the crown jewels of the soon to be new era Rangers. On the ice, Miller has only recently started to play defense but I will soon show you how much aptitude Miller has for defense. To put it simply, a guy as big as Miller should not be able to move as agile as he does.

After trading McDonagh and starting to build the defense prospect pool back up, the Rangers really needed a guy whom they think can be their minute eating reliable two way defenseman. With his combination of skating and size, Miller can close the gap on players in just the right time. While incredibly strong, Miller is so good with his stick in knocking pucks off players that it almost feels like he creates an area with a “you shall not pass” sign. If somehow the player gets around his stick Miller immediately closes him along the boards.

Much of this can be shown graphically through the tracking project made by Mitchell Brown attached below. Miller according to Mitchell, was the most complete defenseman in his data set of North American players tracked and is at the top of the data set in preventing a controlled zone entry against. At his size and speed that will only get better as he gets older in the NCAA I believe we can expect this to translate to the pros. He locks up the neutral zone for his team and that is something we desperately need not only in the prospect pool but also in New York.

His offensive stats may not show it yet but his shot and scoring chance production as seen by the Mitchell Brown visual, is among the best in the data set suggesting that the offense and points will only be added to this already stout neutral zone defenseman. This can also simply be predicted by watching him play, his long strides push him through the opposing defense and when someone this big is coming at you this fast it tends to force people to back up a little bit resulting in a zone entry.

Miller is also one of the stronger players in the draft, this can sort of be seen by the tests done at the scouting combine, he was the top ranked tested prospect in both left hand and right hand grip while also being top 5 in the long jump and vertical jump. If Miller’s offense comes along with his clear defensive aptitude we will have a great player. Over the course of the season looking at my season trend visual we can see that Miller actually improved offensively over the course of the season (NOTE: the NHLe NHL likelihood should only be applied to forwards as the percentages were taken when looking at only drafted NHL forwards).

Seeing how strong he is defensively while only playing defense for 2 years gets me really excited after he spends some time in the University of Wisconsin. Should it all come together, I think there is a chance the Rangers selected a possible top pair defenseman. I was upset about how much it cost to move up, but Miller was really the last guy that seemed like he has the tools to become a top pair defenseman. I think he has the natural skill to be top 4 guy but should he develop like we all hope, the Rangers have this huge piece of their core set.

It should also be worth mentioning that Miller seems like a quality human being off the ice as well. This organization is trying to build something that not only makes us happy to watch on the ice but proud of as well. This is partly why I absolutely love Lias Andersson after what he did with the silver medal. That never lose mentality gets me excited about the kind of game hopefully this new era Rangers will bring night in and night out. K’Andre stressed how he wants to help the community after he was drafted and it is something that can potentially help shape the identity that this management wants to build. He looks like a determined young player on and off the ice, I feel confident he will make the Rangers management and fans proud.

Round 1 Pick 28, Nils Lundkvist RD

When making mock drafts, I felt that it was almost a guarantee that Nils would be going to the Rangers. He checks all the boxes. A right-handed, smooth skating defenseman who at a very young age is also playing against pros in one of the better leagues in the world. One of the things that should be mentioned about Nils is he, similar to K’Andre, was one of the higher ranked players in the scouting combine and he seemed to make his mark in the jumping tests.

This somewhat smaller defenseman was able to show off his explosiveness among his draft eligible peers, which only added context to the numerous displays of explosive skating that enamored those who have watched him play. Nils displays that perfect two way defenseman game that is effective at both carrying pucks and threading the needle for passes. When the puck is on his stick, especially when he picks it up at his blue line, he has the innate ability to slow down the game before setting up a 5 man attack through the neutral zone and given how good he is at both skating with the puck and passing, the more options he gives the team the more likely they would be successful at the transition to offense.

In a similar sense to Miller, if Lundkvist isn’t the one holding the puck on the transition, he likes to overload the defense by jumping into the play and acting as a 4th forward. Both he and Miller being such good skaters allows them to take these kinds of risks as it seems that this kind of willingness to jump into the offense is something that David Quinn would like. In zone, Lundkvist does possess a hard one-timer, but is more of a playmaker. He has shown ability to be a quality puck mover in the SHL and this season it will be interesting to see if he will get more PP time, which can give him more time and opportunity to use the one timer that people saw in the Swedish junior league.

This is part of what is going to make him an effective pro. He is so smooth on his skates and so quick to make decisions that it will almost be like seeing a rover in the offensive zone. With the puck he likes to draw players to him and make a quick pass to the weak side and he likes to move around by going lower towards the slot in order to open up a play for himself similar to how Zibanejad does it when he is manning the point on the powerplay.

Lundkvist still has to develop defensively, he is not necessarily bad at it since he tends to keep his stick in the right places drawing the opposition towards the boards but he definitely needs to gain some muscle that would allow him to be able to truly shutdown the grown men he is playing against. He is by no means scared to use the body, it is just that at the current stage of his development he is more effective at defending with his stick, which should be expected.

While he is a 1st round pick and certainly with 1st round talent, we should be patient with Lundkvist. His offensive and transition ability is there. We need him to begin to fill out allowing him to be a good defenseman against the rush. That is likely the goal for this season. He did very well in his 28 game stints in the SHL in all aspects of his game but with more responsibility we can hope for a bit more offense and hope he continues to polish up his stellar transition play.

After this season, he will likely have to spend a little bit in Hartford as he gets used to the smaller surface. I think his game should be able to translate to the smaller surface as it does revolve more around quick decisions and he has the skating ability to evade fore checkers along the boards. Overall I see Nils Lundkvist as a defenseman who leads the 2nd pair. The #3 transition defenseman that can pretty much slot with anyone due to his ability to own the ice and the puck, the Rangers are building a team that is headlined by speed, Lundkvist speed goes beyond his skating ability, his quick decision making is what separates him from a lot of players and will make him a good Ranger.

Stay tuned for Part Two of this, coming up this afternoon.

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  • Nice write up and summary Dave, guess you do know what you’re talking about. Thank you for all you and the guys do.

    Nils is the guy not talked about much, because the focus has been on the first 2 picks. But this guy has a real chance to get to the NHL soon, maybe within a year or so.

    The Rangers did a nice job with the first round. Now, let the proof begin.

    • We shall see on this one. I like picking a RH dman, but this pick suggests trying to make the team Corsi strong – rather than good. I expect him to disappoint. Hopefully you are right and I am wrong.

      STILL, as I write this, I do have second thoughts. Dan Girardi, like him or not, had a good career but went undrafted. It is nearly impossible to evaluate stay at home defensemen at such a formative stage and so it is likely best to focus your high picks on more “skilled” players. And hope to get the other guys with later picks and free agents.

    • Can I ask of you all a question?? I thought 18 and 19 year olds were not allowed to play in the AHL. Has that rule changed? It should change really if it hasn’t. Teams can only have so many pro contracts. They should be able to have any and all prospective players on their AHL & ECHL teams.

      • There is no realistic limit on the number of pro contracts. Players too young to play in the AHL do not count against the 50 contract limit unless they play in the NHL.

        • That is slightly inaccurate.

          If a player has signed an SPC, he is on the 50 man roster unless an 18 or 19 yr old returned to junior. All players are on the 90 man reserve list. (Article 1 reserve list definition)

          Players have to be offered to return to their prior club before being loaned elsewhere(CBA 8.7(a)).

          However, the Rangers had to tap dance around this in order for Andersson & Chytil’s contracts to not count as a pro season for expansion purposes. They “lent” said players back to their respective clubs, who then lent them to Hartford(Andersson after the injury.)

          So while Chytil started and ended the season in New York, his time in Hartford was a loan to Hartford by Zlin, all while on the 50 man roster.

          • If there is another lockout and this delays Seattle’s entry into the league, you could see the Chytil approach done with Kravtsov.

          • You are missing the context. I was replying to Lace. Lace was concerned that teams were only allowed 50 contracts and the rule that barred some of them from playing in the AHL or ECHL was unfair. My point was that the players that Lace was worried about simply did not count against the limit.

            The 90 man reserve list is sort of a joke. The Rangers currently have 24 players on that list without pro contracts and this is the time of year when the numbers are highest. As these are just draft choices and European players who have left, the number can’t grow that much. As long as it stays under about 35, it has no effect. Presently, Detroit and Chicago are at 31 and Toronto is tied for third with the Rangers. A number of teams are below 20.

            I think the 90 limit is an anachronism from a time when it was easier to keep rights for a longer time.

  • In regards to Kravtsov and whether to buy out his last year(even if he spends a big chunk of the season in Hartford) or go to Traktor: I feel he needs to do it over here as the AHL schedule allows him to get more time in the gym while still getting his games in instead of playing 2-3 games a week without being able to hit the weights.

  • Time will only tell if we made the right choice with Vi over Wahl, but the more you see all the things Vi can do offensively makes me think the NYR made the right choice.
    For everyone that looks at Vlad Namestikov and say he was a product of playing with Stamkos and Kuch cant discount Wahlstrom playing with Jack Hughes at Center and showcasing himself against lesser talent. No doubt he has the makings of being a true sniper in the NHL, but is it as a PP specialist sitting off wing for the one timer or as a force 5v5 where alot will depend on his surrounding cast.
    None of us know this answer and it will be seen over the next decade.

    Absolutely love the MIller pick and what he can grow into under Granato at Wisconson. Didn’t love the 2nd rounder (should have been a 3rd or 4th) but the nature of the NHL Draft doesnt allow for much “on the floor” negotiating with only 3 minutes between each pick. If he commits himself to the Defensive side of the game (which he is proving he has thus far) he can become a beast for us for a long time.

    • Mike

      Great point about going to play for Tony Granato at Wisconsin, where he will be taught how to play the position properly. Just look at some of the NHL quality d-men that came out of that school, Mac Truck being a classic example. Miller will probably spend two years there, come out, and may well be that first pair guy we were looking for. Given he was a forward first, he will add that additional dimension to our team. I just love this pick more, and more!!!!!!!!!

    • Everyone keeps complaining about the cost to acquire Miller. I keep asking if you would have paid the 26/48 price for Fox? If so, why complain about that price for Miller, who should become a top pair stud for us. It was said he was going to be picked next at 23. If he becomes what we hope, the complaints about the price to get that top pair D will become laughable.

      • Not complaining about paying to get Miller, i just dont think we necessarily needed to go with one of our 2nd rounders to get him. From what some have said, this was Gorton’s first offer to move up…If so than that was poor negotiating. IF, However, that was the only way to move up because there was no way Miller was making it past ANA & MIN than im fine with it.

        When you see a very similar trade made swapping 25 and 29 for a 3rd rounder 10 minutes after our deal its a fair question. We could have used the 2nd rounder we traded (#48) on “Ollie the Goalie” and used our #39 on Thomas, Wilde, or McLeod.

        Would have made taking Ollie much easier to swallow.

        • Seems Minnie was taking Miller, the Rangers didn’t want to take any chances. I’m sure they would have loved to send a 3rd along but but but ….. obviously the Sens weren’t going to oblige and JG took no chances on losing Miller.

  • Vitali Kravtsov, the more I read about him, the warmer a feeling I get. With that slight frame, he was able to perform at the level he did, against men in the KHL, says a load about his skill set. He will add plenty of muscle mass on him in the next few years, and if his game improves, we drafted our first line winger for sure.

    K’Andre Miller, pure athlete, sound solid citizen, and can play as well as he can, given his limited time at that position, my goodness, this kid has it all. Several people stated that he may be the steal of this draft, given the reports on him, he could very well be what he is billed as. The thing I care the most about is his desire, and charterer. He demonstrated that when interviewed at the draft. Obviously he is a family kid, and also made mention of giving back to the community, at 18 years of age, he’s talking like a man already. I’ve grown to like what this stands for, not even seeing him on skates yet, I want him to succeed on all counts.

    Nils Lundkvist, undersized, very fluid on his wheels, needs plenty of work yet, but sounds like a Karlsson type of player. I’m not saying he will be, but he has the makings for such a player. This is the first I’m reading anything in depth about Nils, and it’s encouraging to say the least. Give him a few years to fill in, put on some muscle mass, and learn the North American game, we may have another raw gem to work with.

    I don’t care what some are saying, this is a good draft for our organization!!!! LGR…………….

    • Extra bonus w/ Kravtsov: if you look at the photo at the top of this post vs one where he has a Blueshirt on, his next has already thickened up nicely.

      He’ll put muscle on easily & quickly, not be a perpetual beanpole.

  • I think this is the post-Christmas review of gifts. We might not have been immediately happy, but once we get a chance to think about it, we become more satisfied and joyful. We got young, hi-end players with a ton of upside. Changing potential into reality will take a year or two for most. This past year, we brought up players because we needed bodies. I am hopeful that over the next two years we bring up players because they are blowing up the AHL with their numbers.

    Can’t wait to see a team with 4 Lund-somethings.

  • With all 10 of the Rangers draft selections joining their deadline deal acquisitions and Andersson and Chytil at prosperct camp, it ought to be interesting to follow. I wonder if anyone at the blog will be reporting about it ?

  • Future defense pairing predictions:

    Skeij. Hajek

    Miller. Nils L.

    Lingren. Pionk


    A few lefties but you have to play the best guys. Maybe 2-3 years down the road but that’s not too bad if it works out

    • It will not even be close to your projection. If that’s your D of the future then we are in trouble.

      Ygor will not come over to be number 7 for starters

      Miller will be 3rd pair, If the Rangers don’t develop him and he will be a bust

      Hajek and Lindgren will be studs, the trucks you need when off roading not the Ferrari everyone wants

      Pionk needs a big year to build on….signs are good for him
      Lindqkvist is another Pionk type…Depth player…good pick

      Skjei will be traded I feel in a hockey trade.

      Crawley is developing well
      Keane is interesting….I hope they develop him well…he has potential

      Miller’s success or failure squarely falls on the shoulders of the Rangers to give the tools Miller needs. Miller has the attitude to succeed. I do hope he succeeds. We shall see

      • Wow Leather,

        You can blatantly predict that a first round kid in a deep draft with superior size, skating ability, strength and desire will be a potential bust wth possibly only 3rd pair potential.

        Man, your negativity astounds me! Maybe the other young d-men won’t pan out, but for crying out loud, these are pretty high end prospects.

      • I could see Skjei being dealt in a couple of years when the kids are ready to step up.

        Signing bonus heavy early to front load it, then signing bonus heavy with paragraph 1 minimum up until the last season where it’s straight salary.

        Player’s agent wont care due to future value of money, player won’t care because he gets paid, maxes out trade value for NYR.

      • “Miller’s success or failure squarely falls on the shoulders of the Rangers to give the tools Miller needs.”

        For the next 2 seasons Miller will be spending very little time with the Rangers and the development will fall on the shoulders of Tony Granato at UofWisconson and K’Andre himself.

        I do not know what the NCAA rules are for NHL Teams working with NCAA players, but i can only assume that the kids are not allowed to take gifts or transportation from the NHL teams.

        • You are correct about gifts and transportation, but they could have Beukeboom working with Miller every day either before or after practice if the Rangers thought it an appropriate use of resources.

  • Nils Lundkvist is still just 17 (like Chytil was at this time last year). I think he’s going to be the surprise of the draft for the Rangers. I won’t be surprised if in 5-6 years when you do a re-draft that he wouldn’t be taken higher than the end of the 1st round.

    Re: Wahlstrom versus Kravtsov, we don’t have to put down Wahlstrom’s game in order to feel good about Kravtsov. I think both are going to be excellent players. I would have been happy either way.

    • I like him too, a lot. With all the attention going to the first 2 picks, this guy could be in the NHL very soon, as I had mentioned previously.

      I’m not used to this, having 1st round picks that may actually have a positive impact on the NY Rangers, lol.

  • Lundkvist is very similar to Pionk….what’s not to like….has more edge than Pionk as well.

    Agree on Wahlly vs Kravvy….
    if you solely judge on goals Wahlly will win
    if you judge by going to the paint to score the goals a la Vickers Kravvy wins

    Kravvy will not break more than 35
    Whally will be a consistent 40,and might score 50. this is my speculation.

    • Since 2000 there have only been 13 players in the NHL to break the 50 goal mark in a season. Since 2010 only 5 different players have hit that mark, and they are the true eLite players in the sport….

      That’s one helluva speculation.

  • There is one thing I am praying that doesn’t happen with the Miller pick. Giants selected Flowers, in his rookie year there was an undrafted tackle that totally outplayed Flowers but he got the job because he was #9 overall.

    Flowers is a bust yet given opportunity after opportunity even with being an attitude problem. One thing is for sure Miller doesn’t have the entitlement issues that Flowers has. If Miller develops awesome, if he doesn’t then move on. Miller is extremely raw, this can be good, attitude check mark there, potential check mark there, so it comes down to development period and that’s on the Rangers.

    • He is going to be playing in college in a great program for defensemen. With his tools in that program I think he has a shot at developing into a very good player. Yeah he is a project as a defenseman because of the short amount of time he has been playing as one, but it seems his development trajectory is set on the correct path. Let’s see what happens.

  • I like the future, we have a ton of assets … some immediate, like Spooner, Namestnikov and Zucc … some excess prospects on D and in goal. A lot is going to happen between now and the next (2019) UFA signing period. It will be very interesting to see how a possible lockout and/or expansion is going to affect us and everyone else down the line.

  • I watched Lias Andersson a few games for the NYR on TV, the guy doesn’t have much skills nor speed, he looks to me at best a 3rd line C in NHL.

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