New York Rangers 2018 Draft Review (Part 2)

olof lindbom

Picking up where we left off this morning. Here is Part Two of of the 2018 draft review.

Round 2 Pick 39, Olof Lindbom G

The pick that ended the world. I get the outrage about the pick, trust me I was mad too. I wanted a forward and do not get the logic about selecting a goalie when we are pretty stacked at that position. That said,  I try to only focus at the picks at hand, this guy is a Ranger, it is unhealthy to look at who was selected after. Also, lets stop caring about what the Islanders do, yes they looked like they had a great draft but at the end of the day they do not matter to the players the Rangers want to develop and finally, how many drafts actually work out in which the central scouting rankings are the exact ways in which players end up NHLers.

Back to Olof. Unfortunately, I do not know much about goaltenders, outside of the ones I like to focus on in Russia. I can’t comment on his style but I can make a few comments about the pick. First, I don’t like that his sv% is under .900 normally for a goalie to be successful you want domination or at the very least success at these lower leagues. On the other hand when playing for the Swedish national prospect team his numbers rise to .949 and .910 in the U18 and U20 tournaments respectively. When the difference is this stark I tend to see the quality of play of the other goaltender on his junior team and Rosengren who is 2 years older had a .920 SV%. I personally don’t see the excitement that the Rangers management saw in Lindbom but clearly the Rangers loved him and think Allaire can work his magic. He was not the #1 ranked goalie and taking him at 39 certainly shows how much they love him. Lets hope it works out.

Round 3 Pick 70, Jacob Ragnarsson LD

Ragnarsson makes the Rangers because the name is cool alone. Ragnarsson is one of these two way defensemen that flew under the radar all season and it seems as if the Rangers were able to get a good value pick. The Canucks Army prospect gurus had him as the 55th best prospect in this draft. They highlight his value by showing that offensively, Ragnarsson outdid his defensive teammates in his 5v5 eP/60 and produces more in line with a forward.

he Canucks Army folks also showed that he had some nice results on his teammates as well. The other thing that may be useful as a prospect is that Ragnarsson was given a bunch of defensive responsibility as the season went and by looking at his cohors the Canucks Army team has him at a 12.7% chance of being a successful NHLer with a comparable successful player being Anton Stralman. The stats seem to back this pick as a possible depth defenseman and Ragnarsson joins a now fairly stacked group of left handed defense prospects.

Back to the eye test, Ragnarsson while not huge at only 6’0, he has a long stride and nice mobility when he twists and begins to skate backwards. In a recurring theme with recent picks, Ragnarsson looks like he can be a good defensive defenseman but in the offensive zone moves around his point and the slot as if he is a 4th forward. Best bet for Ragnarsson is to continue to develop in Sweden as the Rangers will have his rights for a while making no rush for a contract.

I think that Ragnarsson’s good all around play will get him a spot on the WJC this winter giving us all a nice opportunity to see his solid play on display. I don’t believe he has top 4 potential and that really is my only concern with this pick. As a player, should he make it I think he should be one of those 3rd pairing defensemen that only fans of said team would really respect, you would like a guy with a higher ceiling but Ragnarsson is a solid prospect.

Round 3 Pick 88 Joey Keane RD

The first of the Rangers overagers. Joey Keane is a player that has shown immense growth over the course of the last year. Because he is an overage, it is worth comparing him to other players of the 2017 draft class. Keane joins the now extremely mobile NYR defense prospect group as the right-handed smooth skating defenseman continues to grow as a player. Personally, I felt that he could’ve been drafted last season as he posted pretty consistent 2nd pairing numbers with his 2nd< pairing ice time but what did him in was being unable to score goals. We can see his offensive improvement by comparing his 17-18 numbers to 16-17 numbers on the Prospect-Stats.com compare visual tool here:

Statistically speaking, we should be really happy that Keane is producing 1st pairing numbers consistent with his first pairing ice time. This is partially why I believe that last season’s inability to score was simply bad luck as every other form of shot or chance generation seems to favor Keane. Mitchell Brown’s CHL scouting can also show Keane’s chance generation statistically visual once again as he is in the 95th percentile in primary assists/60, scoring chances/60, and scoring chances assists/60.

Clearly in the offensive zone Keane looks like a weapon, but is he able to use his smooth skating to get the puck there? Good news for us Rangers fans, Keane is among the top of this data set in not only zone entries with possession but exits from the defensive zone as well. It looks as though a defensive strategy can simply be, after you get the puck away from the forwards, get the puck to Keane and you will probably have it in the offensive zone within a few seconds.

The only real concern with Keane seems to be his ability to be a stout defenseman in the neutral zone, but this is something that would hopefully come through development in his final OHL year likely as a captain and AHL development. Keane will likely be fast tracked to a big role in Hartford within 2 years given the Rangers overall lack of right-handed defensemen.

Keane compares favorably to quite a few prospects that were eligible for the 2018 draft but since he is an overager lets compare him to members of the 2017 draft class. A good friend of mine @OppenheimerEvan was able to already create a thread for this here:

I would also like to compare him to 2nd round selection by Toronto in this draft, a fellow overager who improved offensively Sean Durzi.

I definitely recommend using these tools if you think of another comparison that you are interested in. Keane looks like a solid puck moving defenseman prospect that is entering an important season. We will need two things for him in order for him to truly become a prospect with potential.

First, keep up those production numbers. He clearly has shown he is among the top OHL producing defensemen and is worth his ice time but you need to keep seeing this kind of growth. Second, hopefully he improves his ability in the neutral zone, chances are he will as he is playing kids younger than him but it would show the necessary growth that would be needed from him to suggest he would be capable of it in the AHL. In the 3rd round you would really like to get an NHLer, Keane looks like he can be one of those puck moving 3rd pair or depth defensemen that generate scoring chances, the thing that will make him a legit prospect it seems is that improvement in actually defending. He was a good pick at 88 and someone that we should hope to keep an eye on and hopefully he continues this year to year improvement.

Round 4 Pick 101, Nico Gross LD

This was another pick that came with some resentment but at the same time should have been expected based on reports from the draft combine that the Rangers absolutely loved him. The Rangers have stressed 3 things that will be important for the rebuild: skill, speed, and character. Gross certainly has the character as he was a consistent leader of his Swiss teams in most tournaments.

Unfortunately, Gross’ puck handling was suspect during much of this season while on loan to the OHL from Switzerland. Gross isn’t a bad skater but he is pretty non-existent on offense. As a player he is a shut down defenseman who is supposed to be able to use his skating to shut down zone entries from the opposing team. Unfortunately since we now have Mitchell Brown’s project, we see that Nico isn’t exactly great at that, and with his offense not being there, it is hard to see where he will succeed which is why I wasn’t really happy with this pick.

His NHL potential is a depth defensive defenseman and hopefully he improves with age. Bob McKenzie rated Nico Gross fairly high at 77th overall but I am having trouble seeing the hype stat wise. The best bet for him may be a bit trial by fire and going back to play in the NLA, which has quite a few former NHL speedsters. Perhaps a pro training regime and playing against grown men will allow Gross to develop but as of right now it doesn’t look super promising. In any case, lets hope the defensive defenseman gets it going.

Round 5 Pick 132, Lauri Pajuniemi RW

The Rangers have been keeping up with a fairly recent trend in taking a Finnish player over the last 3 years. Pajuniemi is another overage player at 19 years old and someone the Rangers must have watched for a long time since he played for TPS. For those who don’t know TPS was the team in which Alex Georgiev, Tarmo Reunanen, and Patrik Virta all played.

Pajuniemi is a speedy winger that plays a very north/south game. Almost everything he does is at a fast pace both from passes to puck possession, as he seems like he is a player that makes his money on the rush and less on the cycle. Pajuniemi had an all right season for TPS last year but by no means impressive. His 7 points in 32 games aren’t earth shattering and his possession stats attached below from @SimoTeperi don’t look wonderful either.

That said, he is still fairly young for the league and he did very well within his age group while playing for the U20 teams. It is also worth noting that with Patrik Virta going to the KHL this season, Pajuniemi may be given more ice time and can break out. The Finnish league relies heavily on their veterans so if Pajuniemi can somehow sneak into the top 6 replacing Virta he may look like a player that could have been drafted earlier. As this visual by Simo shows, Pajuniemi was primarily a 4th liner this season, had to face tougher competition that the quality of teammates he was with and seemed to have a run of bad luck in SH%.  It seems as though the Rangers are banking on a breakout with a larger role and perhaps, similar to Vitali Kravtsov, the Rangers were given a sign of maturity in play as the year went along as he seemed to have a much better playoff than regular season albeit a small sample size.

Round 6 Pick 163, Simon Kjellberg LD

I was pretty peeved about this pick. The big left-handed defenseman who played in the under 20 Swedish junior league this season had unimpressive offensive numbers with 4 goals and 5 assists in 43 games. Kjellberg has his game revolve around being sound on defense and always knowing where to be preventing a rush.

Unfortunately, there isn’t much data that would allow us to statistically show if Kjellberg was actually successful at defending in the neutral zone, but the son of the NYR scout will be under control for a while since he was drafted out of Europe. The Rangers will probably slow roast this prospect as not only are there not many spots in Hartford anymore after revamping our defense prospect pool but it looks like the hope is for Kjellberg to continue to fill out and become a big, reliable defensive defenseman.

Round 7 Pick 216, Riley Hughes RW

Unfortunately I have no means in watching prep school hockey. It was a big reason why I wasn’t able to say much about the Morgan Barron pick last summer but after a season that seems to have been a nice pick. The Rangers traded the Boston 2019 7th rounder to get into this pick to select Hughes so clearly they see something of value in him.

Part of what I like about this pick is the draft philosophy; seemingly gone are the days of selecting a 6th or 7th rounder from overly exploited leagues like the OHL/WHL unless someone significant is falling. Maybe it is best to go into the leagues that you feel you scouted more than other teams in order to try to get a late round NHLer.

Another good thing is since Hughes will be going to Northeastern University, the Rangers will be able to hold his rights for the next 4 years and let him develop there. From reports that I have read Hughes is a good skater with quick hands in tight so the 4 years in the NCAA will give us a nice read on what to expect from. Overall, this is a similar situation to Morgan Barron who had a very nice freshman year to solidify himself as a prospect.

BONUS! Quick off hand prospect ranking

  1. Filip Chytil
  2. Vitali Kravtsov
  3. Igor Shestyorkin
  4. K’Andre Miller
  5. Lias Andersson
  6. Nils Lundkvist
  7. Brett Howden
  8. Libor Hajek
  9. Yegor Rykov
  10. Neal Pionk
  11. Alexander Georgiev
  12. Ryan Lindgren
  13. Ty Ronning
  14. Sean Day
  15. Tim Gettinger
  16. Jacob Ragnarsson
  17. Nicklas Jensen
  18. Michael Lindqvist
  19. Adam Huska
  20. Patrik Virta
  21. Morgan Barron
  22. Olof Lindbom*
  23. Vinni Lettieri
  24. Ville Meskinen
  25. Joey Keane
  26. Calle Sjalin
  27. Gabriel Fontaine
  28. Brandon Crawley
  29. Lauri Pajuniemi
  30. Tarmo Reunanen
  31. Ryan Gropp
  32. Boo Nieves
  33. Nico Gross
  34. Dominik Lakatos
  35. Brandon Halverson
  36. Tyler Wall
  37. Riley Hughes
  38. Chris Bigras
  39. Dawson Leedahl
  40. Simon Kjellberg
  41. Steven Fogarty
  42. Vince Pedrie
  43. Chris Nell