Friday night and Saturday were exciting times for the Rangers. They made eight picks in the 2019 NHL Draft, including the second overall pick, the highest they’ve picked in 50 years. With a full day to digest the draft, which was more than just Kaapo Kakko, we can adequately evaluate how the Rangers did. Before we do, let’s go through what some of the pundits think, using both traditional and analytical analysis:
Even without those grades from the pundits, there was a lot to be excited about from the draft. The Blueshirts swung for talent across the draft, picking speed and talent over safety. Let’s go pick-by-pick.
1st round, #2 overall – Kaapo Kakko, RW (Liiga, Finland)
There is nothing else to say about Kakko. Here’s the draft profile. We all know what he is. A good number of people thought he was the best player in the draft and should have gone #1 overall. Grade: A+
2nd round, #49 overall – Matthew Robertson, D (Edmonton Oil Kings, WHL)
Robertson was the “safe” pick from the Rangers. But safe doesn’t necessarily mean bad. Robertson is a big defenseman that is actually pretty quick on his skates. He has solid agility and reach, making him a solid zone entry defenseman who breaks up rushes and keeps the attacker to the outside.
Nice encapsulation of #NYR pick Matthew Robertson courtesy of the fantastic @MitchLBrown. Not the biggest sample but it aligns with what the scouts (any myself fwiw) have noted about his game: excellent in transition and a good passer. I think #NYR fans will grow to love him pic.twitter.com/hWCoKWCT9y
— Drew Way (@Drews_Way) June 23, 2019
In some tracking metrics, Robertson excelled at preventing carry-in entries, but did struggle in general with overall entries. However he more than makes up for it with his passing. With the NHL evolving into a transition game, passing has been on the forefront of minds. It’s not about the long stretch pass either, it’s the quick first pass out of the zone to start the rush. Robertson graded off the charts on this. He may not show up on the scoreboard much, but don’t discount his hands and in-zone play.
The concern with Robertson is that outside of the transition game, he doesn’t project to be a huge scorer. That’s perfectly fine, and the Rangers got great value here. Grade: B+
2nd round, #58 overall – Karl Henriksson, C (Frolunda, Sweden)
If you consider Robertson the safe pick in the second round, then Henriksson is the homerun swing. The playmaking center put up 13-36-49 in 45 games in Sweden’s J20 league, a great year for him. He got 2 games at the SHL level this year, and will likely be there for the full season next year. Despite his size, Henriksson is an excellent passer and is an adept offensive mind.
NYR picked Frolunda forward Karl Henriksson in the 2nd round yesterday.
I wasn't sure how much of Henriksson's 49 points in 45 SuperElit games had to do with him playing with 2020-eligible stud Lucas Raymond, and it looks like Henriksson scored a lot without Raymond's help. pic.twitter.com/fugem0JTRb
— Evan Oppenheimer (@OppenheimerEvan) June 23, 2019
One major concern about Henriksson was about his production, and how much of it was a product of Lucas Raymond, projected to be a top-ten pick in the absolutely loaded 2020 draft. However based on what Evan Oppenheimer saw, Henriksson generated a lot of offense without Raymond as well. That bodes well.
If Henriksson can adjust to the NHL game at his smaller stature, this could be a homerun for the Rangers. Remember, though, size =/= strength. Grade: B
3rd round, 68th overall – Zac Jones, D (USHL)
Jones was another swing for the fences on skill. He was by far the best defenseman in the USHL this year, putting up 7-45-52 in 56 games this season. Based on that stat line, your assumption that Jones is highly skilled is correct. He also possesses an incredible hockey IQ, which makes him dangerous and a high ceiling offensive defenseman.
Like Henriksson, though, the concern with Jones is his size and if his skill set can translate to the NHL. While Henriksson’s concerns are there, they appear to be bigger for Jones because he’s a defenseman. Will he be able to defend at the NHL level. The size =/= strength caveat is important here too. Grade: A-
4th round, 112th overall – Hunter Skinner, D (USHL)
He certainly has a nice name, that’s for sure. This was a puzzling pick, and it’s tough to find a scouting report on him. Even Corey Pronman has just one line on him. Grade: INC
5th round, 130th overall – Leevi Aaltonen, LW (Liiga, Finland)
I love this pick. This kid has absolute wheels. I’m not the only one, either.
I love those Aaltonen and Henriksson picks.
— Alex Nunn (@aj_ranger) June 22, 2019
NY Rangers pick Leevi Aaltonen 130th overall. One of the best skaters in the entire draft class. Just check out that acceleration and speed. pic.twitter.com/0b8ee7BhzD
— Lassi Alanen (@lassialanen) June 22, 2019
Aaltonen put up 12-24-36 in 29 games in Jr. A in Finland this year. Pronman noted that he has been a top performer in his age bracket for quite some time now, and often plays above his age. Remember how dangerous Carl Hagelin was on the penalty kill with his speed? Aaltonen is that kind of threat in all situations. The knock on his game is that despite the speed, his individual skill can be lacking. But regardless, that speed can carry him to the next level. This was also a tremendous value pick this late in the draft. Grade: A-
6th round, 161st overall – Adam Edstrom, C/LW (Modo, Sweden)
Pronman literally had a blank spot in his review for this pick. Edstrom appears to be a big goal scoring winger who can skate. I’m pointing out that he can skate because usually guys his size struggle in that department. From what I’ve read on Twitter, it looks like he’s a project pick. At 6’6″ already, Edstrom’s ability to score is a good sign that he’s not just an oaf. Definitely a project pick. Grade: B
7th round, 205th overall – Eric Ciccolini, RW (Toronto Jr. Canadiens, OJHL)
Ciccolini was voted the top OJHL prospect this past season, with a line of 27-35-62 in 48 games this year. He’s an energy guy with decent skill and is certainly another project pick. Ciccolini is committed to the University of Michigan, so he’s going to get some good coaching to grow out his game and hopefully add some weight. I like this pick too. Grade: B
This was a solid draft for the Rangers. It was easy for them to get complacent after landing Kakko, but they followed it up with a good amount of strong picks. The Skinner pick is a little questionable, and they have some projects from the later rounds, but they swung for speed and talent instead of safety. That’s what you want to see. The Blueshirts now have one of the best, if not the best, farm system in hockey.