Full New York Rangers 2019 NHL Draft review

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.

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.

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.

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.

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  • Let’s review this draft in it’s totality if we can.

    2nd #1-Trouba
    then the rest of the draft.

    I’m not saying we make the PO’s, or not, nor will I state we win the cup in the next two-three years, but we are going to be one hell of a team to follow, and enjoy!

    Look at the difference in the way we will look, and play. Kakko, Kravs, Troube, Fox, with the addition of possibly Rykov, and Hajek, we got a heck of a lot bigger, plenty of skill, and a bit tougher. I loved Zucc, and wish he could have stayed, but one has to give to get, and he was a tough give. Hayes well everyone knows I didn’t care for his game, and one good hit during a game, he became a non-factor. With the likes of the additions, we won’t see much of that kind of play, thank goodness for that. Bottom line, we will be tougher, faster, more skilled, much more defensively sound, harder to play against, and no purse swinging from Mr Softy, I’m going to love this team again!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • It is going to be exciting Walt. And let us not forget the arrival of Igor and the battle for the King’s throne.

      • I think he needs time in the AHL to adjust to a smaller ice surface, different angels, but that is also very exciting, I agree!!!!!

  • My feelings surrounding “going out with a bang” might be a bit different.
    1. Signing Trouba to a reasonable but fair contract extension should be job #1. Do not consider any free agent until this extremely important piece of financial business is completed.
    2. Panarin. I believe we are maybe two years away from being a serious SC contender. That’ gives us time to evaluate exactly what we have in our young prospects. Then once we know what are real needs are do we look into high end free agent signings. I think it would be prudent to look at the cap hell Toronto is in by signing the ‘best available free agent’ Tavaras. There is also the expansion draft looming. It’s not too early to start considering those implications in formulating a roster. $11MM+ as reported for seven years would make me say thank you, but no thank you.
    3.CK. He is a prototype power forward. Sometimes.
    He is noticed every shift he is on the ice, Sometimes.
    He is a force every game he plays. Sometimes.
    Obviously I feel his inconsistency should be considered when you are handing out his next contract. If he is asking for Hayes money and term then I’d respectfully pass. He has every tool in the shed to be a force every game, not just sometimes.

    Sometimes the best deals you make are the ones you pass on……………………

    • Yes, “sometimes” … but it isn’t an equal split. More often than not he’s a force. He does a lot of little things that doesn’t always translate into him getting points. His work on the PP last season was really good, he’s the one guy we have that is willing to get to the front of the net and take the abuse. There were a lot of goals scored because of that, he just didn’t get those points. It isn’t only about what you do with the puck, sometimes it’s about what you do away from the puck.

      • I didn’t say it was “equal”. I said he is inconsistent. And that inconsistency should be considered whether or not he’s offered a contract, and if so at what terms or traded.
        I agree it’s not always about ponts. Nowhere in my post did I indicate that it was.

        So we’ll agree to disagree. I find his inconsistent play a major consideration as to decisions to offer a contract or trade him.

  • I think the draft was the perfect opportunity to rid ourselves of some of the overpriced contracts we have on our roster. I am worried that we couldn’t move anyone. I am guessing the market for Krieder was slow in developing.

    As for the picks. Too many defensemen for my liking. I think they went off of a script that was pretty consistent – no problem with the players selected at the point they were selected – just think we could have used another winger in place of a lower level defenseman

    • Without the salary cap number teams were hesitant … and now that the time period for talking to free agents has arrived I think it will be another 7-14 days before we see a lot of movement on that front.

  • Not so sure we have the best farm system until we get the Hartford organization stabilized. I think the draft was good, but I worry that these players may all (exception Kakko) end up with a Hartford club that is a mess still. Would have liked to see them move up with another 2nd round pick, but it didn’t happen. Oh well.

  • Another good draft because in addition to Kakko, they were able to add to a stable of young players who will eventually hit Hartford and perhaps the big club some day, or be parts of deals to get them what they need. That is something they have lacked for too long and it has driven the need to sign expensive older players instead. No more, they have youngsters to develop themselves. Now they need to set up a top notch team in Hartford to get that program running right.

    Next order of business is signing Mr. Trouba and Development Camp, then next thing you know its training camp! Exciting times!

    • It’s a big week Peter, I think they need to take care of Trouba first, then the Kreider situation …. before we get to looking hard at the free agents (um, Panarin … maybe Ferland if he’s cost and term appropriate, which I don’t think he will be — someone will overpay). I just don’t want us to make any move out of a perceived necessity because I don’t think there is one. We’re fine, we’re still a year or two away but the groundwork has been laid. We don’t have to fill every need TODAY.

      With regard to Panarin, I can live with him but I think getting Panarin at the expense of Kreider may move the needle forward some, but not enough. You need a heavy forward or two in the top 6 to counterbalance the skill and Kreider is what we have. Of course if he wants 7 years and $50M I’m concerned, but 6 years @ $40M is something I could live with — I just don’t see Kreider breaking down in his early 30’s.

  • I just don’t get why they always have to draft the small soft skilled guys (Karl Henriksson) instead of a battering ram (Albin Grewe) and it is year after year after year…Last year…we drafted….Nils Lundkvist, when we could have drafted Mattias Samuelsson or Jett Woo and then you inexplicable draft a goalie when you have Bode Wilde sitting right there for you to take or if you want to reach Kody Clark.

    It seems me that the European scouts have more clout than North American guys or it is just Clark not paying much attention

    • You pick the best player available which has no specific definition — some value skill over size, others value size over skill …. personally I don’t care too much for the heavy focus on size, I mean sure it’s better to have a skilled 6’3″ guy over a skilled 5’10” guy but that’s if everything else is equal. Also, size is a factor but there are different forms of size, there’s physical size and there’s the size of someone’s heart — the latter should be more important than the former.

  • Development camp hopefully will create the roster for the Traverse City tourny. I expect (want) about 4 players to stand out at this camp. Kraftsov, Kakko, Rykov and the Michigan defenseman who was hurt part of last year (K’Andre Miller) . If these 4 guys are best in camp, we will be in a good spot.

  • Very good draft where we got value for our picks without reaching for anyone. Gordie Clarke gets an A- and may he be a Ranger scout forever (hehe, that was only said to piss off a few of you). My only complaint was not picking Dorofeyev in the 3rd round, although I have no issue with the Jones pick. This could have been an absolutely amazing draft IF we hadn’t traded away a 1st for Trouba and a 2nd for Fox, but those were great moves that accelerated the rebuild, the right way!

    Like Dave said, not much out there on Hunter Skinner except he’s got a great name. Also found out that like Miller last year, he’s a forward that was just converted to a D’man a … along with this:

    “Hunter was a young kid with a high skill set for us this year. He’s extremely athletic, he has the ability to play a game with pace and physicality .He is essentially what you think of when you think of an NHL pick. He’s a young kid that’s spent a lot of time playing forward in his career up until about a year ago. He’s continuing to develop his defensive game and I think that’s his focus going forward: to be that guy that can play in any situation, and be someone who’s sound and responsible defensively. Because of his athletic ability and his skill set, he does have that ability to add to your offense and fuel your offense. I think he’s an intriguing guy for a lot of NHL teams, first based on his athletic ability, his ability to recover and skate, but ultimately he’s a big body that can chip in on offense and help your team win in a variety of ways. We’re excited to have him back this year and it’s an exciting year for him. We look forward to what he’ll bring to us on the ice as well as his impact as a veteran and a leader.”

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