As we hit the dog days of summer where there is little action, we have the opportunity to look back at past events and evaluate them with 20/20 hindsight. Drafts are very fun to do here, but usually we need a good amount of time to pass before we can evaluate fully.
Since the Rangers only made four picks in 2012 and five in 2013, it was best to combine these two into one evaluation period. The 2013 draft was the first of four straight without a first round pick for the Rangers, but they did hit twice in that draft with Pavel Buchnevich and Anthony Duclair. In 2012, the Rangers landed Brady Skjei and Boo Nieves.
Note: I’m not looking at who the Rangers could have taken. This is about evaluating who they took and the impact they had. There are always what-ifs, but that’s a whole other topic for August.
First Round (28th overall) – Brady Skjei, defenseman
Skjei was drafted late in the first round after the Rangers made their unexpected run to the Eastern Conference Final earlier in the year. A smooth skating defenseman, Skjei was clearly going to be a long term pick, since he was committed to Minnesota, but he had the high end skating and skill to be a NHL defenseman. Skjei is currently the Blueshirts 1LD, earning himself a big contract. However he has slumped since, and he is on the fence about earning that contract or not. He may wind up being the defenseman the Rangers expose in the Expansion Draft in 2021.
Second Round (59th overall) – Boo Nieves, center
Nieves was a decent pick here, but was not a high ceiling player. The question about whether his offense would transfer to the NHL –it didn’t– has been answered, but the question about whether he can be a solid enough fourth line center is still up in the air. At 25 years old, he is what he is now. The Rangers, at the very least got a 4C/13F out of him for a few years. Not the best value, but still some value.
Fourth Round (119th overall) – Calle Andersson, defenseman
Andersson was a solid pick that just never panned out. There were rumors that the organizational mess in Hartford played a role in his decision to leave Hartford at the beginning of the 2016-2017 season. He’s been playing in Europe since.
Fifth Round (142nd overall) – Thomas Spelling, forward
Spelling simply never made it. The Rangers declined to offer him an ELC.
Third Round (65th overall) – Adam Tambellini, center
Third Round (75th overall) – Pavel Buchnevich, winger
Third Round (80th overall) – Anthony Duclair, winger
The Rangers swung for the fences in the third round this year, having traded their first and second round picks in prior deals. Tambellini was a miss, but was at least given an ELC. Good luck to him in the Senators organization, yeesh.
The prize here is Buchnevich, who looks poised for a breakout year this season. In his third year as a pro, and second full NHL season, Buchnevich played in 64 games putting up 21-17-38. The 24 year old winger is expected to take a step forward, and perhaps could hit the 50 point mark this season.
Duclair entered the NHL with a bang, but after being included in the Keith Yandle deal fizzled a bit with Arizona. He’s bounced around a lot lately. He has the talent, but can’t seem to put it all together.
Fourth Round (110th overall) – Ryan Graves, defenseman
Graves was an interesting pick because he was a big defenseman, but took a huge step forward while in the OHL. However he was blocked at the NHL level with the Rangers, so they sent him to Colorado for Chris Bigras, who was not qualified this summer. Graves played 26 games with Colorado and looks like he will be a depth defenseman with the club.
Sixth Round (170th overall) – Mackenzie Skapski, goalie
Skapski’s claim to fame is going to be his cat and his two games against Buffalo in the 2014-2015 season, where he allowed one goal on 45 shots. A hip injury ended his NHL career, but he’s carved out a nice run in the Slovakian leagues.
In two drafts, the Rangers took just nine players. Six made it to the NHL, and five made their debuts with the Rangers. Three are still with the organization, and two play a significant role in the current rebuild and potential future success of the Blueshirts. Given the situation they were dealt with prior deals, the scouting team did a great job in these two drafts. It’s tough not to grade these as A’s, given the situation. Each draft gave them a top-four/top-six player. Tough to argue with that.