7 Thoughts From 7 Days: A new scouting direction for the Rangers

For a couple months, I’ve been piggybacking off Elliotte Friedman and our own Brandon Cohen on this weekly thought post. While I’d usually do these ad-hoc, I liked the idea of consistency and a common theme. This week, let’s talk about the Rangers scouting direction, and if firing Nick Bobrov was an indication of changes to come.

As an aside: I’ve been toying with the idea of adding this weekly post behind a Patreon (subscribe here) for a couple bucks a month. You’d wind up, on average, paying about 50 cents a week for it. Let me know your thoughts on that in the comments.

1. It was a little surprising to me that the Rangers fired European Scouting Director Nick Bobrov over the weekend. Bobrov came over from SKA St. Petersburg in 2015-2016, and held the role for six years. In those six years, he did a relatively decent job:

  • 2016 Draft: Tarmo Reunanen (4th round)
  • 2017 Draft: Lias Andersson (1st), Filip Chytil (1st), Calle Sjalin (5th), Dominik Lakatos (6th), Patrik Virta (7th)
  • 2018 Draft: Vitali Kravtsov (1st), Nils Lundkvist (1st), Olof Lindbom (2nd), Jakob Ragnarsson (3rd), Lauri Pajuniemi (5th), Simon Kjellberg (6th)
  • 2019 Draft: Kaapo Kakko (1st), Karl Henriksson (2nd), Leevi Aaltonen (5th), Adam Edstrom (6th)
  • 2020 Draft: Oliver Tarnstrom (3rd), Hugo Ollas (7th)

2. The focus here is going to be on Andersson, since he was the first top-ten pick for the Rangers in a while and it was a giant whiff. Hindsight is 20/20, we all know that. There are big names on the board like Gabriel Vilardi, Martin Necas, Nick Suzuki, and Robert Thomas. It would have been nice to get one of them in addition to Chytil.

However that’s not how the draft works. None of those guys were projected to go top-seven. The major decision was Andersson or Casey Middlestadt, and both are pretty bad. Middlestadt can’t even hold a permanent spot on the Sabres. That’s not exactly a good thing. Sometimes that’s just how the draft works.

The point I’m making is that there is certainly a fair amount of criticism with the Andersson pick, and with some of Bobrov’s picks in general. However I do believe the vitriol spewed at the Rangers for the Andersson pick is a bit unwarranted.

3. It is worth noting that the Rangers didn’t want to stay at #7. If memory serves, they wanted one of Cale Makar (4th overall) or Elias Pettersson (6th overall). When that didn’t happen, they zeroed in on Andersson, as he would not be available in the middle of the round if they traded back. They picked the kid with the most pro experience, and it didn’t work out. It is what it is.

But ask yourselves this: If the Rangers got Necas or Suzuki, would they have been in the same positions to win both the 2019 and 2020 draft lotteries? Would either have added enough points in the standings to move them back a spot? Would the Rangers still have traded for Ryan Strome?

A lot of what-ifs that stem from Andersson looking like a whiff.

4. My only two qualms with Bobrov were the overagers in 2017 and the early goalie selection in 2018. I don’t like drafting overagers as a general strategy, and rarely have I seen it actually work out. Granted these were dart throws in the 6th and 7th rounds, but still the philosophy stands. In those rounds, they might have been the best options, but we are also still in too soon to tell territory.

As for early goalies, not many people liked that Lindbom pick. There were much better options, and Lindbom, at least for now, doesn’t look like he’s panning out. Again, it’s too early to tell territory from the 2018 draft. Goalies are voodoo and goalie projections are virtually impossible to predict. Just look at Al Montoya.

5. Onto the future, Chris Morehouse will run the Rangers draft with Chris Drury, which is an interesting scouting direction. Morehouse came over from the Columbus Blue Jackets to be the Director of North American Scouting for the Rangers. When he was with Columbus, Morehouse hit on Zach Werenski, Pierre Luc-Dubois, He had a decent hit rate with Columbus.

Morehouse had his hands in the 2020 draft for the Rangers, which was considered another strong draft. The North American players selected were Braden Schneider (1st), Will Cuylle (2nd), Dylan Garand (4th), Evan Vierling (5th), Brett Berard (5th), and Matthew Rempe (6th).

Rempe is your prototypical huge kid as a dart throw. The rest look like solid picks for their draft spot. Vierling and Berard were great value in the 5th round as well. There were concerns that Cuylle would be another Ryan Gropp, but Cuylle is much better. It’s not a fair comparison.

6. That was a lot of words to say I wouldn’t worry too much about Morehouse’s direction with the draft. He knows skill. He seems to be pretty good at his job.

But.

There were some concerns when Morehouse –and Marshall Davidson as a scout– were hired in 2019 because of nepotism. Morehouse is JD’s son in law. Both are still with the Rangers after JD was unceremoniously kicked to the curb last month.

None of that was Drury’s fault, of course. That was a product of James Dolan that Drury simply benefitted from. I think it’s safe to assume that Morehouse in particular had a conversation with both JD and Drury after what happened and what the scouting direction was for the Rangers.

7. The Rangers have a plan, and dismissing JD and Jeff Gorton doesn’t change their plan. Chris Drury has looked to be a competent AGM, and has been swift and decisive since taking the GM role. Dumping Bobrov likely doesn’t change that either, even if it seems like a scouting direction change for the Rangers. Bobrov did have a good track record, but it does seem clear that Drury wants to make his mark with the Rangers. With the coaching staff gone, the scouting department was the next logical step.

Talking draft is a perfect segue to the draft lottery, which is tonight. The Rangers have a 1% chance of lightning striking thrice.