Musings

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:

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.

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  • Wow…so much to disagree with on your first 3 points. Lias Andersson was rated in the mid twenties by almost every organization while Vilardi was top ten and Necas/Suzuki were 10-15. Suzuki was rated as having the highest Hockey IQ in the draft. There was talk of Detroit wanting to take him a couple of spots after us (they took Rasmussen). They claimed he was a coaches dream and a future captain! Petterson went 5th (Glass was 6th)….when a pick doesn’t work out who you took where everyone projected then that’s life. When a pick doesn’t work out and everyone knew it was a reach, then you failed as an organization and decision maker.

    • With so much questionable decision with europeans…. not surprized Bobrov and Clark are gonners, I would add Kurby Dach most likely would be better choice then Kakko

  • John Gambadoro
    Former Coyotes coach Rich Tocchet had a second interview with the New York Rangers for their vacant head coaching job yesterday. Tocchet had his first interview with the Rangers last Tuesday.

  • Scouting is all about going places to watch kids, analyzing numbers and compiling input. As Drury moves to a more analytic model, it could be that Bobrov was more of an eye-test guy and not fit with analytics.
    Either way. Drury needs to put his lieutenants in place. This is not a big deal.

    What will be a big deal is how Drury re-shapes the team for next year. We need to get tougher, but also need more skill. We have a glut of young defensemen as well as wingers. Who does he move to get us into the playoffs? Who does he leave unprotected? These are the moves that will shape the roster in the near term.

    The playoffs are a tough grind and you need players who go into the dirty areas. You also need to clear some space for your skill guys. We have about 60 days until more of these questions are answered.

    • As someone who has built a draft model, I’ll admit a couple of things:

      1: My model drastically underrates D. Like 30 places lower. Considering how the NHL routinely overrates D, the happy middle would probably be a better gauge.

      2: YOU STILL HAVE TO SEE THEM PLAY LIVE. You don’t have to see them much, but see em early and see em late. Have a cross checker see em between. Have your NA scouts watch a euro game in the afternoon just to get multiple looks. D is almost worthless to scout on video.

      3: the paucity of data at the junior level both has its problems and benefits. This ain’t rocket science: watching a player tells you how they do things, points tells you how efficient they are doing it. Points are a distillation of skill. Up to the development side to fix the flaws, not for the scouting staff to wish a guy up.

  • 18 european kids picked in NHL Draft in years you mentioned and regular playing are TWO of them plus 20 Kravs’ games.
    Btw Kakko was no brainer pick, after #1 was J. Hughes.
    Not so great work from this scout

    • Scouting is all about getting the best player in the later rounds. Most teams all know the best players in the top 3-4 rounds, but who can find that diamond in round 6 is when the scouts earn their pay.

      • They’re lucky if they even know the best kids through the first round — and there will almost always be disagreement after the first 5-10. Again, you’re trying to predict the development of 18 year olds — and I don’t know about you, but I’ve known plenty of “regular” (not hockey players) 18 year olds that many thought would be successful in life that aren’t … and many kids pegged to be mediocre that found ways to succeed in the real world. The same somewhat holds true for hockey players. Bottom line, a lot of development occurs in the time between adolescence and young adulthood.

    • Absolutely spot on!!! Not one of those picks was a “great find” !! Kaapo was a no brainer, and all his other picks are soft players who are nowhere near the elite NHL level. And ALL are non grinding soft wasted pics! Great move by Drury to finally dump out the scouts who just follow the next best player up as PER elite player, TSN Craig Button ect. Anderson was a flop, and we used raanta to move up to pick a 25 to 30th pic 7th! He should have been fired then! All of his pics where weak “euro” lightweight players who were weak on the puck, average speed and no size and strength!

  • No problem here, Drury is shaking things up a little and I’m just fine with that —- anyone not named Allaire is fair game.

  • The reaction to Bobrov’s firing seems to be based on two things. In general, people are upset about Gorton & JD and want to find fault. Second, we have this perception that the Rangers have done very well with their European selections. The truth though is that this great success for the most part occurred before Bobrov. It was not too long ago that the Rangers got Pavel Buchnevich and Igor Shesterkin in the draft AFTER the second round. Bobrov has not had this kind of success.

    Concerning Lias Andersson, this post is revisionist history. No one else would have seen this as Andersson or Middlestadt because no else viewed Andersson as a top ten pick. Draft prognosticators typically put him in the 12-18 range with one or two in the mid-20s. Lias was perceived as a low ceiling guy (for a top 15 pick) but the Rangers saw him as someone who could play in the NHL from day one.

    The move was dumb, not because it turned out badly, but because the thinking and analysis behind it were wrong. Wasting a #7 pick on a third line center was wrong, especially considering the state of the organization. That much is definitely not on Bobrov. Thinking he was NHL-ready was perhaps a scouting issue.

    • No one scout should shoulder the blame on a #7 pick, that’s on the WHOLE staff … those are consensus picks.

      Re: Lias specifically … you’re revising history. A lot of people thought Lias was “ballpark” top 10 … and a lot of people thought we should have drafted Middlestadt in that spot. I was hoping a year or so ago in fact that they would have tried to trade Lias for Casey — a change of scenery trade of 1st round picks that we sometimes see. Oh well.

      • I was about to chime in again and say that it was Lias, Middlestadt, or trade down.

        The Rangers as an org liked Lias more than Middlestadt, and Lias wouldn’t have been there at mid-teens if they traded down. Thus, Lias.

        Also worth noting that at the time of the draft, there was some sneaky potential in Lias in addition to his perceived readiness to play in the NHL. (https://blueseatblogs.com/2017/06/25/new-york-rangers-2017-draft-recap/)

        All that said, and to Ray’s point, Josh compared him to an Alex Steen, who was more or less a 45 point guy in his career. Should a top-ten pick be used on such a player?

        • “I was about to chime in again and say that it was Lias, Middlestadt, or trade down.

          The Rangers as an org liked Lias more than Middlestadt, and Lias wouldn’t have been there at mid-teens if they traded down. Thus, Lias.”

          That may have been the thought process, but it was a bad one. The three options you list may have been the three finalists for the Rangers, but they should not have been.

          As for whether or not Lias would have been there mid-teens, we can’t know. There are always surprises. One prognosticator I read had him going about 25th.

          • 100% agree with the thought process piece. It seems they backed themselves into a corner. Or they really liked Lias that much. It could be the latter, honestly.

            Regarding being available, I believe it was LA that was going to take him at 11.

      • Come on tanto. I said most prognosticators put him 12-18. How is that different from “ballpark” top 10?

        And I certainly did not lay the blame for the pick at his door. I do think however that I would have expected him to have been consulted on the pick as he presumably watched Lias play in multiple occasions. We have no idea what his input was however.

        • IF we were to lay blame for the pick, the scouts mostly involved in the Scandinavian countries should shoulder more of the blame than Bobrov — but given Lias’ predominance in Sweden it’s a systemwide failure, he was heavily scouted by both Gorton and Clarke as well as the other scouts.

          • For all we know, Bobrov could have advised against Lias. No reason the scouts have to be unanimous.

        • “I said most prognosticators put him 12-18. How is that different from “ballpark” top 10?”

          I would call that ballpark more Top 15 — the ballpark cuts both ways, up and down … imo.

          • Fine. Then you are just wrong. Almost nobody but the Rangers had him top ten. Similarly Kravtsov was clearly viewed as out of the top ten. In both cases, the Rangers thought they were smarter than the consensus. Hopefully they were right the second time.

            We spent so much time trying to understand and justify the actions that we seem to have forgotten that these were both bold picks.

  • 1: That’s not how the draft works. 1st round picks are 99% of the time are players usually seen by the GM & Scouting director multiple times, both at Hlinka & U18. They get other info funneled to them, but the regional scout is never making that call.

    2nd round picks are largely made by scouting director with guidance from the GM and regional scouts lobby, but that’s it.

    After that, it’s on regional scouts pitching their guys to scouting director.

    Crediting/blaming 1st round picks on someone like Bobrov is foolish.

    • I don’t think it is the case, somebody should push their candidates, and european department did it. Talking about Chytil he wasn’t in a list of top 60 just month before draft

      • Yup…Hockey News had Chytil at 62. When they called his name my reaction was ‘Who the hell is that?’…then I threw my pen at the TV set!!! Check that draft and he has been one of the better players out of the 2017 draft. See the site mynhldraft.com for draft history. No team is perfect as long as you are more right than wrong (especially when drafting top 10). Just ask Vancouver about taking Juolevi at #5 instead of Matthew Tkachuk at #6 or Buffalo taking Alex Nylander at 8 (Sergachev went 9), and on and on…every team seems to miss on top 10 picks….we just seem to do it all the time (Brendl, Montoya, McIlrath, Lias, Kravstov?)

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