Luck wasn’t in our favor last night. The Rangers will pick at #15 in the 2021 NHL Draft. While I still don’t think the Rangers will actually make a selection in the first round, I’ve been wrong many times before. There’s always that high probability that no real trades materialize, and the Rangers do make their pick. So let’s take a look at who the Rangers might be picking from at #15, using –for now– Sportsnet’s rankings. Naturally, all sites will have different rankings.
One thing that is difficult this year with prospects is the 2020 season was a train wreck. The OHL didn’t play. The WHL got maybe 25% of a season. Only the KHL had a full year overseas. The SHL and Liiga both had pauses, and many teams had their own pauses as well. This draft is a weird one.
As an aside, all 2021 Draft coverage will be under the tag 2021 NHL Draft. I’ll be adding a link to the menu over the weekend. These also aren’t going to be full reviews, just a preview. I will go into full reports of some guys that might be available throughout the next month or so. As a reminder, I am not a prospect guy. I am doing my best based off information from people I trust and video highlights.
Aatu Raty – C, Liiga
Aatu Raty is the first name that came up once the Rangers were confirmed at the #15 spot. He’s a strong center, but he did have a relatively poor 2021 season in Liiga. That is balanced out by strong international competition performances. He seems to be the highest ceiling of who might be available in this range.
That said, with a potential new direction in scouting and drafting, will the Rangers go for a Euro in the first round? They will most certainly grab the best player available, and some have Raty as a top-ten pick. Personally, I think Finns and Swedes play the game the right way in all three zones. They are taught skill in addition to forechecking and backchecking, rounding them out and making them difficult to play against.
Raty isn’t a kid that would enter the NHL immediately. He’s going to need a few more years in Liiga and get used to playing against grown men.
Cole Sillinger – LW, USHL
Cole Sillinger’s name has been anywhere from top-five to middle of the first round. Sportsnet has him right at #15, and I think that’s a slide for Sillinger. The WHL barely played, so Sillinger spent the season in the USHL where he absolutely dominated the league. He’s probably the purest goal scorer in the draft.
For the Rangers, drafting another LW might seem short sighted given the organizational strength, but cheap talent wins. At some point, the Rangers won’t have their current trio of Chris Kreider, Artemi Panarin, and Alexis Lafreniere on the left side. Either by trade, injury, or moving to RW, things will change.
Sillinger fits that bill of a North American skater, but he isn’t a Kreider-lite power forward. He’s more of a skill guy.
Zachary Bolduc – C, QMJHL
Bolduc was injured for most of the 2021 season, but he’s another great skill player in a position of need for the Rangers. You can never have enough skill centers, especially those that can skate like Bolduc. He’s very shifty with high end offensive potential.
If you’re a size person, he and Sillinger are the same height, but Sillinger has filled out more earlier on in his life. Bolduc could use some weight/strength. Another area for improvement is his hockey IQ, as he can rush plays sometimes. Both are fixed with time and development.
A few pieces to keep in mind as the Rangers prepare for the #15 selection in the 2021 NHL Draft:
- Size isn’t as important right now. These kids are 18 years old and will fill out over time. I was 135 lbs (5’11”) at 18 years old. By the time I was 25 I was 185 lbs. And no, it wasn’t all beer weight.
- At #15, the Rangers aren’t getting an immediately impactful player. The best player available, even if its on defense, is the best route.
- This isn’t the NFL, you don’t draft for positional need. I mention it briefly above, but it isn’t a big factor when drafting for 3-4 years in the future.
- All of these rankings go out the window if someone ranked high keeps falling.
With the draft order set, we might start getting a glimpse as to what the Rangers are thinking. I’d expect to hear many rumors that the Rangers are willing to dangle the #15 pick for immediate help. As for the actual direction of the team, I wouldn’t expect much movement until after the expansion draft.