7 Thoughts From 7 Days: Rangers face decisions with #15 pick

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 decisions to make with the #15 pick in the 2021 NHL Draft

As an aside: This weekly post will go behind a Patreon (subscribe here) wall for a few bucks a month when next season starts. This will help offset server costs on my end. If you like this post, definitely subscribe.

1. The Rangers did not get lucky in this year’s draft lottery, and stayed at the #15 pick this year. This was expected, as the Rangers only had a 1% chance of winning for a third year in a row. Also could you have imagined the carnage if the Rangers won again? I’m not a big conspiracy theorist, and I this didn’t happen, but I wouldn’t be shocked if we find out at some point the league “made sure” the Rangers didn’t win again. Remember, they changed the entire draft lottery rules because they won the Alexis Lafreniere lottery.

2. The good thing about the 2021 NHL Draft is that it had good talent. The rub is that there is no clear-cut #1 overall pick, and while there is good talent, it is between a pair of drafts (2020, 2022) that are loaded. So don’t mistake this draft to be “weak.” It is just not as strong as 2020 and 2022. There is talent, and if the Rangers pick in the first round, they will get a solid prospect. In speaking with Sam Stern, he compared this to the 2017 draft. The kids will develop and we will see a bunch of good players out of this draft. But on paper, it’s nothing overly special.

3. Another interesting tidbit from Sam was that this is a good year to trade down. The range of prospects that should be available in the mid-teens isn’t really a level above the kids that should be available in the 20s. Sam specifically mentioned Aatu Raty and Cole Sillinger at #15, who I mentioned in a quick primer last week. Aside from a few others, Sam recommended trading down. Getting back into the second round is certainly doable by trading down.

4. I am all aboard the trade down train, if the Rangers pick in the first round. The Blueshirts gave up a second round pick to free up Marc Staal’s cap hit. Given the talent that should be around in the second round, coupled with point #3 above, it might be good asset management to trade down. I like the idea of accumulating picks –dart throws– in this draft. This all depends on who slides and who is available at #15 of course.

5. All this said, I don’t think the Rangers will pick in the first round this year. It is no secret that the #15 pick is in play for the Rangers this year. While everyone is talking about Jack Eichel, and for good reason, there are other names the Rangers will be looking at. Calgary and possibly Elias Lindholm is an interesting target, as he is certainly more cost controlled. Alex Barkov is a pipe dream most likely. But while all eyes are on Eichel, rest assured the Rangers are looking at other options.

6. If the Rangers move the #15 pick, it will be for a center. I can’t imagine a scenario where the Rangers move that pick for a winger or a defenseman. The Rangers have amassed amazing depth at both positions, and most of that depth is cheap. The position of need is center, so if there is a plan to move the pick, it will be for a center and only a center. That isn’t so much a bold prediction as it is common sense.

7. There is some concern that the Rangers will revert to their old ways and trade picks and prospects for washed up veterans. The fears have subsided a bit after the culture shock of Dolan firing Jeff Gorton and John Davidson. Chris Drury doesn’t seem the type to be a puppet for Dolan. That said, we will learn an awful lot about him based on how he manages the #15 pick. Before the turnover in the front office, we knew this was the most important offseason in a while for the Rangers. The upheaval only exacerbates this. This offseason and next have the potential to make or break the Rangers as a potential perennial Stanley Cup contender for the next 5-10 years.

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  • You are probably right about the #15 pick only being traded in a package for a center but there are other scenarios which could surprise us. For example…Tampa could lose either Cernak, Foote or Sergachev in the Expansion draft (they’ll protect Hedman and MacDonough). We offer our 15th pick and Robertson or Zac Jones for Sergachev. They get a first and NHL ready dman that doesn’t need to be protected. We get a 23 year old stud dman on the left side with Lindgren and Miller who won the cup and is signed for 2 more years. TB can then protect Cernak….lots of action going to occur because of the expansion draft….going to be fun!!!

    • In theory I’d love to add Segachev as he is a proven commodity but what does he do to our cap both short term and long term?

      We don’t really know what we have in Robertson and Jones.

      Jones just had a strong world championship tournament; he could put up Sergachev numbers soon.

      Robertson is also a skilled defenseman who is also big and tough.

      Rangers need more of that

      So, not sure I’d make that trade

      • Valid concerns Art. Depends on what the NYR plan is. Was offering up the trade idea as an example of how the first rounder could be moved for a position other than center. As for the proposed trade, the cap is fine for the next 2 years. Long term, some contracts will get moved to adjust. Example…if you move Jones to get Sergachev, then in 2 years you might trade Lindgren to make room for Robertson. I like Jones but he is a 5’10 puck mover so you won’t get the physical element from him and the puck moving part is covered by Fox and Lundkvist. If you move Robertson then Sergachev replaces the physical part. None of us know what Drury’s plan is but it is fun to speculate.

        • From a cap perspective this would be a bad move. Schneider, Lundkvist and Robertson provide us with cheap labor, at least for a few more years — until Trouba’s contract turns into a modified NTC. We’re sound defensively, that isn’t our problem.

  • Lack of minor league hockey play due to Covid has tainted this draft a bit. There are some solid prospects.

    I am fine with trading down.

    I do believe they are looking at other center options(Than Eichel) and I think they will surprise us if they pull the trigger.

    As for round 2. With the Arizona forfeiture in round 1 our Buffalo pick #65 will actually be to the 64th pick in the draft. So technically we have the last pick in round 2 already.

    • Agree with you. Some really good players will get drafted in rounds 2/3/4 because of COVID (Ontario Hockey League didn’t play a single game)…how many times do you see highly rated prospects drop while others come out of nowhere during their draft year…More picks you have this year, better chance you hit gold (or at least silver!)….some teams will look like geniuses while others will be constantly criticizing for not drafting a certain player.

  • When the draft happens, we need to be ready to pull the trigger. If we get to pick 10, and we still have not made a move, expect us to keep the pick.

    Any trade for a center that includes our first rounder will have to be completed by early July.

    Dates to note: NHL Expansion draft – 7/21
    NHL Draft 7/23

    Key dates in our future

    • “If we get to pick 10, and we still have not made a move, expect us to keep the pick.”

      I don’t think this is right. Depending on who is chosen 11, 12, 13, 14 (and all of those can’t be predicted in advance), interest in the 15 pick is unclear. If your top reasonable pick is ranked 12th, you may want to see him grabbed before you give up your pick. OTOH, if you are willing to deal, it may not be so clear who wants the 15 pick until the time comes. A team with the 19 pick and a player available that they really want and know won’t last will pay dearly.

  • “That said, we will learn an awful lot about him based on how he manages the #15 pick.”

    I hope not. If Drury uses a complex reasoning process, then you can’t size him up by what he does in a single situation with unique parameters.

    • Long as we hang on to our 7th rounder, because thats where Hank was picked, you never know…

    • Ive done alot of draft research, as far back as 88 when Teemu Selanne was selected 10th. I can tell you based on averages, the better the pick is, the better your chances are of getting a real talented player. Its not rocket science

    • Even that dude’s name is badass. I’ve liked what I’ve read about him, and he is a center.

      • With a name like that I would draft him even if he were a goalie — kidding of course, but yeah he’s a center so at least he fits a need. 🙂

    • Chaz seems to be ranked as high as 10, a few have him at 12-13, then others at 16 and another at 18. He might be available when the Rangers pick. 18 years old, 6ft 175–kid is still growing. Maybe he will grow into his name!

      • Wow, missed that someone has him at #6. He could be gone by 15. Supposed to have great hands and shot.

  • It’s not a good draft.

    Matthew Beniers, who people have as 3rd overall, wouldn’t even be a top 10 pick in last year’s draft according to my model. Comps are Holloway, Brisson & Mysak.

  • Mason MacTavish or Cole Sillinger, if not trade down..i do like some dmen but we really don’t need, Lambos plays with an edge

    • Lambos was a mixed bag for me. He put up points in U20, but he really didn’t look that good doing it.

  • I want Sillinger but I don’t think that he lasts until 15.

    But then again, it’s 50/50 whether the Rangers even keep the pick.

    • For Sillinger to be there at 15, Wallsdedt will have to go top 10(possible, teams from San Jose through Ottawa could go for him)and a D like Lambos or Chayka will have to be taken early because of a run on D, even as D are routinely overrated.

      No need to trade up, but if the guy they want isn’t there, trade down and go for a guy like Samu Salminen. Decent size, a lot of skill & crushed his Junior league; just didn’t play in the KHL because he’s going NCAA route.

      • I totally agree with the trade down, if their guy is not at 15, and they still have the 15th pick.

        It appears like 15 to 30 are interchangeable so the Rangers could trade down easily. Or even get 2 2nds, since they have no 2nd rounder this year.

        • There’s about 16 1st round talents, then 2nd rounders for as far as the eye can see. D drops off after Luke Hughes, F drop off Sillinger/Lucius/Othmann.

          There will be a team hungry enough to move into 15 if the right guy is there. You could get gutsy and ask for next year’s 1 and this year’s 2nd.

          • I would be surprised if they still have the 15th pick, but if there were ever a time for a trade down, then this is the draft to do it.

  • If you don’t believe me then, here you go:

    Rangers Need to Be Careful With Zibanejad Extension
    Originally posted on The Hockey Writers | By Tom Castro | Last updated 6/9/21

    Mika Zibanejad was probably the biggest bargain in the NHL over the past four seasons, delivering elite offensive play for a cap hit that came in at perhaps slightly more than half of what players with a comparable body of work make nowadays.

    The New York Rangers get one more season of that discount in 2021-22, with the 28-year-old center who recorded 199 points in 195 games over the past three seasons, including 75 in 57 games in 2019-20, playing under a $5.35 million cap hit for 2021-22 before unrestricted free agency arrives next summer.

    The Rangers certainly don’t want to lose the player former general manager Jeff Gorton robbed from the Ottawa Senators in a lopsided July 2016 trade that way. Zibanejad has outperformed his contract, and it’s time to lock him up as the No. 1 center – among the rarest of commodities in the NHL – he’s developed into.

    Right? Well … maybe.

    While the Blueshirts’ new front-office regime led by president and general manager Chris Drury prepares to turn its attention to one of the organization’s biggest priorities, they might want to at least make sure that they are getting an actual top centerman – and all the expectations that come with that distinction.

    For there were some at least slightly troubling signs with Zibanejad in 2020-21 that could be chalked up to the abbreviated nature of the season and his preseason illness, yet shouldn’t simply be dismissed either as Drury and co. ponder whether to pay Zibanejad as the long-term anchor of their top forward line.
    Some of Zibanejad’s Key Numbers Suffered Worrisome Dips

    We’re not talking about Zibanejad’s stunningly slow start, during which he recorded three goals and eight assists in his first 27 games that included a brief in-game benching by ex-coach David Quinn in early March. Zibanejad’s bout with COVID-19, contracted just before training camp opened in January, had a profound impact on his early effectiveness – a fact he finally admitted to shortly after the season concluded last month. His 21 goals and 18 assists over the final 29 contests affirmed that the native of Sweden hadn’t forgotten how to play hockey after his monster 2019-20 season, which included 41 goals.

    Yet Zibanejad’s nerve-soothing offensive surge covered up some underlying numbers that the Rangers would do well not to ignore before making the sixth pick in the 2011 Draft one of the highest-paid players in the league.

    Perhaps most stark: Zibanejad’s splits. Eighteen of his 50 points – 36 percent – came against the Philadelphia Flyers, whose 201 goals allowed were the most in the NHL. Zibanejad didn’t reach 10 points against any of the Rangers’ other six opponents despite facing each of them eight times, posting his second-highest total of nine against the New Jersey Devils – like the Flyers, a defensively-challenged club that didn’t make the playoffs. His third-highest total, seven, came against the Buffalo Sabres, whose 37 points were the fewest in the league.

    The flip side of fattening up on lesser opponents was a disconcerting performance against more formidable outfits: Zibanejad managed three points against the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins, four against the Boston Bruins and a decent six against the Washington Capitals. That’s 16 points in 32 games against the four playoff teams in the temporary East Division.

    His disappearing act against the archrival Islanders – which was hardly limited to Zibanejad as the Rangers went 2-5-1 in the season series – was particularly worrisome. In 2019-20, Zibanejad had two goals and three assists in four matchups to play an instrumental role in the Blueshirts, winning three of those games. The Islanders, a Stanley Cup contender who have built a sustainable program of competitiveness, aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

    If the Rangers are going to give a player an annual salary that could approach or exceed $9 million per season, they’ll want a star who’s at his best in big games – not someone who just pads his stats against lesser teams. While it’s again just one season, the Rangers better hope Zibanejad’s numbers against tougher competition don’t mark the beginning of what would be a troubling trend.

    His 2020-21 splits, though, aren’t the only numbers the Rangers should look at closely. A glance at Zibanejad’s advanced stats don’t paint a pretty picture, either. First and foremost was his Corsi For percentage (CF%) of 45.6, a career-low for a full season and a nearly five-point drop from 2019-20. That effort pushed his career CF% below 50, to 49.3.

    Zibanejad’s Expected Goal For Percentage (xGF%) was equally ugly, at 45.24, and the Rangers generated 101 High Danger Chances For to 137 Against when he was on the ice, a 42.44 mark.
    Is Zibanejad’s Game Becoming Too One-Dimensional?

    While advanced analytics don’t present a complete picture of a player, and certainly don’t override Zibanejad’s oversized offensive production, there’s enough here to suggest he isn’t consistently driving possession for his team – and more importantly, could be trending down in that department. Zibanejad’s High Danger Scoring Chances For % (HDCF%) in 2019-20 was 45.4, certainly not good, and that number continued to head south this season.

    A more traditional number, faceoff win percentage, also suffered an alarming drop. Zibanejad won at least 49.1 percent of his draws for six straight seasons coming into 2020-21, yet that number dipped to 46.3 this season. That’s not close to acceptable for someone who wants to be paid as a No. 1 center – the player whom a coach needs to be able to count on at the dot in big situations.

    Finally, Zibanejad’s shooting percentage during his career season of 2019-20 was 19.7 – more than six points better than his previous best and tied for third among players who played at least 50 games. While he posted the second-best number of his career last season at 14.0, it marked a predictable correction toward his career average of 13.0.

    Zibanejad converted on 12.7 percent of his shots in 2018-19 and did record 74 points, one shy of his total for the following season, but scored 11 fewer goals than he ended up getting in 2019-20. Given the apparently outlying 19.7 shooting percentage of two seasons ago, does that paint his 41-goal season as an outlier as well? Forty-goal seasons could become the norm for Zibanejad, but that could also prove to be a dangerous assumption, particularly as he ages. Can the Rangers expect the 2019-20 version of the player to stick around through a long-term contract, with this past season the one to disregard due to his COVID battle, or is he something in between the two campaigns?

    The concern, if the Rangers have any at all, is that they could be committing star money to a player, who might be on his way to doing one thing very well, yet lacks in critical other areas. While hardly a perfect comparison, the Blueshirts already have one such player on their roster in Chris Kreider.

    The power winger, signed to a lucrative seven-year extension just before the 2020 trade deadline, looked like a specialist of sorts this season: He excelled in front of the net and on the power play, using his size, positioning and exceptional ability to redirect shots from in front to score 11 times with the man advantage. Yet Kreider scored only nine other goals on the season, and his open-ice game, once so lethal and intimidating as he bore down on opposing goaltenders on the rush, was mostly absent – surely not what Gorton envisioned when he blinked and agreed to a contract that carries a yearly $6.5 million cap hit.

    Is that how Zibanejad will look in Year 3 or 4 of a new deal? In his case, perhaps someone who piles up the points against lesser teams, like when he recorded back-to-back three-goal, three-assist efforts against the Flyers in March – only to disappear in tougher matchups? Though it might be gratuitous, it’s worth pointing out that those performances came against a Philadelphia team that seemed to have quit both times, as the Rangers outscored the Flyers 17-3.

    Zibanejad’s offensive game has been on a mostly meteoric rise the past three seasons. The Rangers should want to see upward mobility in all key facets of his game if they’re to commit the really big bucks.
    Potential Trade for Star Center Could Affect Zibanejad’s Status With Rangers

    Regardless of whether his advanced numbers come up and his faceoff percentage rebounds, do the Rangers – so thin in the middle – really have any choice but to offer Zibanejad a long-term contract? Actually, they might. Should Drury pull off a blockbuster trade for a star center such as Jack Eichel or Alexander Barkov this summer, the Rangers would have insurance and leverage in their negotiations with Zibanejad. That might allow them to move on from him after next season and potentially follow a more cost-effective path down the middle, rather than carrying two mega-contracts for centers going forward.

    • He’s a great #2 playing in a #1 role with a fear of getting one solid hit that could be career ending.

    • certainly an interesting article – thanx for posting

      Analysis is tricky though. One question is who is guarding the KBZ line. They will score more against teams that focus their top defenders completely on the Panarin line than on teams that take them more seriously. So some imbalance is expected.

      • To go one step further, Zib needs Buch, because Buch is totally supporting and adding to Zib’s production. Not even a question.

        The charts, with and without Buch show this. I wish I knew how to post these charts, but Zib’s underlying stats without Buch are not good.

    • This perspective on Zib is simply beating a drum to make noise. Seriously, to make yourself feel better about Zibanejad, go to his Hockey Reference page and look at the splits for the last 3 seasons. He tore it up against everyone in the NHL in 18-19 and 19-20. He smoked teams like the Islanders and the Caps in 19-20. The Bruins in 18-19. He had a bad year against these teams this year.

      For crying out loud, Zibanejad had a bad case of Covid, showed leadership by playing while badly wiped from it, and sucked for 8 weeks this year. When he got better he went berserk production wise. Yet now for some it’s time to write him off. Everyone says “small sample size” except when they think one year’s numbers either establish or destroy an NHL player’s rep.

      • Listen, I love Zib too, but giving him a $9M+ per contract at 29 is extremely risky.

        And as I posted a couple of days ago, and forgetting the bad start, because it is irrelevant (due to Covid), his underlying stats are going in the wrong direction.

        You can’t give a player a big contract just looking at his goals and assists for the season. Fact is 34 of his 50 pts came against non-playoff teams. That’s a problem. And you you have to weigh those circumstances when thinking about giving someone a 10 year contract at 29 years of age.

        This is a business, and a bad Zib contract will kill the Rangers for years to come. That’s why I have said, 6 years, at around $8M per.

        • Where did I say he deserves $9 million a year, or a 7-year contract? Nowhere. What I’m criticizing is the tendency of statheads to ignore a player’s track record in the NHL while either valuing a breakout year too highly or a bad year too heavily.

          Why do people think this is Zib’s next contract value? There’s a flat cap for the next few years. If Taylor Hall, a former NHL MVP, couldn’t do better than 1 year at $8 million from a bottom 5 team in last off season’s free agency period, then why would anyone think 7 years/$63 million is coming Zib’s way?

          • I didn’t say YOU, but that’s what will be talked about for this player. This is the issue.

            Zib’s traditional stats support a $10M per contract, for 6 or 7 years. You think that the Rangers should pay that?

            This will be the negotiating that will go on, these kinds of numbers. I want 6 years at around $8M per, as I stated. Maybe 4 of those years Zib plays to his contract.

            So while I want no part of Eichel, because of his neck injury, if he were healthy, it would be a NO BRAINER to get Eichel and trade Zib. Because at least the $10M per paid for Jack would be for his prime years, while paying that for Zib would be for his declining years.

            I posted that Eichel is 29th in the league for active players (500 pts minimum) for pts per 60, while Zib was not on the list of the top 50. And that’s with an inferior team and linemates.

          • You and I agree on a lot, but I think you’re a little off base with the assumption of what Zib’s contract will be. Last offseason nearly every free agent signing involved less term and less money than would’ve normally been expected, because of the pandemic’s effects. The same thing will likely happen with the next few offseasons as the flat cap inflicts its punishment.

            Next, the Eichel move is not a no-brainer—except in the sense that someone would actually have to have no brain at all to trade for this player. Not only is he a crybaby captain who spent more time whining than winning in Buffalo, he is currently damaged goods, with the last $40 million and 4 years of his deal having a no-move clause. In other words—either with surgery OR rest and rehab, a team will not get a full season from Eichel in his first year with his new team. Then the no move clause kicks in. If he doesn’t recover well from surgery or rehab/rest, then he’s a buyout candidate at best. This player will wreck the salary structure of whatever franchise is dumb enough to acquire him. I hope it isn’t the Rangers.

          • There is are some sites that project contracts based on traditional stats, and Zib is estimated to be 7 years, at $10M per.

            Anthony Scultore from Forever Blueshirts, who evidently has an “in” with the Rangers, also predicted that same contract.

            I have “heard” that a “team friendly” contract of 6 years at $9M per is possible. So you have to think in this range for Zib.

          • I don’t think this is in range anymore for Zib. Not by a long shot, given what went down with contracts last offseason. Or think of it this way: his early season struggles this year post-covid give the Rangers some extra leverage. He’ll have to pick between money and term for sure.

          • What do you think that he’s going to get? I can tell that, based on what you’re saying above, that I think that you will be way off.

            Buch “should” get a $6M per (if not $7M) x 6 year contract, and that’s probably low.

          • Sorry, missed this— I think they can go 3 years/$25 million with Zib, or 4 yrs/$32 million and get him signed.

          • Obviously I don’t have the answer, but I would be shocked if he took a 3/4 year deal.

            This contract is his last chance to cash in, and I don’t see him taking less than 6 years. To me, accepting 6 years would be “team friendly.” I agree with you on the per year cap hit, of around $8M.

  • Braden Schnieder was Taken as the 19th pick last year, and had one hell of a season, still not sure how he fell out of the top 10, let alone to be a ailable at 19, which Rangers moved up to take him. I say hold the Pick, see who’s on the board, but have a backup plan if someone wants that pick, it cost the Rangers a 2nd round pik & our 1st to move up, Just stay away from Eichel, 1 DeAngelo a decade is enough

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