The first round of the 2021 NHL Draft came and went, and it was rather underwhelming. All the action came before the first round, with many trades setting the stage for what could have been an exciting first round. Instead we got no trades and most teams making their expected picks. While this is usually the norm, the Rangers making their pick seemed to be extra surprising. The #15 pick had been in play, and with the Pavel Buchnevich trade, it seemed to be a precursor to something bigger. Instead it was nothing, and the Rangers selected Brennan Othmann with their first round pick. As per usual, I have some thoughts.
1. First on the Buchnevich trade, which I had some quick thoughts yesterday, this seems like a waste now. Of course a lot can change, as big trades can happen after the draft. The Scott Gomez trade happened on the eve of free agency. Rick Nash didn’t become a Ranger until July. So there’s plenty of time. However as of right now, the writing of this post, Chris Drury wasted a valuable asset in Buchnevich. The premise is that Buchnevich was traded for cap space. Even if Buchnevich wasn’t long for this team, he could have been a valuable trade asset at the trade deadline. With no big contract coming via trade, Buchnevich could have been retained via arbitration on a one-year deal as their own self rental. Naturally, there is more to come here, and there is a bigger plan. Again, this is as of the writing of this post, and there is still plenty of time to see what else unfolds.
2. The lack of a trade in the first round and picking Othmann at #15 surprised a lot of people. We don’t know what kind of balls the Rangers had in the air, but presumably, to take on any player of significance, it included the #15 pick. With that now gone, it suggests that any big game hunting Drury was doing may not have panned out. There are two outs here: The first is that Othmann was a player on someone else’s radar, and the Rangers picked him as a sweetener/to preserve a potential trade, or they are going to dangle their 2022 picks instead.
3. On Othmann, he wasn’t on many radars at #15, with him projected to go later in the first round. However the pick itself is fine. It’s not the pick some of the new age people would have made, but that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily a bad pick. Many are pointing to his lack of scoring this year to make it seem like the pick is a reach. After asking around, the lack of scoring is because he was a kid playing overseas in a pandemic. That’s rough.
4. The skill set is there though. He put up 17-16-33 in 55 games in his rookie season in the OHL. He’s got a fantastic shot that he gets off quickly. He changes angles and has a quick release. He gets to dirty areas, finds open ice, and puts the puck in the net. However he certainly needs to work on other aspects of his game, like skating. He’s very strong, which should help as he gets a real skating coach. Lack of skating impacts his defensive game, losing his man due to inability to match the speed. However he is a pretty smart player, so the positioning is there. He’s a project pick. Per Meghan Chayka, he projects to be a Brock Boeser type of player.
5. The Buchnevich trade, the lack of a bigger splash, and the Othmann pick were a collective gut punch to Rangers fans. This is a team that, for the most part, simply needed to stay the course and add complementary pieces to fill out roles and add a level of grit to the roster. Yesterday it was a bad trade, a perceived lack of a plan, and an unexpected pick. The trade was bad, but the plan and the pick haven’t played out yet.
6. This is now the Kaapo Kakko, Alexis Lafreniere, and Vitali Kravtsov show on Broadway. This trio will be given significant ice time with the Buchnevich trade, for better or for worse. As of now though, the Rangers will go as far as they do with their expected roles as of today. Insurance would have been nice. An arbitration-forced one year deal with Buchnevich is nice insurance, isn’t it? Yes, that’s a bad trade without a follow up move.