With the 2024 Rangers draft recap in the books, it looks like I did not write my prep pieces in vain as the Rangers selected one of my five defenseman targets, EJ Emery. The rest of the draft was much quieter and the stories surrounding the Rangers focused on captain Jacob Trouba. But still, four picks were made, and the Rangers did a pretty good job with their limited selections.

As an aside, I hope this was not the last centralized draft we see, as has been rumored throughout the year. I think it’s one of the few events the NHL does better than its competitors and its importance to roster building is paramount compared to other major sports where players move teams more freely. I do not buy the argument about its proximity to free agency being problematic; clearly, these teams tamper enough to get deals done with their free agent targets before July 1st.

Round 1 – Pick 30: EJ (Eric) Emery – RHD – USNTDP (USHL)

For the first time since 2016, the Rangers used their first pick on a defenseman. That is actually surprising given the strength of the defensive prospect pool throughout the rebuild, with several top-three-round picks spent on the position. They used the pick to select EJ Emery, a 6’3″ right-shot defenseman who played on the NTDP’s top pairing with Cole Hutson.

Emery does not have the upside of his partner Hutson but separated himself from the other NTDP draft-eligible defensemen this year with his outstanding defensive play and skating ability. He is widely regarded as one of the five best shutdown defensemen in the class. He is a freak athletically and was predictably a standout at the combine. I did not think he would be available here; according to EliteProspects, some kind of medical issue was flagged at the combine that caused some hesitancy with taking him in the teens despite being ranked there by many teams.

I don’t think there is much offensive upside to this pick, but I don’t have an issue with that if he pans out as a shutdown defender. He skates well enough and makes a good enough first pass that he will be able to progress the puck at the NHL level. He is off to North Dakota next year and will need two years of NCAA hockey before making the jump to pro hockey. He will also be a key defender on the next two editions of Team USA at the World Juniors (with Gabe Perreault and Drew Fortescue).

Grade: A-
Will’s Pick: Cole Hutson

Round 4 – Pick 119: Raoul Boilard – LHC – Baie Comeau Drakkar (QMJHL)

The Rangers traded up to select Boilard and for a mid-round selection, it seems Drury got excellent value here. Boilard was ranked 70th in the consolidated rankings, 67th on EliteProspects’ list, and 85th on Bob McKenzie’s scout poll rankings. I do not watch the QMJHL so I am not familiar with his game at all, but rankings like EliteProspects and Pronman’s that provide full evaluations of player toolkits all seem to agree that he does not have a real weakness, and with a 6’1″ frame he has pro-size. Definitely one to watch next year and a long-term bottom-six prospect.

“Boilard took major steps forward this season after being an average BCHL forward in his 16-year-old season. He was an important part of a top QMJHL team this season. Boilard has a lot of tools that could translate to the NHL. He’s a good-sized center who skates quite well. He has a technically smooth stride with the quickness to skate at the NHL level. His pure point totals, especially in the Q, don’t jump out, but he has legit offensive talents. Boilard has strong hands and offensive IQ. He can make plays on the move and finish from range. I don’t think he’s overly physical and can play a bit too much on the outside. There are clearly components of an NHL forward in his game, but exactly where he would fit in a lineup is unclear.”

Corey Pronman, 2024 Draft Rankings

Grade: B+
Will’s Pick: Luke Misa

Round 5 – Pick 159: Nathan Aspinall – LW – Flint Firebirds (OHL)

The Rangers add another giant to their collection with the 6’7″ Aspinall. Apsinall’s surface-level production is unimpressive with just 34 points in 65 games, but this was a significant jump from the 4 points he produced in his rookie season.

Whereas past picks, such as Matt Rempe, have been praised for their hard-nosed play over their skill and playmaking, it sounds like Aspinall has a lot of finesse to his game for a player of his size. EliteProspects only grades him as slightly below average in skating and puck handling, but his passing, shooting, and hockey sense all get NHL average grades. This could be an intriguing pick.

Grade: B-
Will’s Pick: Tory Pitner

Round 6 – Pick 191: Rico Gredig – LW/C – HC Davos (NLA)

With their final pick in the draft, the Rangers decided to continue their trend of selecting re-entry players. Gredig put up 4 points in 28 games in the NLA, one of Europe’s toughest leagues. I don’t know much about him but it is always fun to have more players to watch at the World Juniors, so barring an injury Rangers fans will have the chance to watch him at this year’s tournament in Ottawa.

My only nitpicks are that I think the Rangers needed a goalie this year – although pretty much all the top prospects were taken much earlier than expected – and center Mac Swanson was still on the board, a player who posted huge numbers in the USHL but is undersized.

Grade: C+
Will’s Pick: Hugo Havelid (G) or Mac Swanson

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