The tanking process for the New York Rangers thus far, much like the entire regular season, hasn’t been good. Is a probable ninth overall pick enough to stimulate the farm system? Or do they need to trade assets to move up to a top-five position?
Over the past month, the New York Rangers have bolstered their farm system tremendously. With the additions of defensive prospects Ryan Lindgren, Libor Hajek, and Yegor Rykov, and forward prospect Brett Howden, the Rangers have supplemented their future defensive depth and added to their already strong pool of centers.
Lindgren projects to be a solid bottom pairing player with the upside of being a fourth defenseman. Hajek and Rykov look to have more potential of being good fourth defensemen, Hajek possessing a more defensive oriented game than Rykov.
Howden looks to have a ceiling of a second-line center, with a more realistic potential as a third-line, two-way center with offensive upside. He would look to be a future fourth-line center for the Rangers, behind Mika Zibanejad, Filip Chytil, and Lias Andersson.
With Igor Shestyorkin on the rise, as well as a plethora of solid performances from goaltending prospect Alexandar Georgiev, the Rangers look to be set in net for when arguably the greatest player in the history of the organization, Henrik Lundqvist, retires.
What concerns me is the complete lack of depth of wings in the farm system. The lack of that one ground-breaking defensive prospect is concerning as well. The Rangers have a lot of excellent future depth defensemen in the system, but the need for that star puck-moving defensemen is evident.
Luckily for the team, the top 10 in this season’s draft is very, very good. But the potential superstar star power recedes at pick seven.
Barring any miraculous selection in the lottery that would propel the Rangers to a top-three pick (currently a 14.8 percent chance), the Rangers will be looking at players in the eight-to-10 range.
While Noah Dobson, Evan Bouchard, Joel Farabee, and Oliver Wahlstrom, all players in the Rangers’ range, project to be good-to-great players in the NHL, superstardom is unlikely.
The Rangers are missing that stud prospect that could put their farm system over the edge. While I would be very happy with these any of these four players, they are not the guys that will change the course of this team.
The Rangers are in need of either a puck-moving, skilled offensive defenseman or a scoring winger. While Farabee and Wahlstrom are scoring wingers in the team’s range, the next tier of wingers in Andrei Svechnikov and Filip Zadina are outside of their reach.
Here is my line of thinking: the Rangers must trade up in the draft, following the conclusion of the draft lottery, of course, to acquire a potential superstar. If they were to package Mats Zuccarello and their first-round pick for a shot at a Svechnikov or a Zadina, would both sides do it?
Svechnikov and Zadina are not at the levels that Jack Eichel or Patrik Laine were at at the time they were drafted second overall. Is giving up Zuccarello, a candidate for the captaincy, a veteran, and a vital contributor worth the upgrade over a Wahlstrom or a Farabee? I don’t think so.
It’s also very possible that Phoenix and Vancouver, the two teams most likely drafting at two and three, both deny this request anyway.
Phoenix might consider it due to having multiple NHL-ready prospects, but Vancouver is in the early stages of a much-needed rebuild. They need help everywhere on their team and in their system. In other words, they need the most talented player available in the draft.
The Rangers and teams like Vancouver are rebuilding in very different ways, thus this potential deal may not be worth it for either side.
But what about a potential deal for the fifth pick? A legitimate shot at Adam Boqvist would be possible, and a shot at a potential superstar would be possible. A shot at Quinn Hughes would also be possible, though Boqvist is my preferred pick.
Boqvist has an incredibly high ceiling and can be a player that could produce up to 70 points per season as an NHL defender. His ability to get shots through, to skate, to stick-handle, and to see the ice are all excellent.
While Boqvist has many strengths, it is evident to say that he is not yet an NHL-ready player. His height (five-foot-10, is not as pressing of an issue as many like to indicate. His weight on the other hand, 165 pounds, is. Boqvist will have to put on 20 pounds of muscle and adjust to the North American rinks so he can make as steady of a transition as possible.
Would the eighth pick and an everyday NHL player—like Ryan Spooner—be enough to move up to five? With Spooner’s skillset and the depth of this draft, it sure is.
Once the seventh pick passes, the opportunity to attain an A-plus prospect drops significantly. Each player becomes a bigger question mark as the first round progresses.
The Rangers defensive depth is excellent, as is their center depth. They have a potential star in Chytil. Now they need one in the defensive end; Boqvist could be that guy.
For the time being, let’s root for the Rangers to lose out (which is definitely possible). Let’s hope they could put themselves at the seventh position in the draft and draft Quinn Hughes, who’s similar to Boqvist with slightly less of an upside.
Let’s also hope that, by some miracle, the ninth worst team in the NHL is picked in the lottery to draft in the top-three. There is, after all, a 14.8% chance of that happening.
So yes, I’m saying there’s a chance.