The New York Rangers drafted three first-round selections in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. Today, we get to know each exciting kid.
Friday night was probably one of the more important days in the recent history of the New York Rangers.
It was here that we witnessed the controversial move to bypass Oliver Wahlstrom and draft winger Vitali Kravtsov. It was here that we saw the Rangers oversell for the 22nd overall pick, showing their immense interest in defenseman K’Andre Miller. It was here that we saw the Rangers gain access to their second “Lundkvist” in franchise history, despite the fact that it is spelled differently.
These moves were far from well-received.
Ranger fans voiced their displeasure with the seemingly deplorable move of “reaching” for Kravtsov at the ninth pick. Others reassured fans that they were still receiving a hell of a player.
Some fans abhorred moving up with picks 26 and 48 to get the 22nd selection and reacted even more strongly when Miller was selected over skilled forward Dominick Bokk or two-way center Joe Veleno. Others saw Miller’s mobility and size and salivated at his relatively evident potential.
As for Lundkvist, well … who could be a Ranger fan and hate a guy with the name “Lundkvist.”
All joking aside, the Rangers put forth a good first round. When I say good, I do not mean great. I also do not mean mediocre. It was satisfactory.
That being said, I will grade each respective draft pick and provide a bit of insight as to how they play and what they can be at the NHL level.
Ninth Overall: Vitaly Kravtsov, Right Wing
Is Kravtsov an incredibly skilled winger with massive potential? Yes. Does Wahlstrom have a better shot at being great at the NHL level? Also, yes.
But the Rangers and their fans should be excited about Kravtsov. Fans can only dwell on Wahlstrom for so long; they have to accept what they have.
Kravtsov is an unbelievable talent to have in the system. The only reason I give the pick a B+ is due to the fact that the team passed over Wahlstrom to get him.
That being said, Kravtsov is a fairly easy player to accept with open arms.
Drawing comparisons to Evgeny Kuznetsov, Kravtsov is a player that is very difficult to stop in transition. With his skating ability and skill with the puck, he can drive an offense and produce at a pretty high level.
See in both clips, Kravtsov’s ability to split the defense with both his speed and his stick-handling is something that could really be beneficial for the Rangers moving forward.
Vitaly Kravtsov's out here undressing people. pic.twitter.com/YIsgrhdf6m
— Alex Nunn (@aj_ranger) March 17, 2018
— Alex Nunn (@aj_ranger) June 23, 2018
Additionally, Kravtsov’s skill-set has drawn some very high praise.
Gordie Clark said #NYR ranked Kravtsov as 2nd best forward in the draft and made that decision a while ago
— Rick Carpiniello (@RickCarpiniello) June 23, 2018
That is very high praise from Clark who has valued only Andrei Svechnikov as a better option in this year’s draft.
Based on the small amount of video I have seen, Kravtsov’s use of head fakes coupled with his quick wrister poses an additional nightmare for goalies. With his speed and deft puck-handling abilities, Kravtsov could be a very dangerous scorer in the NHL.
Another component of Kravtsov’s play is his composure with the puck. He is a patient player, often driving through defensemen in transition, using his size and skill-set to ward off defenders until the proper move arises.
His defensive game is fairly solid too. His relentless drive for the puck on the forecheck is a nice thing to see, considering that the Rangers didn’t just draft a one-dimensional player at the ninth overall slot.
What can fans expect from this kid? Based on what I’ve seen, he can very easily be a top-six forward at the NHL level. Quite frankly, I think he could be better. With a scoring ability like his, it’s hard to imagine we won’t be seeing 30 goals a season from this kid one day.
22nd Overall: K’Andre Miller, D
Again, the only reason I give the Miller pick a B+ is that the team passed over Bokk to get him, who I held in a very high regard.
But, at the same time, Miller is a defenseman the team needed. Big, strong, and skilled, Miller brings a physical and defensive presence that the team is going to need moving forward.
I have emphasized this emphatically over the past season; skilled, offensive, puck-moving defenseman are nice. But when you overload your team with them, the results are what fans saw at the end of last season … ineptitude.
Defensive minds with offensive ability are also needed. This is K’Andre Miller, who has drawn comparisons to current Ranger Brady Skjei.
The rawness of Miller is particularly interesting. His move to defense was executed recently, but his size and athleticism are already on full display.
His ability to defend one-on-one and break up his plays with his speed and physicality are very good signs for Miller. His size and speed has also shown in the offensive end.
Rangers take raw but skilled dman K'Andre Miller from the NTDP. Traded up to get him so he must gave been high on their board. Going to Wisconsin. Can skate and shoot, smothering defense.
— Steve Kournianos (@TheDraftAnalyst) June 23, 2018
But a quick transition to defense comes at a price. While sheer size, speed and athleticism often compensate for one-on-one plays up the ice, zone coverage is often a different story.
Miller has been guilty of this similarly to many other raw, recently converted defenseman. Miller, who made the transition from forward to defense, is often caught behind on plays within his own end. This defensive awareness will come in time, but, nevertheless, it is a problem he’s experiencing at this current point.
What is good about this inexperience is the fact that it is simply just inexperience. Miller is not deficient in any one thing. Increased exposure in the defensive end will prove to be the difference for Miller.
Fans shouldn’t expect Miller to be on the team for another three years, but after his game is refined, few will be able to find a more fearsome, athletic and talented defenseman.
28th Overall: Nils Lundkvist, D
There is a lot to like with 28th overall pick Nils Lundkvist.
What he is is a very skilled, two-way defenseman who will likely be a top-four defenseman in the NHL one day. His hockey IQ is very high and his ability to play offense and defense as well as he does is rare among 17-year-old defensemen.
Lundkvist made his mark in the SHL, arguably the second-best hockey league in the world. His ability to make the right play and his composure with the puck reminds me of a young Anton Stralman. Make no mistake, though, his offensive skill will supersede that of Stralman.
Nils Lundkvist is a very, very good pick here. There were a handful of guys I would’ve been very happy with, Lundkvist being one of them. High IQ, great puck mover, and another high upside pick.
— Drew Way (@Drews_Way) June 23, 2018
One of the main things I’ve noticed about Lundkvist is his edge-work. His ability to keep rushing forwards in front of him is a very intriguing attribute.
Coupling this with his overall gap control, Lundkvist is a very solid defender despite his ability to play in the offensive end.
His one weakness, like Miller, comes when there is sustained pressure in the offensive zone. This seems to be an issue with all young offensive defenseman. I do not worry about Lundkvist because he has shown both a willingness and an ability to defend.
It may be only a year or two before we see Lundkvist in the NHL with the Rangers. His experience with playing against elite competition in the SHL and his immediate success with doing that just shows how polished he already is. Don’t be surprised if you see Lundkvist with the team in the beginning or middle of the 2019-2020 season.
Yes, the Rangers could have drafted Wahlstrom, Bokk or Veleno with certain picks. What is promising is that they addressed team needs and drafted young and skilled players to do this.
Each player, Kravtsov and Miller in particular, come equipped with tremendous upsides. Fans should feel extremely satisfied with the first round of this draft and should be optimistic about the future, for it is a very bright one.