New York Rangers general manager Jeff Gorton seems to have a game plan for the future of the hockey club. He shared his views, ideas, and opinions on MSG Network.
Saturday night, as the New York Rangers prepared to take on the Toronto Maple Leafs, Sam Rosen and Joe Micheletti opened the MSG Network broadcast with surprise guest standing in the middle of the two, none other than general manager Jeff Gorton.
The Rangers rebuilding choreographer spent over six minutes in what was a rapid fire of questions, one at a time, from Rosen and Micheletti. The topics varied from scouting players for the upcoming NHL draft to how he felt the kids on the team performed this season to what he envisioned the Blueshirts would look like next season.
The candid interview began with Gorton talking about the upcoming draft and how the team is preparing for their selections. The decisions on who to draft ort potential what pick to trade are crucial for the future of the club.
On draft day, the Blueshirts will begin with 10 picks. They possess two first-round picks and three second-rounders. The general manager was optimistic about his scouts and their opportunity to make an impact this year.
“We have a lot of people in a lot of rinks after getting all of these picks. We are trying to get as many viewings as possible and it looks like another good draft, I’m excited about what lies ahead. I think as we go about this process we want to get better every day and the only way to do that is to get assets, get good young players. To go a few years there without first-round picks was difficult but here we are a few years later and to have two, maybe three-four more is exciting for us to get that caliber of player, we will be in the top ten this year and that is what we need to do, that is our way back”.
Gorton and his scouts do have a draft strategy (sometimes) unlike other major sports such as the National Football League. He feels the best way to go about the draft is not to pick by need or position, but to select by the best player available. The organization believes that drafting this way over a period of years will help them get back and continue to win.
With this team being so young, Gorton spoke about how he felt the “kids” have performed and the what impact these players have on future moves the team may look to make. Gorton seemed confident and comfortable with his response.
“I think that for the most part, it’s really positive, if you look at each guy you see some peaks and valleys but for the most part, for kids that are 19, 20, 21- years old, some of the things they have done have been impressive. We look at everything, see where things are at. Is Chytil going to be a center or wing, where does Howden fit in, Lias, we are going through all of these different scenarios and right now they all look good at times and tonight will be another test for where they are at.”
Head coach David Quinn has echoed the same sentiment. The team is constantly evaluating their players, not just with the eight games remaining now, but throughout the season.
Of course, the topic of the young veterans, Pavel Buchnevich and Neal Pionk, to name a couple, was discussed. The two have had difficult points in their respective season but are ending the year on high notes.
“Pavel, in particular, has really come on and is scoring goals and you see his skill level, he has been really consistent physically and that is nice to see. With Neal, maybe as we look back on the season he was playing a lot of minutes against the best players in the league and that is a lot to ask of a player really in his first year in the league. If you look at him, I think he is in the 20s for points and I think he has a nice future for us in the NHL, he’s a hard working kid that can play against good players, he will keep getting better.”
Last year’s first-round pick, Vitali Kravtsov, was also discussed, which was no surprise considering his KHL team was eliminated from the playoffs two weeks ago. Gorton added no further update on his status as his contract has not yet expired (it will on April 30). The Rangers GM wants to bring him over to North America as soon as the two sides can work out an entry-level contract.
The interview also touched on what the vision of the team should be in the eyes of the GM. Gorton said what every Ranger fan is anticipating as soon as next season perhaps,
“We want to be a hard team to play against and that can mean different things, we want to be skilled, fast, really competitive team with hockey sense, we are trying to add those players all the time. Some of the top teams like Tampa and Toronto and Boston are really deep, they play a good structure but they are skilled players. We want to get as many skill players, do anything to win and that is what we are trying to do.”
The Rangers won the Original Six showdown against Toronto in overtime, but the team was still eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
This outcome was not a surprise. The team was not expected to make the playoffs, but they showed a lot of promise for the future. The Rangers are a team that plays with pride and heart—a team that will never concede a game and always competes until the final horn.
That is a direct reflection of their rookie head coach, but the future of this club will rely on Gorton and his scouting staff.
The GM has made some excellent moves over the last four years, but his hardest job still lies ahead of him. The New York Rangers will have a top-10 selection this year, maybe a top three depending on the NHL Draft Lottery results.