Alexis Lafreniere stole the show and was the focal point of the New York Rangers draft class but the Rangers also drafted really well with their second first round pick and with their later round picks on day two. They took a rugged smooth skating defenseman, an in-your-face winger with a hard shot, a few interesting centers and two goaltenders who… well I guess you can never have enough goalies in your system. Let’s jump into the Rangers draft class and talk about everyone not named Alexis Lafreniere.
The Rangers were slated to pick 22nd but after a trade with the Calgary Flames, they jumped up to 19th and selected Braden Schneider of the Brandon Wheat Kings. Schneider is projected as a top-four defenseman with some snarl to his game. He loves to finish checks and his gap control is phenomenal. This pick was questioned by some since the Rangers have a more immediate need at center and many thought they would target one here. In reality, the Rangers are actually very strong at the right defense spot at the NHL level with Adam Fox and Jacob Trouba (Tony DeAngelo may not return) but in the pipeline besides Nils Lundkvist and Hunter Skinner, it’s not that deep. Schneider is anywhere from 2-4 years way from the NHL and the Rangers won’t rush him. What the Rangers are hoping is that Schneider continues to grow and develop into a hard hitting and hard edged top four defenseman to play with Jacob Trouba or Adam Fox one day. He was a surprise at 19 overall but he is a welcome addition to the Rangers prospect pipeline. Schneider had 42 points in 60 games last season.
The Rangers were not slated to pick again until pick 92 but they again moved up by trading prospect Lias Andersson to the LA Kings for pick 60. Andersson and the Rangers had a bad break up last year and it seemed like that relationship just couldn’t be prepared and thus he was shipped to LA so the Rangers could grab prospect Will Cuylle. Cuylle is a big boy at 6’3” and 205. He plays a heavy game and has an absolute cannon of a shot. The puck flies off this kid’s stick. He’s a guy who will be a middle six forward for the Rangers down the line and plays with an edge to his game. Cuyelle had 42 points in 62 games last season which included 22 goals. Cuylle is still a few years away from the NHL but he will be a great energy guy who can chip in goals for the Rangers.
The next Rangers pick came at pick 92. They selected center Oliver Tarnstrom of AIK of the SuperElit. Tarnstrom is regarded as a sleeper pick by some analysts with him basically driving a weak AIK team last season. He had 34 points in 41 games and while that doesn’t jump off the page, remember he was one of the youngest players in this entire draft class. Tarnstrom is a project pick for sure but at pick 92, the Rangers and most teams are taking guesses about which prospects will really come into their own. Tarnstrom is a worthy risk for the Rangers considering they need quality center prospects and if a breakout comes for him, which some think it can next season, this could be a steal for the Rangers and another great add to an already fantastic pipeline.
The Rangers, no matter how many fantastic goalies they seem to have, always love to take a goaltender or two in the draft. Dylan Garand, of the Kamloops Blazers, was the goalie the Rangers took at 103rd overall and he is a young, quick, athletic goaltender who is many years away from the NHL. According to scouts he’s got some good tools but he needs to bring more consistency into his game. Garand went 28-10-1-2 in his first season as the starter for the Blazers. He had four shutouts and was third in both GAA and save percentage. There could be a quality goalie here for the Rangers someday but with Igor Shesterkin, Alexandar Georigev, Tyler Wall, Adam Huska and more, the Rangers can afford to take their time with him and be as patient as possible.
The next Rangers pick came at 127th overall and this was one of their absolute best picks in the draft. The Rangers opted to select center Evan Vierling of the Erie Otters of the OHL. Vierling was regarded by some as possibly a 2nd or 3rd round talent and even though he spent a season and a half playing for an underwhelming Flint Firebirds squad, he woke up with a trade to Erie last season and exploded for 34 points in 28 games after the trade. Scouts say Vierling is an extremely hard working, two-way playmaking center. He’s basically exactly what the Rangers need in their NHL lineup. If he lives up to the potential he had when he was picked 2nd overall in the 2018 OHL priority draft, the Rangers could be getting another steal just like Tarnstrom before him. Vierling is 6’0” and 168 pounds so he has to put on some size but the Rangers took a fantastic gamble on skill here in the 5th round and if he works out down the line the Rangers will look extremely smart here and will be adding a quality playmaking center.
The Rangers used the 134th overall pick on another fantastic gamble when they selected forward Brett Berard of the USNTDP program. Berard was as high as 49 on some scouts and analysts’ lists and the Rangers got extreme value here at the 134th pick. Berard, according to eliteprospects.com, “packs a high-octane offense talent into a 5’9” package.” Smaller forwards have shown success in the NHL in guys like Martin St. Louis, Mats Zuccarello and Johnny Gaudreau so yes he might be undersized but if he can play fast and use his skill well he can get around it. He’s been described as a “dual threat attacker” and also according to eliteprospects.com, “He layers deception through false signals sent to the opposition with his eyes and through his body language.” This was an absolute home run pick for the Rangers at 134th overall and although Berard is a few years away… he may just grab an NHL spot someday due to his great toolkit. He will be an interesting prospect to follow for the Rangers in the coming years.
Winding down here with the last two picks for the Rangers, at 165th they selected massive center Matt Rempe from the Seattle Thunderbirds and at 197th they selected goalie Hugo Ollas. Rempe, 6’8” and 236 pounds is a project pick. He has surprisingly good hands for a player his size and if he were to make the NHL one day, only Zdeno Chara would be taller than his kid in the history of the league. Rempe showed some offensive skill this year scoring 31 points in 47 games in his first WHL season. This was a massive swing for talent and size by the Rangers but if this kid can somehow put it all together down the line… they would have a hulking 6’8” power center to complement some of their playmakers. He has a small chance to make it but the Rangers took a nice gamble here at 165th overall and that late in the draft it’s all you can do. As for Hugo Ollas, he’s another big boy at 6’8” and 238 pounds and he’s a project goalie who is years away but hey, you can never have enough good goalies.
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