The easy pick will be the first pick the Rangers have which is the second pick. The Rangers will have that pick made for them by the New Jersey Devils. Whoever the Devils do not select from Jack Hughes or Kaapo Kakko will be the Rangers choice at number two.
And despite the silly games the Devils are playing they will be taking Hughes with the first pick. Forget the World Championships, Hughes is the better overall player who will have the quicker impact at the NHL level. That is OK as Kakko is a better fit for the David Quinn system.
A man-child with perhaps the strongest hands and scoring touch, Kakko will be best suited to play right wing instead of center at the NHL level. He does need to hit the weight room but when his body does catch up to his talent then I can see someone who will eventually be among the NHL’s best goal scorers.
Kakko reminds me the most of Marcel Hossa, a player who when you need a goal will get it for you. Forget the fancy plays, Kakko just might rewrite the Ranger’s scoring records.
At 20, the question is who best to take and in my eyes when the Rangers sent the 37th pick to Carolina for the rights to Adam Fox that answer became defenseman Matthew Robertson of the Edmonton Oil Kings. Think of it this way, you take the offensive weapon that the 5’11 Fox is (right shot) and pair him up with the 6’3 two-way defender in Robertson (left shot).
I know most would prefer defenseman Mortiz Seider of Germany but just do not see him as a top pair defender. His rep has been made playing against “b-level” competition on the world stage and that is a major concern for me. Robertson is someone most don’t like among the “experts” and their mock drafts but I do.
The other reason I like Robertson is because of his defense, he reads his zones very well and is equally solid either “shadowing” or taking the game to the offense. After all the position is defense and the Rangers do need some of their defenders to actually be good defenders.
As I mentioned already, I call Adam Fox the team’s 37th pick and thank Carolina for the trade. Fox will be the team’s number one power play QB and he is no weak link when it comes to playing defense. A huge win-win here for the Rangers.
At 49 I actually like two WHL players who are just coming off their rookie seasons in the league. I doubt he lasts to 49 but if Brayden Tracey of the Moose Jaw Warriors is there then grab him. 36-45-81 in his first WHL season which was the best among rookie scorers but he is a very raw talent who is going to get better as he develops.
Tracey is an excellent skater but his nose for finding rebounds and converting them reminds me of a young Adam Graves. Not as tough as Graves but this kid has no fear when it comes to going into traffic and coming away with the puck. Seriously doubt he is there at 49 but we can dream.
The other prospect is Adam Beckman of the Spokane Chiefs, Beckman was going to be my “better kept secrets” but 32-30-62 and a strong first round performance against the Portland Winterhawks has people talking. Tall (6’1) but very thin (170), Beckman is good with or without the puck.
Beckman can play center or left wing but has a very good understanding of the game. Love his high hockey IQ and shows to be very coachable. He plays with the kind of 60 minute energy that Rangers badly need and the fans will love.
At 58 I like center Oleg Zaitsev of the Red Deer Rebels via Moscow Dynamo. Zaitsev is a “jack of all trades” who can be used anywhere in the lineup and be very good at it. For starters Zaitsev plays for Brent Sutter so he is never going to give you less than 100% every night.
His defense is strong and he isn’t afraid to use his body to make a play. Not a superior shooter but a very good playmaker. Zaitsev can read the ice better than most his age and the Rangers would be getter someone they could use with fellow Russian Vitali Kravtsov.
I know that I have given three WHL players for the Rangers but any one of these three would be very helpful at improving the team. As we get closer there will be other options to look at as well.