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Hartford Has The Building Blocks

Kris Knoblauch (NHL.com)

It took what seemed to be forever to put a coaching staff in place for the Hartford Wolfpack but it was well worth the wait. The hiring of Kris Knoblauch as head coach and Gord Murphy as associate head coach gives the Wolfpack in my book the best combo to develop the Ranger prospects that they have had in years.

Knoblach has coached at the junior level taking two different teams to their league championship as well as being an assistant coach with the Philadelphia Flyers. He is a teacher who has a proven track record as someone who develops NHL players something that has been lacking in Hartford.

But the biggest key is that Knoblach wins and after years of the Wolfpack not making the playoffs will be a welcome change. Hartford has missed making the AHL playoffs for four straight seasons and six of the last seven.  It won’t happen overnight but expect Hartford to start winning again.

Gord Miller (HockeyDB)

Gord Murphy played 13 years in the NHL as a defenseman and has been an assistant coach in the NHL since 2002. He is the right guy to help develop the young defensive prospects that the Rangers have. Murphy worked with Knoblach the last couple of years with the Flyers so they know each other and have a solid relationship.

Add in Pat Boller who serves as the assistant general manager for the Wolfpack, Eric Raymond the goaltending coach (and Benoit Allair disciple),  and Mark Cesari and Kevin Gately who serve as the strength and conditioning coaches and you have possibly the best staff Hartford has ever had.

This will also be the group that will be leading the prospects when they take part in the 2019 Traverse City Prospect Tournament in September.

Traverse City

Speaking of the annual prospect tournament, one thing that will need to happen will be the prospect Rangers start winning at the tournament. Yes, the main goal remains to start building chemistry among the prospects and to see how well they have done with their offseason work.

But doing better than finishing at the bottom of the tournament is a confidence builder, it helps give the prospects a positive sign that the David Quinn system works. For the majority of the prospects, they won’t see exhibition games with the Rangers and are returned to their junior teams or sent to the Hartford camp.

So winning sends a great message to these prospects.

Not to mention to the Ranger fans as well.

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Why Are The Rangers In Salary Cap Hell To Begin With?

Kevin Shattenkirk (NHL.com)

It is kind of ironic that back in 2004 that NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman locked out the NHL players for an entire season because of what he called the “out of control player salaries”.  The NHL lost an entire year including the Stanley Cup playoffs in order to force the players to accept a salary cap.

The irony is that after the Rangers signed restricted free agent Pavel Buchnevich on Friday that their projected salary cap hit was 85,656,466. That put the Rangers $4, 156,466 over the current limit of $81.5 million. 

Oh sure just buy out Kevin Shattenkirk to save $5,166,667, exile Brendan Smith and Matt Beleskey to Hartford and maybe trade Chris Kreider or Ryan Strome or Vlad Namestinkov (who the NYR have tried trading but nobody has wanted ).  Those moves are designed to get the team under the cap but what happens if the Rangers need to add someone because the kids were not ready?

Still, I for one am frustrated more about the Rangers being in a position of having to buy out players, make salary dump trades or exiles to the AHL in order to get under the cap limit. Buying out Kevin Shattenkirk is a no-brainer because he never lived up to his contract is what many a fan is saying.

Maybe had the Rangers stopped buying the annual “flavor of the UFA year” they would not be in this mess. How many UFAs have the Rangers signed over the years only to see they fail to produce? The list is long and the names will make Ranger fans want to cry as you have a virtual who’s who of hockey.

Chris Drury, Brad Richards, Mark Messier, Bruce Driver, Greg De Vries, Stephane Quintal, Donald Brashear,  Matt Cullen,  Wade Redden, Sylvain Lefebvre, Brian Skrudland, Mike Keane, Aaron Ward,  Theo Fleury, Scotty Gomez, and my personal worst Bobby Holik. And this is a list just off the top of my head as I am sure I missed a few.

Yet come every July 1st there are Ranger fans lined up and shouting for the Rangers to sign the year’s top named free agents. Every year we keep hearing how this time will be different and that this player will break the streak of players who failed to live up to their contracts.

I would love to ask the commissioner what he thinks about the Rangers (as well as the Maple Leafs, Capitals, and Penguins) being over the salary cap. Pretty sure he will rail on about the Rangers as the reason why he might need to lock out the players when the CBA expires.

This time he might just be right.

Rangers Were Already In Salary Cap Hole

Jacob Trouba (NHL Media)

I just don’t get how folks think that Jacob Trouba’s new contract put the New York Rangers in a salary cap hole. It wasn’t that contract that put the team behind the eight ball with the salary cap, it was the contract the team gave Artemi Panarin that did it.

Giving Panarin a contract that has an $ 11.6 million salary cap when the team knew that the salary cap was not going to rise as much as NHL teams hoped it would. Imagine what that $11.6 million would pay for when it comes to the salary cap situation.

I know Panarin is a very talented player but this is why this franchise shortcircuits any rebuild, they lack the patience to see it through. If Panarin wasn’t a free agent this year then the team would have spent the money on anyone else with a name.

That is what the Rangers do, look for the easy way out and try buying their way out of messes they put themselves in. It is not about disliking players but the one lesson the Rangers for over 30 years have refused to learn is:

“It is not how much money you spend, it is about how well you spend your money”

The Rangers knew when they traded for Jacob Trouba that he was due a new contract and most knew that he was going to wind up with exactly what he got. Now the Rangers have to move contracts in order to free up salary cap space.

Forget the buyouts of Kevin Shattenkirk and/or Brendan Smith as the savings will not do much in relief. The team will save $2.9 million with buying out Shattenkirk and $2.3 million for a buyout of Smith. Smith only saves them  $1.25 million with an exile to Hartford.

And if you want an idea as to what kind of return the Rangers might see by moving players like Chris Kreider or Vlad Namesnikov then go back to the same deal that netted the Rangers Jacob Trouba. The Winnipeg Jets had really no bargaining chips because they too were up against the salary cap limit needing to sign restricted free agents.

Neither player has more than a year on his contract so why would anyone think another NHL team will help out the Rangers? The Rangers didn’t give the Jets anything more than Neal Pionk when you get right to it.  It might cost the Rangers more than just Kreider or Namesnikov if they hope to get some kind of salary cap relief.

The Rangers might be forced to toss in a decent prospect to avoid having to take back another contract in any trade.  Do not be surprised if you wake up one morning and the Rangers trade a Filip Chytil, Lias Andersson, or Libor Hajek.

Those are the kids that will get attention from other teams, not Ryan Gropp or Dawson Leedahl.

One day the Rangers will get smart and learn to manage their salary cap situation better than they have. Sometimes it is better not to spend all of your cap space and save something for a rainy day.

Trouba’s Contract

I admit I am no fan of contracts that have “no movement clauses” for they hurt the teams that give them out.  To this day I wonder what would happen if the Rangers were able to trade Henrik Lundqvist in 2018.  No other Ranger would have brought the Rangers a bigger return when they started selling off players.

But I can live with five years of NMC and two years of a limited no-trade clause for Jacob Trouba. Trouba will be 30 when those NTC’s kick in. By then the Rangers should have turned over their blueline corp to those drafted in the last couple of years.

I also am a fan of this contract because even if the Rangers move some salary they are going to be very limited in offering multi-year contracts which will force open doors for the prospects.  I can see as many as eight prospects having a legit shot at making the team as regulars simply because they will all carry a salary cap number that is under one million.

Why No Hartford Wolf Pack Staff?

Steve Konowalchuk (Seattle Thunderbirds)

Am I the only one who finds it rather strange that it is the middle of July and the New York Rangers still have yet to hire staff for the Hartford Wolf Pack? It is almost three months to the day since Keith McCambridge and Joe Mormina were let go from the Wolf Pack and one would think to replace them would not be this hard.

Now those who have followed me know that I think the Rangers should name former NHLer Steve Konowalchuk as the head coach of the Wolf Pack. For those who don’t know who Konowalchuk is, he played close to 800 games in the NHL mainly with the Washington Capitals. After retiring from the NHL, Konowalchuk spent two seasons as an assistant coach for the Colorado Avalanche and then six seasons coaching the Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL) where his teams made the WHL finals twice (winning once).

After Seattle, Konowalchuk spent a season as an assistant coach with the Anaheim Ducks before joining the Rangers as an amateur scout covering the WHL. What the Rangers badly need in Hartford is a teacher, someone who will help turn Hartford into a place where the Rangers can count on for talent. Having watched Konowalchuk take Seattle to the top of the WHL, this is the right guy for the job.

Konowalchuk is someone I got to see a lot of when he was a WHL coach. He is a proven teacher to go along with his NHL background and the Rangers badly need a teacher in Hartford. But Konowalchuk is just the start, if it was up to me then I would add two more assistants to the Hartford staff. The Wolf Pack already have Eric Raymond as their goaltending coach but I would add someone who can coach the forwards and one for the defense.

And at least one of those coaches it would be helpful if they had some European hockey background in them as several of the Ranger prospects are coming over from Europe and having someone who is familiar with the European lifestyle would help these younger players adapt to life in North America.

Skinner Changes Plans

Hunter Skinner (Lincoln Stars)

In case you missed it Hunter Skinner who the Rangers selected with the 112th pick in the 2019 NHL Entry draft has changed his mind about attending Western Michigan. Skinner signed to play with the London Knights of the OHL and it is a good move for both the Rangers and Skinner. Skinner who is a righthanded defenseman will get to play for former NHL player and coach Dale Hunter which will help speed up his development.

Dale Hunter whether you like him or not is an excellent junior coach who has a proven track record as a developer of prospects. Skinner will get lots of ice time playing for Hunter. Skinner because he joins the Knights after being drafted can sign with the Rangers and play in Hartford before he is 20 which is good for the Rangers.

It is interesting to note that the Rangers will only have four prospects playing in the CHL (three in the OHL, one in WHL) but eight playing NCAA hockey and nine prospects playing in Europe. Ten years that few playing Canadian junior hockey would have been unheard of.

What Will Be The New York Rangers Opening Night Lineup?

Artemi Panarin (Columbus BlueJackets)

Oh well since everyone else is getting to play armchair New York Rangers general manager, I thought why not play myself. Everyone seems to have their own idea as to who is going to be on the opening night lineup, I needed to point out where the holes were. And to make this clear this is just the opening night lineup as David Quinn changes his line combos more often than Cher changes her hairstyles.

Look anyone can throw names out there and think that they know how best to use the talent that the Rangers have but really it is not that easy. Are you going to build a lineup that offers you the best chance of beating other teams or are you thinking that you are building your lineup for others to try and beat you?

What has bothered me the most this off-season isn’t that folks are just handing jobs to the rookies but rather not realizing that you need players who are willing to do the dirty work (IE puck battles in corners or sideboards). Some are also forgetting that there are some rather dirty players in the NHL and you are going to need more than just one Brendan Lemieux to protect the talented players.

First Line

Jesper Fast (NHL.com)

The easy part is sliding Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad onto the first line but who plays right wing for them? Too many are giving the right wing spot to Pavel Buchnevich but I can’t. I have to have someone who will (A) protect Panarin and Zibanejad physically while (B) sacrificing their own game to go into the corners, set screens, pick up the rebounds. The said player also needs to be strong defensively to allow Panarin and Zibanejad the freedom to attack.

Having said that I went with Jesper Fast who does everything I just listed and does it unselfishly. There isn’t anyone else on the roster who will do everything for the team at the expense of his own personal game than Fast. Fast also has enough offense that he won’t hurt the production of his linemates. Second choice RW: Ryan Strome

Second Line

Brett Howden (NHL.com)

Here is where the insanity begins as people are so sure that Kaapo Kakko is just going to walk right in and be at least the second line right wing. Maybe by mid-season but not at the beginning of the season. I don’t expect Chris Kreider to be a Ranger by the time the season starts so this line is going to be a problem. Brett Howden is the center for this line and he gets the job because he offers more offense than Lias Andersson and more defense than Filip Chytil.

Pavel Buchnevich gets the nod for the right wing on this line while Filip Chytil goes on the left side. Howden is used to doing the dirty work so that allows scorer Buchnevich and playmaker Chytil to do their own thing. It is a suspect line defensively and seriously doubt it will be together long.

Third Line

Kaapo Kakko (Turun Sanomat)

The Detroit Red Wings liked to use a veteran forward as a mentor for their youth. They would rotate players from their AHL team to get them used to play at the NHL level. It helped extend the life of their veteran while developing their youth. Having said that I put Ryan Strome here with Kaapo Kakko and Vitali Kravtsov to wean them into life as an NHLer.

Ryan Strome knows firsthand the pressures of being a top first round draft pick so he is ideal to help Kakko and Kravtsov adapt and adjust. This line takes the pressure off Kakko and Kravtsov to produce from day one. Strome found new life playing for the Rangers and with these two very talented young players will benefit from their talent as well.

Fourth Line

Lias Andersson (NHLPA.com)

This one is going to be a combination of players depending on need. For starters, Vladislav Namestnikov can bounce anywhere in the lineup should someone get hurt. He may start on the fourth line but it is doubtful he will remain there long. Brendan Lemieux is your “enforcer”, Lias Andersson hopefully gets the wake-up call that he is in danger of being pushed aside but it would help if the Rangers would define his role. I will as I want him as the lead penalty-killer and defensive spark plug.

“Boo” Nieves will be the first spare forward as he can fill in at both center and wing. Nieves will have to fight off Vinnie Letteri, Clark McKegg, and Tim Gettinger for a roster spot.

Defense

The defense improves not only by the addition of Jacob Trouba but the subtractions of Kevin Shattenkirk and Brendan Smith.

First Pair

Jacob Trouba (Winnipeg Jets)

Jacob Trouba is the easy part, finding him a reliable and dependable partner is the hard part. By rights, you are praying whatever was wrong with Brady Skjei’s game has fixed itself or you will be forced to use Marc Staal or a rookie. I have more faith in Ryan Lindgren being the right partner than I do Staal whose better days are behind him. Lindgren thinks defense first which will free Trouba to be more on the attack and not having to worried about covering for a partner.

Lindgren’s offense has improved enough to be worthy of a first pair spot.

Second Pair

Do whatever you have to do in order to help Brady Skjei find his game or else maybe the Rangers need to seriously consider moving him. If Skjei has his act together then he gets to partner with Adam Fox. Fox the smallish offensive weapon means Skjei has to be much stronger on defense. Fox is going to improve the Rangers power-play but if Skjei can bounce back to the player he was as a rookie then the Rangers will have two “first pair” defensemen on the team.

Third Pair

Marc Staal with his “no movement clause” and at age 32 pretty much forces the Rangers to use him here. Staal’s better days are behind him but if you can keep him at 14-16 minutes a night then you can find an effective defender. Tony Deangelo should be the partner here but he had best look over his shoulder as there are players looking to push past him. Deangelo has shown glimpses of being a solid player but the lack of consistency has held him back. Call this is best last chance and he gets it mainly because the Rangers are lacking in righthanded defenders.

Spare

Given a choice of Libor Hajek or Yegor Rykov then I would take Rykov sight unseen because he has a rep of being a solid defender. Sadly the same can’t be said about Hajek who lives, breathes, and sleeps offense. It is a shame too because Hajek has the skillset to be an excellent defenseman but it is his weakness on defense that will hurt his chances at making the Rangers. Rykov hopefully will have picked up on his offense to push either Deangelo or Staal for playing time by midseason.

Goalies

Henrik Lundqvist is starting on the sunset of his career so the key is hoping either Alexandar Georgiev or Igor Shestyorkin can give the Rangers no less than 35 quality starts. Actually more importantly one of the two backups has to convince David Quinn to play them enough to make sure Lundqvist is not stuck playing multiple back-to-back games. Personally, I think Georgiev is more advanced than Shestyorkin so he gets my nod as the first backup.

For The Rangers How Much Will Be Too Much?

Jacob Trouba (Winnipeg Jets)

So both Jacob Trouba and Pavel Buchnevich filed for salary arbitration late last week and the question to ask is: At what point would the Rangers walk away for an arbitrator’s award? At the time of this being written, the Rangers projected salary cap space was $8,018,534 (according to CapFriendly.com). Of that 8 million, the Rangers will also need to sign Brendan Lemieux and Tony Deangelo who are also restricted free agents as well as add at least two more players to fill out the roster.

Look I am not going to pretend to play salary cap expert and figure out ways to pay for everyone. Nor will I try to figure out the roster at this point in time. This is about at what point would the Rangers walk away from any salary award. The smartest thing for the Rangers would be to avoid having to go into an arbitration hearing period. Realistically the worst thing the Rangers could do is be forced to make such a decision.

If I was Jacob Trouba I would be asking for as much money as possible. Why not because how exactly can the Rangers argue a lower salary at any hearing? When the arbitrator asks Trouba to defend what he is asking for, the first answer is going to be “Because they traded for me.” Trouba can say the Rangers gave up a first-round pick and Neil Pionk knowing that he was a restricted free agent.

What will the Rangers say? Well, he is injury prone (why did you trade for him then?), that his 50 points were a first (why did you trade for him then?), or that he is just 25 (see first two). Trouba knows that just by being traded to the Rangers that he became their best defenseman upon arrival. What do the Rangers say if Trouba is awarded more than 7 million dollars by the arbitrator? If you think for a second the Rangers will say “we think that is too much and will walk away from the award” then you are kidding yourself.

As for Buchnevich, in his case, there is no way Buchnevich deserves more than 2 million in any award. Sorry, the Rangers will have plenty of arguments to win an arbitration case against him. Start with how inconsistent Buchnevich can be, work your way down to how many times Buchnevich found himself in David Quinn’s doghouse and that despite a career high in goals he wound up with fewer points than in 2017-2018.

Buchnevich needs the Rangers more than they need him at this point in time. There are players lining up behind him who over the next year or two can and very likely pass him on the depth chart. How much Buchnevich counts against the salary cap could be the deciding factor as to whether he stays or goes.

Just Say NO

Artemi Panarin

Artemi Panarin (Columbus BlueJackets)

Look there is no questioning that Artemi Panarin is a great NHL player.  And if the New York Rangers were a Stanley Cup contender then, by all means, they should sign him but they are not. And because the Rangers are not a title contender then they should pass on Panarin and use their money to shore up other problem areas.

Please, Rangers just say no and allow the rebuild to stay on course. Every time the Rangers say they are rebuilding after a year or so they try to accelerate the rebuild only to screw things up and find themselves even further away from Cup contention.

Just say no because if Panarin is looking for the best contract instead of the best chance of winning. This isn’t a Mark Messier we are talking about here; a talented player yes but not someone who will lead his team to the Stanley Cup. The Rangers badly need leadership and nothing about Panarin says he is a leader.

Just say no because once you start trying to spend then the rebuilding is over and then the franchise starts looking for players who fit in with Panarin. And how would the Rangers get such players? By trading away those very talented young draftees that fans were going crazy for.

Just say no if Panarin’s contract is going to have an AAV of over 10 million a season as the salary cap isn’t going to increase as much as it used to.  At the time this was being written (12 AM PDT July 1), the Rangers had (according to Capfriendly.com) roughly 18.14 million in projected cap space.

This amount does not include what it will take to sign restricted free agents Jacob Trouba, Pavel Buchnevich,  Brendan Lemieux, and Tony DeAngelo and covers only 19 roster players out of 23. Signing Panarin will force the Rangers to either salary dump or buy out other players creating holes in the lineup.

Buyout Kevin Shattenkirk and exile Brendan Smith to Hartford but you had best pray that the replacements are NHL ready.  Send Chris Kreider packing and ask who will be your team leader? It is very easy to sit behind a PC like I am doing and play GM but ask any Mets fan how their off-season moves have worked out for them.

Please JD just say no as it is not how much you spend but how well you spend.

Who Do I Sign?

It starts with what are the Rangers biggest needs? I believe they still need to improve the defense mainly a partner for Jacob Trouba. Current options are Marc Staal, Brady Skjei or Ryan Lindgren/Libor Hajek. To make matters worse this is a very poor year for UFA defensemen.

Pray that someone steps up on defense (listening Yegor Rykov?)

Up front, leadership, and toughness are the biggest areas of concern. If the Rangers move Chris Kreider or any other forward then whatever scoring they provided will have to be replaced. Again it is going to cost money the Rangers really don’t have to spend so I go low rent.

Look if Lias Andersson is your fourth line center then he is a failure as a prospect sorry.  So I like several others have suggested want the Rangers to bring back Brian Boyle on a one-two year deal. Boyle will address several key areas at a bargain price.

Locker room leader, check. checking line center with size, check, face-off skills, check and number one penalty killer, check. At most Boyle will cost you 3.5 million a season may be less if he wants to finish his career as a Ranger with a post-career job when he retires.

I like Boyle because I believe he is at the point in his career when he will be a very good mentor for some of the younger players/prospects. If you trade Kreider odds are that you can expect Jimmy Vesey to be moved as well. That will open up some cap space and as much as I like Anders Lee, I have a better idea.

The Red Wings used to use Brett Hull on their third line as a mentor to their rookies and it helped guys like Henrik Zetterberg, Kris Draper and more adjust to the NHL. It also helped Hull remain a factor in the Red Wings lineup.

Why not sign Valtteri Filppula to give Kaapo Kakko a mentor? Yes, he is 35 but he still has a game and he would be someone that Kakko can work with as he adjusts to NHL life. Filppula is also someone who can fill in at any spot in the lineup in a pinch. Again a player who can be cost-effective.

Finally, the Rangers will need a veteran goalie for Hartford as they aren’t going to keep Adam Huska in Hartford. If something happens to either Henrik or whichever goalie is the backup then the Rangers will need someone who can be called up in an emergency.

Alas Kravtsov The Forgotten One

Ice Hockey, U20, Russia - Switzerland

Vitali Kravtsov (Bildbyrån)

OK how about we start this with a question; if you had a choice between a young player from the Russian KHL or the Finnish Liiga which one do you want? If it is me then I will go with the KHL because it is seen as a better pro league.

But you would not know this by the way Ranger fans and several in the media have been acting. Last year all I kept reading was how so many couldn’t wait until this year when Vitali Kravtsov was signed and brought over from Russia. But eight days ago, the Rangers with the second pick in the NHL Entry Draft selected Kaapo Kakko and now hardly anyone thinks about Kravtsov.

Now nothing against Kakko but predicting that he will score anywhere between 30 and 38 goals is just unrealistic to ask of any 18-year-old. The kid hasn’t even attended Traverse City (odds are the Rangers won’t even risk him there) and he is being given the Calder Trophy.

If you are going to be unrealistic then the player you should be talking about is Kravtsov who if you have been paying attention has been doing all the right things you want from a rookie. Let’s start with coming over in May to start his training for next season.

Not only has Kravtsov been training but he even hired his own coach to help him train properly. Then there are those lessons to help improve his English, don’t discount that as being able to communicate with his teammates will go a very long way.

It is paying off too as surprise guess who was the best player among the Ranger prospects last week? If you said, Vitali Kravtsov then you would be right. How often do we hear stories about Russian prospects be shocked at the amount of work that is asked of NHL players?

Well here is a kid who has hit the ground at 100 MPH and is working his backside off getting ready for his first NHL training camp? Kravtsov that is who and that will pay major dividends for both player and team come next season.

And even with all that work, I won’t suggest that Kravtsov will score more than 20 goals and 40 points as a rookie. If he does better than that then, by all means, jump up and down with joy. Give him the Calder Trophy and a parade down the Avenue Of Champions.

Now, none of this is a knock on Kakko who is a talented prospect but he still is just beginning to learn about what he will need to do in order to play in the NHL.  At 18 I will be giddy if he makes the team out of training camp and has a 15 goal season. I won’t be disappointed if the Rangers decide he needs time at Hartford as Kakko is too special a talent to rush his development with.

I want Kakko to develop at his own speed not the speed of the fans or media. I also want people to remember their history and how fickle Ranger fans can be. Today’s favorite is tomorrow’s forgotten player (or bum ask Lias Andersson).

Let’s not forget that these are teenagers, not seasoned veterans and that one of the hardest places for a rookie to make it is New York City. If you want to know why just look at social media and the media itself.

Just hand Kravtsov the Calder Trophy, the All-Star MVP, the Conn Smythe, and the Hart Trophy and be done with it.

OK?

A Little Head Scratching

27601

Matthew Robertson (Edmonton Oil Kings)

Look as far as I am concerned the 2019 NHL Entry Draft was a winner for the Ranger fans. Kaapo Kakko, Jacob Trouba, and Adam Fox improved the quality and quantity of talent that the franchise needed. What I am not going to do is say the Rangers made mistakes on day two of the draft but some picks were head-scratchers

Time will tell if the Rangers got the best use out of their 2019 draft picks.

I was jacked that they were able to grab defenseman Matthew Robertson of the Edmonton Oil Kings in the second round.

Robertson was someone I would have grabbed at 20 had the Rangers not used that pick as part of the Jacob Trouba trade. The 6’3 200 lb. defender is someone who will make an ideal partner for Adam Fox. Stick taps to the draft team for grabbing him.

Prospectpedia

Karl Hendriksson (Prospectpedia)

But see once we get past Robertson then the questions begin for the Rangers and the draft picks.  Center Karl Henriksson of Frolunda taken with the 58th pick is just a 5’9 176 player. Why take such a smallish center as he is going to have trouble defending against the bigger players of the Metro Division?

Maybe I would have felt better if Hendriksson had played for the main Frolunda team instead of just the junior teams. Or if he is willing to come over to North America and play in the CHL for the next couple of years to help prepare him for the NHL.

If he stays in Sweden then the learning curve for him just might be higher and harder.

USHL

Zac Jones (USHL)

The only issue I have with selecting defenseman Zachary Jones of the Tri-City Storm with the 68th pick is the Rangers could have taken John Ludvig (Portland WHL),  Daniil Misyul (Yaroslavl2) or even his teammate Ronald Attard (Tri-City USHL). All were bigger than the 5’10 Jones but were also better defenders.

With the Rangers adding Robertson, K’Ander Miller, and Nils Lundkvist then the selection of Jones becomes a headscratcher.  But at the same time earning the USHL Rookie of the Year award after a 7-45-52 and breaking Jaden Schwartz’s power-play assist record (25) earns him some serious points on the positive side.

Lincoln Stars

Hunter Skinner (Lincoln Stars)

Other than why three defensemen, I don’t have any questions about defenseman Hunter Skinner (Lincoln USHL) who the Rangers took at 112. Skinner is a big skinny kid (6’3 174) who by the time he grows into his body should be around 210-215. Besides a great name, Skinner was a defensive-minded dman who uses his body quite well.

Not much on offense which he will need to improve on, I project him at best as a third pair defender/penalty killer. Skating needs work as does positioning but he is heading to Western Michigan and former Los Angeles Kings head coach Andy Murray. Murray is very much the right coach to help shape what really is a raw project player.

Sorry, no video on Hunter but if I find some I will post it.

EliteProspectsCom

Leevi Aaltonen (EliteProspects.com)

At 130 the Rangers drafted a friend of Kaapo Kakko’s Right Wing Leevi Aaltonen (Kalpa Jr.).  Since I don’t know him myself, I will give you over to one of my twitter followers Finnprospects.com (the link leads you to Kaapo Kakko’s profile) who wrote this on Aaltonen.

The main thing everyone points out is that Aaltonen is a speed merchant which is nice but when you are just 5’9 168 then you better be fast. Look most NHLers are smaller than they are listed as being so if this prospect can develop his body then he has a chance. The one thing I do really like is that Aaltonen has never met a shot he would not take.

Now that is one thing the Rangers could use more of, someone who will look to shoot first and pass second especially on the power play. If Aaltonen will do that then I don’t care what his size is, he can play for me any day.

I like this clip of Aaltonen as he scores on a shorthanded breakaway. I like how he gathers the puck then puts his speed to good use.

Ishockey, SHL, Luleå - Mora

Adam Edstrom (Simon Eliasson / BILDBYRÅN)

The Rangers stayed in Europe for their sixth-round pick taking center Adam Edstrom (Rogle SHL). Edstrom is 6’6 209 at 18 so it is going to be interesting to see what he matures his body to. This is very much a prospect I would want to have the Rangers convince to come over and play in the CHL.

The skinny on Edstrom is that he uses his size to his advantage and that he could develop into a scorer. I think he is more than likely going to develop into a defensive forward but given his size that is not a bad thing.

Sorry no video on Edstrom either but the stuff I got from those who follow Swedish hockey speak well of him.

Guelph Storm

Eric Ciccolini (Guelph Storm)

Finally, the Rangers used their seventh-round pick on right wing Eric Ciccolini  (Toronto Jr. Canadians) who is headed to play at Michigan. Since I knew nothing of Ciccolini I had some friends in the GTA (what they call the Toronto Metro area) do some digging for me.

The best information I got names Ciccolini the top prospect in the OJHL, He has an average size (6′ 170), also seen as a speed merchant but his skill set is supposed to Top Six potential.

Please Don’t Rush Kakko

Turun Sanomat

Kaapo Kakko (Turun Sanomat)

Look New York Ranger fans were jumping for joy when the New Jersey Devils announced that they were picking Jack Hughes with the first pick of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. That meant the people’s choice Kaapo Kakko was the pick of the New York Rangers at two.

There is no arguing that Kakko is the most talented prospect the Rangers have selected since the Rangers drafted somebody named Henrik in 2000. But honestly my own personal fear is that the Rangers will mismanage Kakko’s development. Now before you jump all over me, the Rangers have this very bad habit of forcefeeding their prospects to the NHL before they were ready.

From Dan Blackburn to Manny Malholtra to Michael Del Zotto to Lias Andersson and Filip Chytil, the Rangers wanting to show that they are serious about rebuilding have rushed talented players to the NHL before they were ready. Now there remains hope for Andersson and Chytil, the others never reached their potential thanks in large part to mismanagement by the Rangers front office.

Kaapo Kakko has all the skills to become a special player for the Rangers so I beg the Rangers to allow him to develop at his own speed and skill set. If he is NHL ready then he will show it right away but if he needs some time then give it to him.

Kakko is just 18 and the world will not end if he needs some seasoning in Hartford. People might not realize that Kakko has to adjust and adapt to a more physical brand of hockey. NHL Hockey is played on smaller ice surfaces and is way more talented than the Finnish Liiga is.

Let him learn to play with his young peers like Vitali Kravtsov and the already mentioned Andersson and Chytil. There is not a thing wrong with those prospects playing together and developing chemistry in Hartford.

Please just don’t rush him. I so badly want him to become a star.

Day One Notes:

It is a good thing that most Ranger fans don’t pay attention to NBCSN for if they had many might have had a heart attack when they saw a graphic that said Henrik Lundqvist had been traded to the Devils.

It was part of what is the norm, poor NHL coverage from NBC and NBCSN. From dumb questions (Hello Kathryn Tappen) asked of players and GMs to not even knowing where players are from (“Kakko can learn from his fellow Swede Mika Zibanejad”).

Please get the NHL some announcers who have their act together, steal Linda Cohn, Steve Levy and John Buccigross from ESPN. Those three have forgotten more hockey than the clowns at NBC.

Nobody got traded which should come as no surprise as NHL GMs have no idea what the 2019-2020 salary cap will be so few were willing to take on salary. It might have been a first when only one deal was made during the first round.

I can see Jeff Gorton using one second round pick to select a player and then use one to trade for more picks most likely in next year’s draft.

Taking a wild guess the Rangers including RFAs have 43 players until contract. That leaves just seven open spots to be offered NHL deals.