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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 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.

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.

Happy To Redo The Draft

Alright I am no fan of Jeff Gorton but I have to give him his rightful due. The New York Rangers general manager has not made a single pick in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft but he has already won this years draft for the Rangers.

Give Gorton a standing ovation for turning the 20th pick into defenseman Jacob Trouba and the 37th pick into defenseman Adam Fox. Toss in either Jack Hughes or Kaapo Kakko and already this is one of the best single draft hauls the Rangers have had in years if not ever.

Thanks to the Trouba deal, we get to redo our draft selections because Jeff Gorton has already addressed one big area and that is defense. Now we are going to focus on adding some top-line talent among the forwards.

2— The way this draft is going maybe New Jersey does the Rangers a favor and use the first pick on Kaapo Kakko. That means Jack Hughes is a Ranger and life for Rangers fans just got that much better. I will let Steve Kournianos tell you why with his talent.

See I like Hughes for more than his offense, I like Hughes for what he will do in the locker room as well as in the stands. He will make his teammates better just with his presence on the ice but give everyone else the confidence that the Rangers are that much better.

Don’t get me wrong, Kaapo Kakko is a great player but the difference between the two is that Hughes is also a leader on and off the ice. You can’t teach leadership and the Rangers badly need a vocal leader.

49Adam Beckman C/LW of the Spokane Chiefs was the second leading rookie scorer in the WHL (32-30-62). I like him mainly because he gives you everything for an entire 60 minutes something the Rangers badly need. Tireless and relentless, Beckman has a high Hockey IQ and excellent on-ice vision.

Can score from anywhere but isn’t afraid of playing in traffic or taking a hit to make a play. David Quinn will like him because Beckman is very coachable and loves working on improving his overall game.

58— I originally had Shane Pinto going at 68 but his stock has risen so I need to grab him here. Heading to play for North Dakota, Pinto is a very solid prospect who can play either center or right wing. A good skating player who has size (6’2 200) as well as skill, Pinto is equally comfortable as a scorer or playmaker.

What makes him the right pick here is that if the Rangers do wind up with Hughes then they are giving him someone who can also protect him. Pinto is so good in the paint that whoever is his linemate, Pinto will get those “dirty” (rebound) goals.

68— There is an advantage when your GM is from the Boston area, his name is John Farinacci of the Southfield School in Massachusetts. A Harvard-bound center who is much bigger than his 5’11 stat says he is. Comfortable as a playmaker or scorer, Farinacci has maybe the most under-rated hands at this point of the draft.

Needs work on his first step and acceleration, Farinacci is a tough kid to fight against the boards for the puck. Defense is good and he is going to play for a good Harvard team. Give him three years at Harvard and the Rangers will have one heck of a player.

112— This is one pick I won’t change my mind on and that is Reece Newkirk of the Portland Winterhawks. I said it before, if there is a prospect who makes me think of Ryan Callahan it is Newkirk. Totally fearless and someone who will battle you for every inch of the ice, Newkirk is an undersized left winger who fans will just love.

59 points in 68 games, if he wasn’t a smallish 5’11 then he would not be here in the fourth. A much better passer than he is given credit for, Newkirk crashes the crease as if his life depends on it. To give you an idea on how good this kid is, the Winterhawks had him playing with Cody Glass a lottery pick of the Vegas Golden Knights. Teams will regret passing on him.

130— The fifth round is where you can roll the dice and take a chance on someone. I like goalie Dustin Wolf of the Everett Silvertips who led the WHL in goals against (1.69), save perecentage (0.936), and shutouts (7) in his first year as a starter. He was a first team WHL All-Star as he went 41-15-2-2.

So you ask why is this kid in the fifth round? It is because he is barely 6′ tall in a day and age when the NHL has become addicted to 6’6 goalies. Don’t be shocked if this isn’t Team USA’s starting goalie when the 2020 World Under-20 tournament happens.

Super smart goalie who’s athletic and can read the ice really well. Very much worth the risk here as he will wind up in the NHL because Wolf refuses to let anyone tell him no. Take this kid and the Garden faithful will howl with delight.

161— An area where the Rangers can use some help is in toughness and 6’6 225 defenseman Jackson van de Leest of the Calgary Hitmen in the WHL is their guy. A true stay-at-home defender who can bring some nasty when asked (ask Ranger prospect Jake Elmer what happens), van de Leest will give his partner the freedom to join the rush.

A very good skater for a player his size, van de Leest even can offer more offense than your average enforcer but don’t expect him to join the rush. Good passer from his own end, David Quinn will like that he is more than a goon and isn’t a liability if asked to do more than fight. Worth it at this point in the draft.

205— So in 1990 the Rangers used a second round pick on a center named Doug Weight, in 2019 the Rangers will use their seventh on son Danny Weight of the USNTP Under-18 team. Young Weight is a good offensive weapon like his father with the passing skill set and quick release on his shot.

Danny Weight just isn’t as strong a skater as his father but he has four years at Boston College to improve his skating. Worth the risk based on having the same kind of offensive skills as his dad and the work ethic. If Boston College thinks he is worth a full scholarship then I would wager the risk of a seventh round pick.

JD Isn’t Glen Sather

Maybe I am a dreamer and it is wishful thinking but I believe that things are going to be different for the Rangers under John Davidson. I just have a hard time believing that JD is going to let Jeff Gorton continue the Glen Sather method of running the Rangers.

I say that because JD didn’t run either the St. Louis Blues or the Columbus Bluejackets the way Sather has run the Rangers. Yes JD signed free agents and made key trades but he built a homegrown core with his teams developing his own stars. Both the Blues and BJs were messes when JD took over and he tore them apart to rebuild the entire franchise.

The Rangers were a mess before JD got here with the rebuild already underway when JD accepted the job of Rangers President. What will change how things are run with the Rangers. For starters, JD will ensure that the rebuild remains the top priority and not try using shortcuts.

It might be a dream but JD won’t overpay for anyone as he saw firsthand the days of first Neil Smith and then Glen Sather overpay for free agents that were failures as Rangers. No more over paying for free agents when the Rangers are bidding against themselves.

No more of these four for one trades as if it is not reasonable then JD will just say NO. Yes JD will sign free agents and make trades but I think you will see them come in as reasonably priced and not those long-term killer deals.

I have more faith in JD if he decides to bite the bullet and buyout Kevin Shattenkirk and Brendan Smith. I also don’t think you will see Chris Kreider be left twisting in the wind like we watched Mats Zuccarello go through last season. Expect a decision on Krieder’s fate to be made before the draft this week.

I do believe JD will tell Jeff Gorton to ice the best possible team but not to rush any of the youth that has been signed so far. Hiring Tanner Glass strongly indicates that JD is going to push for more teachers among the Rangers staff than before.

I can see JD going “old school” and bringing in mentors for his youngest players something that Sather repeatedly failed to do. I remember that JD had former Rangers first round pick goalie Dan Blackburn live with him and his family in his first year as a Ranger.

Expect to see that happen more often on JD’s watch as it is the right way to develop instead of having 18-year-olds running around New York (hello Michael Del Zotto). I have faith in John Davidson bringing in stability as well as accountability to the Rangers.

It is either that or this dream of JD that I am having will turn into a nightmare.

Let’s Talk The Draft (Rd’s 3-7)

The easy part of the 2019 NHL Entry is over and one can say that the Rangers are already having a winning draft. But the Rangers still need to find depth as well as talent with their remaining five picks so here goes.

68— If Shane Pinto RW (6’2 195) of the Lincoln Stars (USHL) is here then grab him. Pinto who is headed to North Dakota is big RW who can also play center. He is a work in progress which is why you are looking at him here.

Strong passer who can read the ice well is also a good skater. Despite his size he needs work on in play in traffic as well as his shot selection. Worthy gamble if available but if not then would rather see the Rangers trade down to add more picks.

112— Rangers have to wait 42 picks due to trades before selecting in the 4th round and I am headed back to the WHL. I really like Reece Newkirk of the Portland Winterhawks here mainly because when I watch him play I see Ryan Callahan (also a fourth round pick).

The 5’11 170 center/left wing Newkirk had 59 points in 68 games and his size is why he is here in the fourth. Like Callahan, Newkirk plays with no fear at any end of the ice and is a human wrecking ball. Ranger fans will fall in love with this kid because of his heart and fight.

130— In the fifth I like a kid I got to watch when following Riley Hughes in Massimo Rizzo of the Penticton Vees (BCHL). The name alone says he is made to be playing at Madison Square Garden but seriously the 5’10 170 center/left wing is super fast and an excellent stickhandler.

Also heading to North Dakota, Rizzo plays bigger than his size and is rock solid in all three zones. Really love the way Rizzo’s on-ice vision works as he reads plays before they develop. Will be a serious threat on the power play the way he controls the puck.

161— Right Wing Aaron Huglen of Roseau Jr. Sr. High School in Minnesota. One of the more dominate high players in Minnesota, Huglen is a hard working forward who plays much bigger than his 5’11 size. A smart player who wins puck battles in the paint and will take a hit if it makes a play.

Huglen is heading to the Minnesota Golden Gophers where he will continue to grow and improve.

205— With their last pick, the Rangers are going to repeat their seventh round idea from 2018 and select another Boston high school player. Defenseman Braden Doyle of Lawrence Academy a Boston University recruit follows the path that last year’s seventh rounder Riley Hughes did by taking an extra year before heading off to college.

This one could be one of the better kept secrets as Doyle was selected by the Boston Bruins as the winner of the John Carlton Memorial Trophy. The award is given annually to the high school “who combine exceptional hockey skills with academic excellence.”

Doyle will play next season for Dubuque Fighting Saints of the USHL. He is an offensive-minded defender who can take the puck from his end and lead the rush. An excellent puck-handler, Doyle is also impossible to take the puck from once he gets going.

Fits David Quinns system because he can either skate or pass the puck up the ice in a hurry. Needs work on his defensive side which is why he lasts to the seventh round but that is OK the Rangers will be happy to have him.