New York Rangers Continue Rebuild With Nine Selections in the 2020 NHL Draftby Liz Pendergraft October 9, 2020 0 comments
During the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, the New York Rangers selected nine players, six forwards, one defenseman, and two goalies. Out of those nine players, two were from Sweden, one for the United States, and the remaining six were Canadian. This Draft marked only the second time the Rangers have had the number one overall pick since 1963, which is when the draft was implemented, their last number one pick was Andre Veilleux in 1965.
It’s no surprise that for the No. 1 pick, the Rangers went with the best player on the board, Alexis Lafreniere. They also completed the draft’s first trade with the Calgary Flames to get the No. 19 pick, selecting defenseman Braden Schneider. During the second round, the Rangers traded Lias Anderson to the Los Angeles Kings, getting pick No. 60, and with that pick, they selected forward William Cuylle. In the third round at No. 92, they selected forward Oliver Tarnstrom. The Rangers selected Dylan Garand, their first goaltender of the night, in the fourth round at No. 103.
In the fifth round, the Rangers engineered another trade, this time with the San Jose Sharks, acquiring the 127th overall pick, and selected forward Evan Vierling. Their other fifth-round pick was at No. 134, choosing to select forward Brett Berard. In the sixth round, the Rangers selected forward Matthew Rempe at No. 165, and in the seventh round, with their last pick of the draft, they selected goaltender Hugo Ollas at No. 197.
He’s the first Canadian chosen at No. 1 Since Connor McDavid in 2015, and the first Quebec-born forward drafted first overall since Vincent Lecavalier in 1998. Lafreniere has played the last three seasons with Rimouski Océanic in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL), accumulating 114 goals and 183 assists over 173 games. He’s won the Canadian Hockey League MVP twice, making him the only other player besides Sidney Crosby to win the award more than once. He helped Canada win the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship, where he was named the most valuable player after scoring 10 points in five games.
Lafreniere has the size, skill, and hockey IQ to make a difference on the young Rangers team. He has a high compete level and won’t be easily intimidated by the physicality of the NHL. He has a great wrist shot and can be counted on to help with forechecking and creating turnovers in the neutral zone. Lafreniere has the potential to become an elite player or NHL superstar, and having teammates such as Kaapo Kakko, Mika Zibanejad, and Artemi Panarin can only help him improve and become the dynamic player the Rangers expect him to be.
He’s a right-handed defenseman who’s played the last three seasons for the Brandon Wheat Kings in the Western Hockey League (WHL), accruing 88 points over 185 games. He’s coming off a breakout season of 42 points in 60 games for the 2019-20 season. He can be a physical presence on the blue line and be a great two-way player for the powerplay or penalty kill. His offensive skills aren’t quite top-end, but his ability to finish checks and stay involved in the offense helps make him a threat to his opponents.
Schneider was chosen for his tough physical play, speed, and quick thinking. His passing is crisp, and he’s able to keep his feet moving while reacting to the puck. While the Rangers are looking to develop him into a top-four defenseman, it’s expected he’ll play for at least another season in the WHL. The potential upside to having him on the roster with his ability to play in all situations gives the Rangers defense the grit and physicality they appear to be trending towards.
In the 2019-20 season, Cullye accrued 42 points over 62 games for the Windsor Spitfires of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL). Those stats make him tied for third on power-play goals, ranked fourth in shots on goal, and ranked fifth in goals among his teammates. His skating may be considered average, but he has excellent balance and impressive acceleration. His quick hands and stickhandling give him the ability to make plays and set up chances to score. The Rangers need a power forward like him, with his size, strength, skill, and ability to use his abilities to take on opponents and stand up for his teammates. He will also be able to fight for position in front of the net, which the Rangers have needed.
Tarnstrom is considered a two-way center but has also shown the ability to play all three forward positions. During this past season, he led AIK’s J20 team in assists, ranked second in points, and ranked third in goals. This past season he had 34 points over 41 games, which resulted from his great puck handling and creation of offensive plays. The Rangers need a center who will make plays and has the ability to anticipate while in the neutral zone.
Among goalies with 30 or more starts, he was second in the WHL in both goals-against average and save percentage. This past season, he posted a 28-10-3 record, along with a 2.21 GAA, a .921 SV%, and 4 SO. He has quickness and aggressiveness and post-to-post explosiveness. Garand was ranked No. 6 on NHL Central Scouting’s final ranking of North American goaltenders eligible for this year’s draft. The Rangers have had some luck in drafting or finding good goaltenders, and Garand could prove to be one who will find his way to MSG.
Vierling played for both the Flint Firebirds and the Barrie Colts of the OHL for 44 points over 43 games. Thirty-four of those points came after the move to the Colts, where he played 28 games for them. He’s tough to guard against and has the skill and ability to create time and space in open ice. He’s not considered a two-way center, so he’s looking for offensive plays and appears comfortable with attempting takeaways. The Rangers can always use more offensive-minded players, looking to create plays or put pucks in the net. Vierling appears to be a viable option for the fourth line, perhaps even the third if his play continues to improve.
Berard registered 34 points over 41 games with the U.S. National Team Development Program (NTDP) this past season, leading the team in game-winning goals, tied for second on the team in goals, ranked third in points, and ranked fourth in assists. He’s a playmaker with an excellent shot, soft hands, and offers a lot of energy with his physical and aggressive playing. Over the past few years, since the rebuild started, the Rangers have looked for players whore are more physical and gritty. Berard appears to be able to fill that role if he continues to improve while at Providence College.
Rempe played in 47 games with the Seattle Thunderbirds of the WHL this past season, registering 31 points. He’s a 6-foot-8 forward, which is rare in the NHL. Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara is only an inch taller than Rempe, so it is possible his height won’t be a hindrance to his play. He’s considered by most who’ve looked at his career so far to be a project. The Rangers must have seen something in his play to select him over other players who are thought of as more well-rounded, talented players.
Ollas is a six-foot-eight goaltender who played 20 games with Linkoping’s junior (J20) team in SuperElit this past season. During that time, he had a 2.43 GAA. In 2020-21 with seven games under his belt for Linkoping’s junior team, he posted a 2.40 GAA. His size allows him to cover much of the net, allowing him to limit over-committing on shooting attempts. He’s been able to show calmness in the net and smooth movements. Ollas might be someone Benoit Allaire would like to take a look at. The Rangers have another project on their hands with the big goaltender, but that’s due to goalies’ development time.
Overall the Rangers have chosen well for the next few years down the road. It takes time to rebuild; these choices reflect the patience and the confidence the Rangers front office has in Jeff Gorton.
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Main Credit Image: Embed from Getty Images