The New York Rangers went into the 2021 draft with nine picks. Before the draft even began, general manager Chris Drury was making waves among fans by trading Pavel Buchnevich to the St. Louis Blues for Sammy Blais and a 2nd round pick in the 2022 draft. Going into the draft, the Rangers’ biggest need was to grab a center, maybe two. The Rangers were also looking to pick up some players with size and strength, based on reading between the lines of Drury’s stated plans for the future of the Rangers.
Brennan Othmann, F, ECH Olten-SL (Round1, Pick 16)
Jayden Grubbe, C, Red Deer Rebels-WHL (Round 3, Pick 65)
Ryder Korczak, C, Moose Jaw Warriors-WHL (Round 3, Pick 75)
Brody Lamb, F, Green Bay Gamblers-USHL (Round 4, Pick 104)
Kalle Vaisanen, F, TPS-LIIGA (Round 4, Pick 106)
Talyn Boyko, G, Tri-City Americans-WHL (Round 4, Pick 112)
Jaroslav Chmelar, F, Jokerit-U18 SM-sarja (Round 5, Pick 144)
Hank Kempf, D, Muskegon Lumberjacks-USHL (Round 7, Pick 208)
No major trades materialized as fans expected them to. Instead, the Rangers traded two picks (80th and 176th) to the Capitals so they could move up five spots in the third round. The Rangers decided to gamble on a few players due to the limited amount of analytics. Others have deficiencies that will need to be addressed. Obviously, not all of the pics will make it to the NHL, but the ones with the best chance are Othmann and Grubbe. Lamb still has time to grow, and with his commitment to the University of Minnesota, we’ll be able to see if his game translates to the NHL.
If a few picks pan out, such as Chmelar and Lamb, the Rangers could become the team to play against in about three to four years. Overall, the Rangers did a good job in what’s been a difficult year for all of hockey. They didn’t choose the best players left on the board, but it looks like their plan was to get players that fit into what they believe the Rangers should be, which is a combination of finesse players, goal scorers, and gritty toughness.
Best Pick: Brennan Othmann
Othmann was ranked the eighth-best North American skater by NHL Central Scouting. With his performance this past season, you can see why the Rangers chose him instead of someone else. He’s a goalscoring winger and tough to play against. However, Othmann is not afraid to grind it out or make plays for his teammates.
He does need more improvement in his skating, but he’s been working on that with Bryan Knipe, a strength and conditioning coach, and skating coach Lisa Clark. All his hard work was paying off. In this past season with Olten, he put up 16 points in 34 games. Also, it was hard not to notice him on Team Canada at the IIHF U18 World Championships this year. He was the second-highest goalscorer with three goals and six points in seven games. So there’s a lot of upside to picking him.
Worst Pick: Hank Kempf
The Rangers have a lot of depth at defense in their system right now. So it’s not that Kempf’s the worst pick of the Draft for the Rangers; there’s just a lot he’ll need to work on before becoming NHL ready. He’s a physical defenseman, so they must see something in his play that has potential. This past season, he played only 26 games and had 10 points (four goals, 6 assists), which was the second-best out of the defenseman on the team. In his overall career in the USHL, he played in 81 games with 28 points. Kempf will be attending Cornell University in the fall, and it will be exciting to see him develop in a good program.
Sleeper Pick: Jayden Grubbe
Many analysts didn’t have him high on their lists. He certainly wasn’t the highest-ranked center available when it was time for the Rangers to choose. Size may have something to do with their reason behind choosing Grubbe since he’s currently listed at 6-foot-3. Also, his injury this past season and subsequent ACL surgery may have contributed to his ranking with analysts. In his first season in the WHL, he put up 29 points in 56 games. In his second season, he had three points in five games before it was cut short.
Some consider him to have a defensive center and playmaker. However, with his second season cut short, it isn’t easy to know exactly what the Rangers are getting in this pick. One thing they are getting in Grubbe is a leader. He was named as the captain for the Red Deer Rebels after only one season with them. It’s impressive, especially given how unusual it is for a player to be given such a leadership role after only one season.
Many were suspect after Drury was appointed both the president and general manager position. Their concern was a shift from continuing on the current path to a more “win now” path, which has not served the Rangers well in the past. However, while Drury and the front office might be trying to get up to a jogging speed on that rebuild path, picks like Lamb can give reassurance to fans about the future.
There were several “reaches” in this draft by the Rangers. The only safe picks might have been Othmann at number 16 and Korczak at number 75. However, it’s possible that due to the pandemic and the lack of scouting available on talent evaluation, that they decided to roll the dice. So, it’s a game for the Rangers. However, if any of these picks pan out for Drury, he might end up looking like a genius. Only time will tell.
Follow Liz Pendergraft on Twitter @lizzibear824
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