If the Rangers trade up, who do they target?
With the Winnipeg Jets eliminated, and either Dallas or St. Louis making the Western Conference Final, the first round pick the Rangers received in the Kevin Hayes trade will be in the 18-21 range, depending on how the second round match-ups end. Colorado, Carolina, and Columbus can all affect the pick by advancing to the next round.
With the TBL second-rounder (58th overall) and the Dallas pick being either a first or second round selection, Jeff Gorton has the ammunition to trade up in the 2019 draft. What would it cost, and who would he target with a move like that?
As shown above, the potential price to trade up is a second-round pick if the Rangers are aiming at a spot in the 10-12 range. Having at least two, and potentially three, picks in the second round, Gorton has the assets to make this happen.
Trevor Zegras (US NTDP)
James: I fully expect that USNTDP Trevor Zegras will be a target of theirs. Zegras, who just finished up a great U18 tournament with nine assists in five games for the United States, is a commit to Boston University next year. He currently has 87 points in 60 games with “The Program” where 61 out of the 87 points have come in the form of assists. The 5’11” 18-year-old is a New York native, growing up in Bedford, and I think that he would be a great fit in his home state wearing the iconic Blueshirt sweater. Zegras is a playmaker and is arguably the best passer of the puck in this entire draft, including Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko. Zegras makes a living up and down the walls and below the goal line. He has good skating ability and hands, but it is his patience and ability to pass the puck that makes him a top-ten prospect. He looks off defenders phenomenally, makes insane no-look passes, and draws defenders to him that eventually leads to these incredible passes and assists. If the Dallas Stars make the Western Conference Final and the Rangers end up with picks 20 and 29, I could see them packaging them together to move up and draft Trevor Zegras. Leaving the first round with Kakko and Zegras would be incredible, to say the least.
Philip Broberg (AIK – SHL)
Steven: Swedish defenseman Philip Broberg has been up and down the rankings all season long. But, the 17-year old (turns 18 in June) has had a fantastic season playing with the top team in Allsvenskan, AIK, despite missing out on promotion to the SHL in the playoffs. Broberg was part of the U20 team at the World Juniors in Vancouver last winter being one of the youngest players in the tournament. Broberg is arguably the best defensive skater in the draft and his experience playing against men in the Swedish professional system is a huge advantage. At 6’3″ and 203 lbs, he is the best among big defensemen in the draft, but that size doesn’t hold him back in other areas. He’s a great skater and his puck-handling makes him a great prospect. After a strong U18 World Championship, where he was picked as the best defenseman of the tournament, the young Broberg may climb in the rankings. But, if he’s available at ten, the Rangers can definitely target him to trade up.
Peyton Krebs (Kootenay Ice – WHL)
Russell: Krebs is everything you could want in a top-six winger in the NHL. He has shown he can play center, but at 5’11” and 181 lbs., he is more suited to the wing position in the long run. The Rangers would be getting a kid who will already be challenging for a roster spot within the next year. He’s that good. He has the drive, he has the shot, he has the speed, he has the skill, and he has the smarts to succeed in the NHL. His numbers in the WHL may not be jumping off the page – 36G, 86A in two seasons – but make no mistake, he’s basically doing it all out there. Kootenay has not exactly been the best team over the past few seasons.
To put his last season into perspective: Krebs was a point per game player on a 13 win team with 70% of those being primary points. Krebs drives play when he’s on the ice and would be a welcome addition to the Rangers’ prospect pipeline. For a player like this, except possibly both low firsts and maybe a player or third pick included in getting a deal done. Basically, the Rangers need the Dallas pick.
Arthur Kaliyev (Hamilton Bulldogs – OHL)
James: Born in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, Arthur Kaliyev moved to the United States at an early age and played Peewee hockey for the New York Jr. Rangers in 2013. Kaliyev is a pure goal scorer. He has a lethal shot and can score from any spot on the ice, whether it be from the dot, in front of the net, or in the high slot. Aside from his tremendous release, Kaliyev is a big bodied 17-year-old standing at 6’2″, and 190 lbs. He is able to get inside defenders with his size and get good looks from the slot. As for on the dot, he has an Ovechkin-type mentality where he can just let shots go and blow pucks by goaltenders, especially on the power play. Kaliyev also has a great set of hands where he is able to put moves on defenders and create lanes for himself to shoot.
His release is his biggest weapon in that when he does pull off a dangle, or is able to drop in between the dots through defenders, he can still snap off a great shot. The one knock on Kaliyev is his skating ability. As most pure goal scorers go, what they have in their hands, they lack in their feet. I’m not saying Kaliyev skates as if he has lead in his boots; it’s just the one part of his game that is not top-notch. The Rangers passed on Oliver Wahlstrom last year for Vitali Kravtsov -which we are all more than happy about – but Wahlstrom is a pure goal scorer, and I believe the Rangers still lack that. I believe that Kaliyev can be that guy for them.
Victor Söderström (Brynäs IF – SHL)
Steven: A smooth-skating two-way defenseman, Victor Söderström plays on the right side and has been a really solid part of the Brynäs defense in the SHL this past season. His 44 games in the SHL are the third most in a single season by a 17-year-old defenseman, trailing only Adam Larsson and Tim Erixon. He is a great puck handler and his passing is what stands out most. He creates chances for his teammates with strong rushes up the ice, similar to what Tony DeAngelo does for the Rangers. His ability to read the play and predict how it unfolds makes him one of the top defensemen in this draft. With the arrival of Adam Fox, the Rangers should not necessarily stay away from defensemen. While the focus will be on forwards, Söderström is the type of player you pick if he’s available outside the top-ten. Together with Broberg, he has the skill-set to be a top-ten selection and don’t be surprised if he ends up walking to the podium in the first hour of the draft.
His mature style enables him to stay ahead of other prospects in terms of development. His first step makes him a threat in transition. Söderström does not sacrifice defense for the sake of offense, which is what some offensive defensemen in the past have been guilty of. Unlike Broberg, he’s a more physical defenseman who uses his body to win puck battles. With seven points this season in the SHL, he has shown he can contribute in that area of the game, which makes him a top-five defensive prospect in this upcoming draft.
Matthew Boldy (US NTDP)
Russell: The complete package. Matt Boldy has a powerful shot, his skating is excellent and some describe him as the Swiss-army knife forward in this draft. He can just do it all and do it well. At 6’2” and 192 lbs., Boldy is no slouch, and for someone his size, he is extremely agile on the ice. With time to develop, he will get more muscle on his frame and be an even bigger threat every time he touches the puck. Over his past two seasons with the US NTDP, Boldy has scored 62 goals and added 95 assists for 157 points in 125 games. Those are impressive numbers and Boldy projects to be a very solid top-six forward in the NHL.
Boldy’s hockey IQ is off the charts and he is an extremely selfless player. He is that type of guy that coach David Quinn would love to have with his tenacious mindset for the Rangers going forward. On the defensive side of the puck, Boldy does a good job on the backcheck and won’t be a liability on that side of the puck. Getting Boldy would be a coup for Gorton, and if the Rangers walk away from the first round of the 2019 draft with Kakko and Boldy, that would be something special.
Conclusion: If Jeff Gorton decides to trade up in the draft, there are several targets who would add significant value to the organization. For the last two years, the Rangers have gone for quantity. They added a plethora of draft picks and prospects in the last 24 months. This is the time to go for quality. Giving up a second round pick to move up four, five or maybe even six spots in the draft and get a guy who they are very high on, makes sense when you look at the timeline of the Rangers rebuild.