There was an obvious trend to the New York Rangers selections at the NHL Draft this weekend. It was size and grit, and a heavy North American flavor. Of their eight selections, six were forwards, one was a defenseman, and they added a goalie. The average size was 6-2′ and 184 lbs, and only two picks were European.
When asked if that was a strategy, Chris Drury said it was just how it worked out. Yet, this seems to be a choice that started in the last draft when they selected only one European prospect (Oliver Tarnstrom). In 2020, they went big and heavy with players like Braden Schneider and Will Cuylle.
Prior to that 15 of their 25 picks from 2017-2019 were from overseas that included Lias Andersson, Filip Chytil, Vitali Kravtsov, and Kaapo Kakko. It appears Drury and Chris Morehouse, who is the Director of North American Scouting are going in a new direction.
Analyzing the Rangers draft
Steve Kournianos who runs The Draft Analyst, scouts and monitors prospects year round. Considering how difficult this past season was due to the pandemic, I asked him to breakdown the Rangers draft. Here’s what he had to say:
I believe Chris Drury when he said “it’s just the way the board fell” in response to a question asking if he had made drafting for size and physicality a priority. Of course, it’s not surprising the Rangers had those types on their board.
However; skilled forwards Ryder Korczak, Brody Lamb, and Kaille Vaisanen don’t fit into your typical “physical forward” category, as all three are offense-minded weapons who just happen to play hard.
Center Jayden Grubbe could be a steal. He and Rangers’ first-rounder Brennan Othmann were linmates for Canada-Black at the 2019 World under-17 Challenge and they blitzed opposing defensemen during breakouts left and right, but then made plays off turnovers.
I assess Drury’s first draft as well balanced; one that targeted difference makers who provide pop either with the puck, without it, or both. All of his first five selections are forwards who have puck-possessing skill and can either finish or create chances for linemates. Some just happen to be tougher or meaner than others, but they all work hard.
Breaking Down the Rangers picks
Rd 1, 16: Brennan Othmann, LW, (6′, 175 lbs)
NYR Press Release: Othmann, 18, skated in 34 games with EHC Olten in the Swiss League this past season, registering seven goals and nine assists for 16 points, along with 64 penalty minutes. He was one of only 12 players (skaters and goaltenders included) in their U18 season or younger who played in the Swiss League in 2020-21, and he led all of those players in assists and points during the season. Othmann also recorded two points (one goal, one assist) in four playoff games with EHC Olten this past season.
Rd 3, 65: Jayden Grubee, C, (6’2, 200 lbs)
NYR Press Release: Grubbe, 18, skated in five games with the Red Deer Rebels of the Western Hockey League (WHL) this past season, registering one goal and two assists for three points, along with nine penalty minutes. The 6-2, 200-pounder recorded 29 points (six goals, 23 assists) in 57 games in his rookie season in the WHL in 2019-20. Grubbe served as Red Deer’s captain this past season. Internationally, the Calgary, Alberta native recorded three points (two goals, one assist) in five games with Canada-Black at the 2019 World U17 Hockey Challenge.
Rd 3, 75: Ryder Korczak, C, (5’11, 174 lbs)
NYR Press Release: Korczak, 18, skated in 17 games with the Moose Jaw Warriors of the Western Hockey League (WHL) this past season, registering three goals and 13 assists for 16 points, along with four penalty minutes. He led Moose Jaw in assists and tied for fourth on the team in points in 2020-21. The 5-11, 174-pounder has skated in 132 career WHL games over parts of four seasons (2017-18 – 2020-21), registering 29 goals and 69 assists for 98 points, along with 36 penalty minutes. The Yorkton, Saskatchewan native established WHL career-highs with 18 goals, 49 assists, and 67 points with Moose Jaw in 2019-20. Korczak has served as one of Moose Jaw’s alternate captains in each of the last two seasons.
Rd 4, 104: Brody Lamb, RW, (6’1, 165 lbs)
NYR Press Release: Lamb, 17 (turns 18 years old on August 30), skated in 24 games with the Dodge County Wildcats in Minnesota, registering 52 goals and 35 assists for 87 points, along with 12 penalty minutes. He was named the Minnesota Associated Press Player of the Year in 2020-21, as he led all players in the state in goals and points. The 6-1, 165-pounder also recorded 23 points (12 goals, 11 assists) in 19 games with Team TDS Transportation in the Upper Midwest High School Elite Hockey League (UMHSEHL) and two assists in 10 games with the Green Bay Gamblers of the United States Hockey League (USHL). The Rochester, Minnesota native served as Dodge County’s captain this past season, and he also tallied 66 points (46 goals, 20 assists) in 22 games with Dodge County in 2019-20.
Rd 4, 106: Kalle Vaisanen, LW, (6’4, 178 lbs)
NYR Press Release: Vaisanen, 18, skated in 27 games with TPS’ U20 team in U20 SM-sarja in Finland, registering nine goals and 21 assists for 30 points, along with a plus-13 rating and 34 penalty minutes. The 6-4, 178-pounder has played in TPS’ organization for the last two seasons; he recorded 39 points (18 goals, 21 assists) in 44 games with TPS’ U18 team in U18 SM-sarja in 2019-20 and was named to the league’s Second All-Star Team. Internationally, the Kotka, Finland native tallied one assist in five games while representing his country at the 2021 IIHF U18 World Championship.
Rd 4, 112: Talyn Boyko, G, (6’7, 196 lbs)
NYR Press Release: Boyko, 18, appeared in 14 games with the Tri-City Americans of the Western Hockey League (WHL) this past season, posting a 7-7-0 record, along with a 3.02 GAA, a .901 SV%, and 1 SO. The 6-7, 196-pounder established WHL career-bests in several categories in 2020-21, including wins, GAA, and SV%. The Drumheller, Alberta native has appeared in 48 career WHL games over parts of three seasons (2018-19 – 2020-21), all with Tri-City.
Rd 5, 144: Jaroslav Chmelar, RW, (6’4, 198 lbs)
NYR Press Release: Chmelar, 18, skated in 15 games with Jokerit’s U18 team in U18 SM-sarja in Finland this past season, registering five goals and eight assists for 13 points, along with eight penalty minutes. The 6-4, 198-pounder joined Jokerit’s organization for the 2020-21 season after playing with Kiekko-Vantaa’s organization in Finland during the 2019-20 season. Chmelar tallied 22 points (11 goals, 11 assists) in 42 games with Kiekko-Vantaa’s U18 team in 2019-20. Internationally, the Nove Mesto nad Metuji, Czech Republic native recorded two points (one goal, one assist) and a plus-three rating in five games while representing his country at the 2021 IIHF U18 World Championship.
Rd 7, 208: Hank Kempf, D, (6’1, 180 lbs)
NYR Press Release: Kempf, 19, skated in 26 games with the Muskegon Lumberjacks of the United States Hockey League (USHL) this past season, registering four goals and six assists for 10 points, along with a plus-five rating and 27 penalty minutes. He established a USHL career-high in goals in 2020-21, and he served as one of Muskegon’s alternate captains during the season. The 6-2, 191-pounder played parts of the last three seasons in the USHL (2018-19 – 2020-21), all with Muskegon, registering 28 points (four goals, 24 assists) and a plus-21 rating in 81 games. Kempf was named to the USHL All-Academic Team and the USHL All-Rookie Second Team in 2019-20. Internationally, the Chicago, Illinois native represented the United States at the 2019 Hlinka Gretzky Cup.