A couple weeks ago, the New York Rangers teased a draft day video on Twitter. The release of the Reverse Retro jerseys and the visit of Alexis Lafrenière to New York may have pushed it to the background a little, but today was the day.
And what I spotted in that video was interesting for me as someone who follows the draft and its prospects closely all year.
Trading up for Braden Schneider
We all know how it went down on October 6th. They tried moving up several times when they saw rugged defenseman Braden Schneider, of the Brandon Wheat Kings in the WHL, still on the board. Eventually, the New York Rangers moved up from 22 to 19 by trading a third round pick to the Calgary Flames.
President John Davidson was thrilled when the trade was confirmed and watching the video, hearing Chris Morehouse explain that if you could walk away from day 1 with the best player in the draft and a future top-4 defenseman, he’d take that all day. And that’s what happened.
Jeff Gorton joked with Schneider that he tried to trade up 6 times and that he shouldn’t use that against him during contract negotiations. It’s testament of what this front office does and how comfortable they are with their evaluations. The Rangers added a right-handed defenseman who can replace Jacob Trouba in 4 years when Trouba’s NMC turns into a limited NTC.
With Adam Fox on the team and Nils Lundkvist in the pipeline, the right side of the Rangers blueline was injected with another great young talent.
But what if…
Now here’s a question, I’ve asked myself ever since draft day. What if the Rangers didn’t trade up? What if Schneider wasn’t available? Would they have stayed at 22 or would they have traded down?
The 22nd overall pick, acquired by the Rangers in a trade that sent Brady Skjei to the Carolina Hurricanes, could have been in play in a scenario where the Blueshirts trade down. And for one split second in the video there was a clue about what that could have been.
I was able to decypher based on the numbers on the board and teamnames written down, which packages the Rangers were negotiating for or at the very least were discussing amongst themselves.
In the photo above you can see the Rangers draft selections written in black, and in blue 3 combinations of picks.
The Nashville route: 37+42
37th and 42nd overall. Two picks belonging to the Nashville Predators at that point. The Predators would trade 37th overall to the Minnesota Wild the following night on day 2 of the draft, and that pick was used to select Russian center Marat Khusnutdinov from SKA St Petersburg. The 42nd overall selection was used by the Predators to select Luke Evangelista, who played with Rangers prospect Hunter Skinner for the London Knights in the OHL.
It is always fun to speculate and while it’s no guarantee the Rangers would have picked the same players, there’s a case to be made for Khusnutdinov and Evangelista filling some holes in our prospect pool up front. Especially Khusnutdinov would be a welcome addition to an otherwise shallow center prospect pool.
Another Hurricanes trade: 41+53
Jeff Gorton has traded 3 times in 12 months with the Carolina Hurricanes. It started last year when the Blueshirts acquired Adam Fox in exchange for a 2nd round pick in 2019 and a conditional 3rd round pick in 2020 (which turned into a 2nd round pick).
Near the deadline, Gorton picked up the phone twice more to send Joey Keane to Carolina in exchange for Julien Gauthier before acquiring the 1st round pick we mentioned earlier in the Brady Skjei trade. A Jets-scenario from 2019 could have been in play where we trade the pick back to the team we acquired it from. But who did the Carolina Hurricanes select with those 2 picks?
Well, here’s where my prospect heart beats a little faster because at 41st overall they selected Nils Lundkvist’s teammte Noel Gunler who has since moved to Brynäs and at 53 they added Vasily Ponomarev from the Shawinigan Cataractes of the QMJHL. An interesting pair of prospects to say the least.
Back-to-back picks from Montreal: 47+48
The Montreal Canadiens stocked up on draft picks ahead of a draft they were initially scheduled to host in June before the global pandemic changed everything. With 3 second round picks on day 1 of the draft, it makes sense Gorton was looking into the initial hosts for a deal.
The Canadiens held on to both picks and their selections were again interesting in hindsight of this trade-down scenario. With the 47th pick they selected Luke Tuch of the US NTDP, younger brother of Vegas Golden Knights forward Alex Tuch. The next selection they used on a Czech center who finished the season in the OHL with the Hamilton Bulldogs: Jan Myšák. With 25 points in 22 games Myšák had a strong finish to his season and he was expected by a lot of people to go in the first round.
The Rangers, as we know, ended up with Braden Scheider after trading up from 22 to 19, and the Rangers front-office couldn’t be happier. But I can’t help but think: What if? Who would the Rangers have picked in these trade-down scenarios? Tough to say, but it’s always fun to speculate.