Rangers make Matt Rempe-like pick in fifth round of 2024 NHL Draft

2024 NHL Draft
Credit: Jim Cerny

LAS VEGAS — You can’t teach size, so the New York Rangers continued their recent trend selecting another massive forward here in the 2024 NHL Draft.

In the recent tradition of Adam Edstrom (6-foot-6, 2019 draft), Matt Rempe (6-foot-8, 2020 draft) and Dylan Roobroeck (6-foot-7, 2023 draft), the Rangers again used a late-round pick on a big forward when they selected 6-foot-6 Nathan Aspinall in the fifth round (No. 159 overall) on Saturday.

“(Size) is certainly helpful,” Rangers director of player personnel and amateur scouting John Lilley said at the conclusion of the draft. “Certainly there’s plenty of excellent small players out there, but the size is definitely a benefit, especially when you look at the playoffs and harder games. You have to play big, as well. It’s good to start out big, but then you have to use that size to your advantage.”

Rempe and Edstrom each graduated to the NHL this season and provided a hulking presence in New York’s bottom six group of forwards. Rempe took Broadway, and the League, by storm, starting with a fight on his first NHL shift against Islanders heavyweight Matt Martin in front of 79,000 fans outdoors at MetLife Stadium in February.

But what made Rempe and Edstrom so important to the Rangers is that each played a responsible, physical two-way game. It wasn’t just about fighting, though Rempe did build a quick reputation as a pugilist. Rempe had a goal and an assist to go with 71 penalty minutes in 17 regular-season games. He scored New York’s first goal in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and played in 11 postseason games.

Edstrom scored two goals in 11 regular-season games. He and Rempe have prime opportunities to play regular roles with the Rangers next sesaon.

“Those guys have done a great job. They were drafted … middle- to late-round guys with potential. Credit to those players that they’ve put the time and work to make themselves a big part of our organization,” Lilley explained.

Roobroeck signed his entry-level contract at the end of this past season after scoring 26 goals and finishing with 72 points and 101 penalty minutes in 68 games with Oshawa from the OHL.

Related: Rangers 1st-round pick EJ Emery models his game after K’Andre Miller

Nathan Aspinall is latest massive forward drafted by Rangers

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Florida Panthers at New York Rangers
Matt Rempe — Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Which leads us to Apsinall. The 18-year-old from Markham, Ontario, had 34 points (18 goals, 16 assists) in 65 games with Flint of the OHL this past season. He got better as the season progressed, though still has a lot to work on to reach the level Rempe and Edstrom have.

Aspinall is a towering 6-foot-6, but needs to bulk up since he weighs only 185 pounds. Of course, as a fifth-round draft pick, Aspinall will not be rushed in his devlopment.

“He’s got skill. The second half of the year, he really figured out what he needed to do to be an effective player. His second half really put him on the map for us … he figured out how to use his body,” Lilley said. “It gives us another bigger player. He still needs to fill out and keep getting stronger.”

Along with Aspinall, the Rangers had three other picks in the 2024 NHL Draft. They selected defenseman EJ Emery in the first round (No. 30), a move that was well received. New York traded up to select center Raoul Boilard in the fourth round (No. 119 overall) and finished the draft by choosing forward Rico Gredig from Switzerland in the sixth round.

Jim Cerny is Executive Editor at Forever Blueshirts and Managing Editor at Sportsnaut, with more than 30 years of... More about Jim Cerny

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