Rangers must target goalie on Day 2 of NHL Draft

Dylan Garand -- Photo courtesy Hartford Wolf PackCredit: Hartford Wolf Pack

Glancing at the New York Rangers goaltending depth chart presents some intrigue heading into the 2024 NHL Draft coming up this Friday and Saturday at the Sphere in Las Vegas.

Igor Shesterkin has one more season on his contract before the 2022 Vezina Trophy winner becomes an unrestricted free agent. Veteran backup Jonathan Quick also can become a UFA at the end of the 2024-25 season. Quick, who’ll turn 39 next season, could also choose to retire in 2025.

In the system at Hartford in the American Hockey League, 32-year-old veteran Louis Domingue is signed through 2024-25 with an NHL cap hit of $775,000 and Dylan Garand (22) has one year left on his entry-level contract. Also under contract are Talyn Boyko (21) who has one year until restricted free agency, and Hugo Ollas (21) is signed to a two-year entry level contract. Boyko and Ollas are expected to be the tandem in net for the Rangers’ ECHL affiliate in Bloomington.

In short, there’s quite a bit of uncertainty with the future of New York’s goaltending, though, at the top end, it’s expected that Shesterkin will eventually sign a lucrative long-term contract extension.

But it’s been three years since the Rangers selected a goalie in the draft.

Since becoming Rangers general manager in 2021, Chris Drury has selected one goalie. That was Boyko in the fourth round (No. 112 overall) in 2021.

In 2020, then-GM Jeff Gorton picked Garand in the fourth round at No. 103 overall and the Rangers also took a chance on Ollas in the seventh round at No. 197. Garand has turned in two solid professional seasons in the AHL, particularly standing out with his play in the Calder Cup Playoffs. He could become Shesterkin’s backup as early as 2025-26.

The Rangers did not select a goalie in 2019 and Olof Lindbom was the first netminder to have his name called in the second round (No. 39 overall) back in 2018. However, after two seasons in North America, Lindbom signed to play in Finland next season.

The Rangers currently possess only four picks heading into the upcoming draft. They retained their own first-round pick (No. 30 overall), as well as their fourth- (No. 127 overall), fifth- (No. 159 overall), and sixth-round (No. 191 overall) selections.

One of those Day 2 picks needs to be a goalie.

Related: Ranking Rangers’ 1st-round pick in NHL Draft since 2000

Goalie options for Rangers in 2024 NHL Draft

Hugo Ollas — photo courtesy Hartford Wolf Pack

Figuring the Rangers likely won’t select a goalie with their first-round pick, they’ll need to consider one in the latter rounds of this year’s draft. Here are some interesting options for the Rangers, who would love a to land a stud late-round pick like Shesterkin (fourth round in 2014) or even a quality prospect like Garand (main photo).

Albin Boija

One goaltender who could be targeted by the Rangers during the second day of the draft is Albin Boija from the University of Maine. The native of Sundsvall, Sweden was the No. 1 goalie for the Black Bears as a freshman, appearing in 18 games (16 starts), accumulating a record of 10-6-1 to go along with a spectacular goals-against average of 2.01 and .916 save percentage with two shutouts. During his first season, Boija was a two-time Hockey East Goaltender of the Week on Jan. 8 and March 18, and was named Hockey East Defender of the Week on Feb. 5, and Hockey East Rookie of the Week on March 11. Boija made a career-high 34 saves in a 4-3 win over UMass on March 9, and made at least 25 saves in six games. With other prospects skating for Hockey East clubs this past season, Rangers scouts should be familiar with Boija, as he led Maine to a semifinal appearance in the Hockey East tournament.

Despite being older that many of his peers in the draft class (he’ll turn 21 on August 20), Boija is eligible for the 2024 NHL Draft, and is expected to hear his name called by an NHL team in the later round as an over-ager. He is ranked No. 129 overall by McKeen’s Hockey and No. 22 by NHL Central Scouting for North American Goalies.

Noah Bender

Another goalie who Rangers scouts should be familiar with is Noah Bender from the Oshawa Generals. The right-catching goalie was a teammate with current Hartford forward Dylan Roobroeck, a sixth-round pick by the Blueshirts in 2023. Bender is ranked No. 19 by NHL Central Scouting for North American Goalies. The 17-year-old appeared in 12 OHL regular-season games, posting a record of 5-3-0-1 with a 3.26 GAA and .894 save percentage.

During the OHL playoffs, Bender played three games for the Generals, with a 4.24 GAA and .844 save percentage. Though these stats may seem underwhelming on the surface, it is important to note that Bender served as the backup to Jacob Oster as Oshawa went on to capture the Bobby Orr Trophy as the Eastern Conference champion in the Ontario Hockey League. Bender is expected to improve upon his numbers as he assumes the starting role over the next couple of seasons and continues to develop in the junior leagues.

Noa Vali

On the international side, the Rangers could look to draw from their pipeline with HC TPS in the Finnish SM-Liiga by drafting Noa Vali. The 19-year-old is ranked No. 274 by McKeen’s Hockey and is the No. 9 ranked International goalie according to NHL Central Scouting.

During international competition, Vali represented Finland at the U-20 World Junior Championships, with a 2-0-0 record in two games, and posted a 1.94 GAA, and .929 save percentage, earning one shutout. He is eligible to be named to the team again for the 2025 tournament.

Vali has a bit of professional experience, appearing in 19 regular-season games during the 2023-24 season, posting a 3-8-7 record with a 2.87 GAA and .870 save percentage. At the junior level, he was 12-4-0, appearing in 18 regular-season games with a 2.18 GAA and .910 save percentage. During the playoffs, Vali had a 7-4-0 record in 11 games with a 3.40 GAA and .868 save percentage.

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