Rangers ignore rankings again to select Kravtsov over Wahlstrom

Last night in Dallas, the names rattled off one by one. Rasmus Dahlin, Andrei Svechnikov, Jesperi Kotkaniemi, and Brady Tkachuk were somewhat expected until the Coyotes went off the board to select Barrett Hayton over Filip Zadina. While Hayton is considered a solid 2 way center, he was not ranked in the top 5. Actually he wasn’t even in the top 10, which gift wrapped highly touted Zadina to Detroit.

The Rangers Did It Again

All of a sudden, after 6 picks the Rangers were looking at some great young defensemen or the purest goal scorer in the draft. The Rangers were sitting pretty.

With the 7th pick in the draft the Vancouver Canucks select D, Quinn Hughes.

With the 8th pick in the draft the Chicago Blackhawks select D, Adam Boqvist.

This is it! The Rangers got lucky and landed the kid with the ridiculous one timer and hands of gold. A pure goal scorer they so desperately lack and need. Rangers fans were at the NHL draft party giddy with anticipation. Ok, here they go up to the podium to announce Oliver Wahlstrom.

With the 9th pick in the draft the New York Rangers select W, Vitali Kravtsov.

Kravtsov? The Hulu Theater went almost silent as people scrambled to their phones to figure out who the Rangers just picked. Almost like last year when the Rangers passed over highly touted forwards, Casey Mittlestadt, Owen Tippett, and Gabriel Vilardi in order to select Lias Andersson at 7th overall.

Two years in a row, the Rangers went off the board a bit to draft a player they like versus one of the higher ranked kids available.

What Experts Are Saying

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Vitali Kravtsov is an offensive talent for sure. At 6’4″ and 184 lbs he has size which is something you can’t teach. While he didn’t light up the KHL during the regular season with 7 points in 35 games, he had an eye-opening playoffs with 11 points in 16 games. The general consensus from draft experts was that he is a great skater with a huge ceiling.

At face value, there is nothing wrong with this selection. Matter of fact, the more you read and see about him, the more there is to like. The issue is this, they passed over Oliver Wahlstrom. Just for context, let me present how CBS recapped the draft selections below:

“A decent offensive piece” versus “could be a prolific goal-scorer in this league for years to come.” Is there anymore that needs too be said about why this pick is a bit confusing.

Ignoring an Obvious Need

What’s even more confounding was what the Rangers Director of Scouting, Gordie Clark said about him. “He’s a little bit like J.T. Miller,” Clark told Newsday. If he’s like J.T. Miller, why did you trade J.T. Miller? “We don’t think he’s a goal-scorer, but he scores goals. But he makes more plays. You can’t play an 18-year-old in the KHL in the center spot at all. He had been a center growing up, but that’s to see in the future. But we took him as a winger.’’

The Rangers for years have desperately needed an elite goal scorer. I’ve been screaming about this at the top of my lungs for a while now. So much so I wrote about why the Rangers fail in the playoffs time and time again. It is because they can’t score when it counts, and they just passed over the one player that was gifted to them at 9 to select a center they want to be a winger who can make plays but isn’t a goal scorer.

10 year playoff scoring analysis

Is This Vlad Tarasenko All Over Again

Rangers fans have legitimate concerns when it comes to drafting first round picks. The truth is the Rangers have a terrible track record for 1st round selections. Pavel Brendl, Hugh Jessiman, Al Montoya, Bobby Sanguinetti, and Dylan McIlrath.

The last name on that list was taken over Vlad Tarasenko and is the literally the poster child for the Rangers mind numbing choices in the first round. The harsh reality is that even if Kravtsov becomes a 25 goals and 60-70 points a year player, it will still be a bust if Wahlstrom is scoring 40-50 goals with the rival Islanders.

To be fair, I am criticizing the selection without the knowledge or expertise of those who decided on Kravtsov over Wahlstrom. While it appears obvious to most experts and others like me that Wahlstrom was the better talent, the Rangers may see Kravtsov as a better longterm fit. This is as they say, “the process” and we need to trust in it and their vision.

I just hope the name Oliver Wahlstrom doesn’t become Vlad Tarasenko all over again.

Anthony Scultore has been covering the New York Rangers and the NHL since 2014. His work also appears at... More about Anthony Scultore

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