Talent or Need: The Debate Surrounding the Rangers Draft Philosophy

Gorton

Later this week, the NHL will come together in Dallas for another year of welcoming new players to the league. This year’s Entry Draft marks an exciting time for many teams given the amount of talent present in the draft pool.

But the Rangers are in a situation that only a few teams can relate to, in that they are attempting to retool their team and mold themselves back into contention for years to come. The Rangers have three picks in the first round (#9, #26, #28), and what they do with them has been left to much speculation. The Rangers have some glaring needs and gaping holes to fill, but does that justify passing up on pure talent?

Talent or Need

Despite drafting players like Lias Andersson and Filip Chytil, the latter expected to be a prolific scorer, they still lack the intense fire power that teams like the Penguins or Lightning possess. At the same time, they have holes in their defense, despite having a fairly decent pool of defensive prospects. Players like Libor Hajek and Ryan Lindgren have potential to fill those defensive holes, but there is no guarantee that they will become NHL-caliber players. So that begs the question, is it better to go after the fire-power skill players, or simply fill the holes?

The prospect rankings according to Elite Prospects seem to indicate that defensemen will be the plentiful commodity around pick #9. This would help the Rangers find their defense of the future and fill the holes they have on their bottom pairings.  Someone like D Adam Boqvist, who is believed to be one of the best skaters in the draft, would be an excellent pick for the Rangers in this regard.

But the Rangers may find themselves in a pickle should any of the top talents this year fall out of the top eight picks.  Bob Stauffer, a member of the Oilers media, released his projections that had third ranked overall LW Filip Zadina falling to the Rangers. The Rangers don’t have a need for top-line wingers, but if Zadina is available by the time the Rangers select, it would be foolish not to take him. Zadina is likely going to become a elite scorer in the NHL and a talent like that does not present itself often.  A similar situation would be seen if LW/C Brady Tkachuk was to fall to the Rangers. Given the relationship between Tkachuk and David Quinn from their BU days, it would be difficult to imagine the Rangers not selecting him with the ninth overall pick.

In a Good Spot

The Rangers put themselves in an excellent position drafting Andersson and Chytil last summer. Not only did this fill the vacancies of depth at the center position, but they now have two players who will be an integral part of this teams future and may even be the players to lead to Rangers to a Stanley Cup championship.  Drafting the best available pure talent from a scoring standpoint can transform the Rangers into a lethal offensive weapon in due time, but it is important that they do not overlook their extremely young and inexperienced blue line.

The Rangers top priority is and should be to fill their holes and create a balanced team for the future. But once draft day arrives, anything can happen. As Chris Drury expressed last week, it all depends on who is available or who is on the phone. If players like Zadina or Tkachuk drop far enough for the Rangers to snatch them, drafting for talent over need is justified.  But with that said, it is important that they draft with caution. Since the Rangers don’t often find themselves picking in the top ten, there is little margin for error.