The “REAL” reason why the Rangers didn’t get a top three pick
Well the lottery draft is behind us and somehow the Canes and the Habs have won the 2nd and 3rd picks in the lottery with Buffalo finally getting the first pick overall. The Rangers finished with the 9th overall pick and with THREE, yes THREE, first round picks in this year’s draft, and there’s plenty of ways to trade up.
Even after giving away half their team at the deadline, it didn’t automatically guarantee a top spot in the draft. With a non-existent defense and atrocious backup goaltending the choice should have been easy for the Rangers front office and coaching staff. Injuries, call-ups and just bad enough coaching could have dropped the Rangers at least down to 5th place for better odds but with a delusional head coach at the helm and players that had something to prove, it was just enough to push the Rangers to a better record.
Though he only appeared in 10 games, started 8 and won 4 (9 total points including a OT loss), Alexander Georgiev might have been a big factor into why the Rangers placed where they did. With Pavelec hurt Georgiev handed his team chance after chance to win. In 7 of this 8 games he started he posted 35 or more saves, the 1 game he didn’t he saved 33 shots. And before you look up his stats and comment “he let up 3 or more goals in 5 of those starts,” the counter will be: So what? He was playing with half of a team and he’s a rookie! He put up better numbers than Pavelec and unfortunately for the Rangers that might have cost them huge chance to win the lottery.
Hypothetically speaking, if the Rangers lost the 4 games Georgiev won in place of Pavelec, they would have been in 3rd to last place with 69 points. Now the silver lining in this is that the Rangers may not need to go out and look for a potential backup for this coming season. He only makes $792,500 until 2020/21, whichs leave plenty of time for the Czar (Igor Shestyorkin) to come to the Rangers if Hank doesn’t give up his throne soon as well as frees up some cap space for other potential signings. Like Talbot and Raanta before him, Georgiev can even fetch a nice price if he continues to play well and increase his stock but for now let’s assume he’s the Rangers number 2 for next season.
Pionk Was Excellent
Now it wasn’t just Georgiev that was handling the awful burden of winning games, Neal Pionk helped as well. Pionk especially played well with 14 points in 28 games with a minus 1. A minus 1?! Well for a skater who averaged the most time on ice at the end of the season (yes, even higher than Skjei) that isn’t too shabby. And yes, Pionk did only play 28 games compared to Skjei’s 82 and also yes, a sample size of 28 games doesn’t bode well for a plus/minus either. The only thing it does help is his point total. Half a point a game isn’t the worst, especially for a rookie, a defesemen on a player who is part of a team not trying to win now. Pionk proved that an undrafted rookie can make an impact and drive a team forward, even if that means having a less than ideal draft position. The most exciting thing about this is that Pionk and Kevin Shattenkirk didn’t even play one game together last season due to Shattenkirk being sent on the IR before Pionk’s call up.
Pionk is only signed through next year and this is good and bad for the Rangers. With all the defensemen they traded for and might draft, Pionk might need to impress even more to earn that contract for the 2019/20 season. The one thing Pionk does have going for him is the chemistry he already solidified with the current roster and showing his ability to play big minutes on the NHL level.
Both Georgiev and Pionk pulled their collective talents together and were significant factors on to why the Rangers took so long to be eliminated from playoff contention this season. While the Rangers “success” frustrated fans throughout the Garden and the Tri-state area and even the whole world, there are a few things they can take pride in. Both players are going to be apart of the Rangers organization next year, they both showed they can perform with a less than ideal roster on a high level, and the fact that the Islanders were buyers at the deadline and only finished with 3 more points than the Blueshirts.