What should the Rangers do with the 26th and 28th picks in this year’s draft

The Rangers have 3 draft picks in the 1st round, while much focus has been on who they may select at 9th overall, let’s give some attention to those later picks.

In this year’s upcoming draft, the New York Rangers possess the 26th overall and 28th overall picks, acquired at the deadline from Boston and Tampa Bay, respectively. In TSN’s Craig Button’s latest Prospect Ranking, the 26th and 28th spots are occupied by Halifax Mooseheads D-man Jared McIsaac, a left-handed shot who played top minutes for the Mooseheads this season. the 28th spot is taken up by draft board faller Joseph Veleno, a QMJHL centerman who found his stride with the Drummondville Voltigeurs after he was traded from the Saint John Sea Dogs back in December.

It’s important to note that this year’s draft is poised to be one of the deepest in recent memory; outside of picks one and two, no one really knows how it’s going to go. It’s also crucial to remember that teams like the Carolina Hurricanes, the Montreal Canadiens, and Ottawa Senators are in full on rebuild mode. There are many assets able to come to New York via trade.

Let’s take a closer look at these two main options concerning the 26th and 28th picks.

Option 1: Stay put and draft depth options

This option has just as many reasons for as it does reasons against. As stated earlier, scouts all over the league are calling this draft one of the deepest since 2003. High-end prospects like Ryan McLeod, brother of New Jersey Devils prospect Michael McLeod, are projected to go in the second half of the first round come the 22nd. There are many viable options for the Rangers to select with these two picks, such as Guelph Storm blueliner Ryan Merkley, a right-handed shot with some major power play potential. He does pose as a major defensive liability, however. When Merkley plays bad defense, he plays REALLY bad defense. He’s very split with scouts around the league. They’re either high on him or they hate him. He’s an amazing offensive player, with potential to possibly play right wing, similar to Brent Burns when he was drafted in that 2003 draft.

Another draft option (unlikely he falls this far) is Finnish centerman Jesperi Kotkaniemi. Kotkaniemi has risen in draft rankings as of late, being ranked number five overall in Button’s list. Despite that, he has been linked to the Rangers in many mock drafts, normally selected at the 26th spot. Kotkaniemi will most likely be selected before then, being linked to both the Montreal Canadiens, who possess the 3rd overall selection, and the Detroit Red Wings, who have the 6th overall pick. Stats wise, Kotkaniemi had 10 goals and 19 assists in 57 games for Ässät (Liiga) this season. He is a shifty player, yet also has size to help him out. The Rangers would be lucky if he fell all that far.

One last note on this option is that these two selections depend greatly on who gets taken at 9. My hope is that one of Michigan’s Quinn Hughes, Brynäs IF d-man Adam Boqvist, Acadie-Bathurst Titan Noah Dobson, or London Knights captain Evan Bouchard gets taken. All look like very strong, solid defenseman, and by the way, Evan Bouchard reminds me a lot of Ryan McDonagh. Depending on whether one of these guys gets taken, or someone like Oliver Wahlstrom, Kotkaniemi if they decide to take him early, or someone else, the Rangers could end up taking a skater, or maybe even a goalie.

Option 2: Trade the picks for assets/higher picks

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The other option the Rangers have is to trade away one or both of the picks in order cash in on rumoured trade bait from around the league, or maybe use them to make a higher pick in the draft. As of late, the Blueshirts’ prospect pool has gotten much deeper because of trades and high draft picks. Brett Howden, Libor Hajek, Yegor Rykov, and Ryan Lindgren all came in from Tampa Bay, New Jersey and Boston. Due to this, the Rangers would be very comfortable trading away one of these picks for maybe, say someone like Jeff Skinner or Ryan O’Reilly. On TSN’s off-season trade bait list, O’Reilly sits and number 2, while Skinner stands pat at number 4.

We all know that last year, depth was one of our biggest strengths. But now, it’s a different story. Due to the departure of Ryan McDonagh, Derek Stepan, and others, the Rangers are now a new team. It would be a very easy solution to trade the picks for the aforementioned Skinner, or a defensive depth player, someone such as Alex Petrovic or Chris Tanev. It’s notable that the rangers also have two second round picks this year. With players like Martin Kaut, Benoît-Olivier Groulx, and Jett Woo being ranked outside of the first round capacity, the Rangers could still pull in a high-tier prospect if they decide to take this route.

A sort of Option 1B is to trade the picks to move up in the draft. There have been rumours circulating about the Red Wings (no. 6) and Vancouver Canucks (no. 7) being open to trade their picks. Obviously, with the level of elite talent in this draft, it would have to be more than just the pick. To take pressure off of Gorton to sign him, Vladislav Namestnikov could be included in a package headed to someone like Detroit or Vancouver. This way, the Rangers would be set with two elite talents in the pipe, which would help them out greatly in upcoming years.

Whichever route the Blueshirts decide to go, they’re bound to end up with a very good prospect, or an NHL-ready player. It’s just a matter of time.

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