Who should the Rangers draft with The Jets 1st round pick?
When the Winnipeg Jets got ousted in the first round by the St. Louis Blues this past week, the Rangers reaped the benefits. A trade deadline acquisition of Kevin Hayes by the Jets sent the Rangers forward Brendan Lemieux, and their 2019 first round pick.
After a Stars series win over the Predators, the pick is now at 21, and has a chance to get as high as 18 depending on other circumstances. Along with my fellow writers Russell Hartman and Steven Voogel, let’s look at players that may be available to the Rangers in that range.
James: The Rangers were blessed with the second pick, and what we all assume will be Finnish superstar Kaapo Kakko. The Jets pick is an extremely important one for Rangers brass as well. While Gorton and co. have stocked the shelves full of prospects over the past 18 months, they still lack good depth in regards to forward prospects. Gorton did an excellent job of bringing an influx of defensemen in last year via trade and the draft, but this time he needs to stockpile more forwards.
A great option for the Rangers, if he is there, is American centerman Bobby Brink. Brink’s stock has risen significantly over the past few months due to his play in the USHL with Sioux City, and his call up to the U18 World Championships USA Team. Brink is a 5 foot 9 inch centerman and even though many would consider him “undersized” for a center, he has serious bite to his game.
He is not afraid to go to the net, plays 200 feet, and is extremely skilled. Brink is an excellent passer of the puck, and is able to put pucks in the back of the net as well. With the Sioux City Musketeers, Brink had 70 points in 45 games this season. As mentioned before, he is a recent call up, and currently playing for, Team USA at the U18 World Championships, where he has 4 points (1g – 3a) in two games.
Steven: Not that this means anything or guarantees the Rangers picking Dorofeyev, but when I attended the u20 Four Nations last year in Hodonín (CZE) I spoke to Gordie Clark about the players on the ice and one who we discussed at length was Pavel Dorofeyev. Playing for Metallurg Magnitogorsk in the KHL this season, the young forward has shown he plays a very mature game.
His style translates very well to the pro-level and in more ways than one he reminds me of Vitali Kravtsov. A good 2-way player who carries the puck with ease in all 3 zones. With a wicked wrist shot and his formidable skating and puck-handling, Dorofeyev dominated the junior league MHL early on, with 31 points in 19 games, and earned a call-up to the KHL, completely skipping the VHL (minor league).
With the NHL focusing more on possession in recent years, Dorofeyev’s skillset seem to give him an edge over others. He’s not as polished as Kravtsov at the same age, and needs 2-3 years to develop but the skills he possesses make him a very intriguing prospect. Playing in the KHL, his lack of physical strength shows, but being able to play in the KHL and not look out of place is a great sign of things to come. If the Rangers go with a forward, Dorofeyev is the one I would be happy with.
Steven: Heinola who turned 18 only in March is a left-handed defenseman who plays with Rangers prospect Tarmo Reunanen for Rauman Lukko in the Finnish league, Liiga. His biggest asset is his skating, composure while controlling the puck and his ability to read the play and close the gap quickly on defense.
At 5’11” Heinola is a small defenseman but with the direction the NHL has taken in recent years height is not an issue. With 14 points Heinola recorded the 4th most by a 17-year old defenseman who played 20+ minutes in the playoffs. Will the Rangers draft another defenseman in the first round after going with K’Andre Miller and Nils Lundkvist last year? If they do, Heinola is a prime candidate with the Winnipeg pick. Playing with Tarmo Reunanen, it’s safe to say the Rangers scouts have seen a lot of him this season.
Russell: He stands 5’7″, he’s barely over 170 pounds and he could very well be the best pure goal-scorer in this draft. Like Alex DeBrincat a few years ago, this diminutive sniper from the USNTDP has taken the hockey world by storm. Caufield recently shattered the USNTDP goal scoring record by getting his 70th goal of the year. As the Athletic’s Corey Pronman said: “He didn’t just break the record. He dropped an anvil on it, poured some gasoline and threw a lit match on it.”
Apparently teams may pass on Caufield because of his size but the kid can flat out play. His shot is NHL-ready and you best believe he would look great streaking down the ice getting ready to take a pass in flight from Mika Zibanejad. Caufield has top-line potential and could very be a 40-50 goal scorer at the height of his career.
It’s possible Caufield could fall to the late teens or early 20’s but at this point he is rocketing up draft boards and it might be too late to grab him. If the Rangers really want Caufield they will have to package the Jets picks along with other pieces to move up.
Caufield is DeBrincat but turned up a notch. He is going to be a special player in this league. Kakko and Caufield in round one? A guy can dream.
Russell: Kaliyev is one of the most intriguing prospects in this draft. On one hand, he had 102 points this season in the OHL for the Hamilton Bulldogs and has one of the most lethal shots in this draft class. On the other hand, scouts and analysts question his drive and his will to succeed. He has been accused of being a lazy player by some.
Kaliyev, 6’2″ and 190 pounds, caught a lot of attention this year by being an exceptionally good player on a rebuilding Bulldogs team. There’s no question he has the talent to succeed in the NHL but it’s all a matter of if and when it all comes together for him. 51 goals is extremely impressive but the questions remain is Kaliyev can drive play or if he needs a good center to work with.
What to do?
With Kaapo Kakko on the way with the 2nd overall pick this draft is already a huge success. If the Rangers opt not to trade up and want to take a chance on Kaliyev, why not? They are already getting a franchise player and we have seen what kind of coach David Quinn is. If Quinn can get the best out of Kaliyev also, the Rangers could have a 40 goal scorer on the their hands. It’s worth a risk to take in the second half of the first round of the draft.
Also thanks to Steven for this tidbit of info: Kaliyev cannot play in the AHL next year. He can return to the OHL or possibly make the move to Europe if he doesn’t make an NHL team right off the bat.