Who should the Rangers target with their first pick of the 2020 NHL draft

This week, NHL Central Scouting released their rankings of the top prospects for the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. Central Scouting released their four lists, one for North American players and one for International players, one for North American goalies and one for International goalies and it’s not a surprise which two players are at the top of their respective skater lists. Alexis Lafreniere, the superstar left winger from the QMJHL’s Rimouski Oceanic tops the North American skaters list and Tim Stutzle (also spelled Stuetzle), the crafty and speedy centre from Alder Mannheim of Germany’s DEL, tops the international skaters list. 

Both will most likely be gone within the first three picks and almost certainly within the first five. The Rangers don’t currently have a shot at either one but there are some great prospects who the Rangers should target at their positions. The Rangers currently have the 13th pick in the draft and the 23rd pick in the draft (Carolina’s pick) and yes the lottery has not happened yet so it’s a possibility they might move up but for the intents and purposes of this article, let’s stick with the 13th pick.

First of all, this is an extremely deep draft at the forward position. There are some extremely dynamic talents including the aforementioned LaFreniere and Stutzle. At the 13th spot in the draft, look for the Rangers to acquire a dynamic forward. The time for drafting defensemen has passed with their defense pipeline stocked to the brim with talent including K’Andre Miller, Nils Lundkvist, Tarmo Reunanen, Hunter Skinner, Matthew Robertson and so on. Here are five guys the Rangers should be looking at with the 13th pick in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. 

Jan Mysak – C/LW – Hamilton Bulldogs- OHL – 6’0” – 176 pounds

First up is the dynamic and severely underrated Jan Mysak. He is listed at 28th on the North American skaters list from NHL.com but make no mistake, this kid is a bonafide first round talent. After spending 26 games where he scored five goals and added four assists for 9 points, Mysak decided it was time to finish his season and ultimately his junior career, playing in North America with the Hamilton Bulldogs of the OHL. 

When Mysak arrived on this side of the pond, he really began to take off. He showed flashes of some solid potential with HC Litvinov but he exploded with Hamilton where he scored at over a point per game pace. Mysak ended his season with Hamilton scoring 15 goals and addied 10 assists in just 22 games. 

The Rangers need centre prospects and Mysak would be a great addition to the pipeline as this rebuild continues. There is a huge chance he will be available at 13th overall and the Rangers should seriously consider drafting him if he’s available. 

Jan Mysak was a prolific scorer in junior hockey, but that seems like eons ago, no? Mysak, a gifted offensive forward and the prize of the Czech Republic’s draft class for 2020, was earning his stripes as a teenager in the tough Czech Extraliga for nearly two full seasons before joining the OHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs in mid-January. With Litvinov, Mysak suited up for a team that not only ranked near the bottom, but also struggled to score. In a way, the situation allowed him to play a top-nine role, albeit with fluctuating minutes, and also gave him the opportunity to see significant time on the power play. He also displayed a high motor, youthful exuberance, and was finding ways to get under the skin of opponents twice his age.

The Draft Analyst

Expert Opinion – Scott Wheeler – The Athletic – “I see a player with some exciting raw tools, led by an excellent release, light edge work and slick puck skills in traffic. Once he learns to use his teammates a little more or adds more of a passing element to his game, he’ll be fun to watch.”

The Video Room – Mysak’s hat trick against the Niagara Ice Dogs

Connor Zary – C – Kamloops Blazers – WHL – 6’0” – 181 Pounds

One of the best two-way centre’s in the 2020 draft class, Zary is one of the older players on the board and he plays like it. Last season, Zary scored 24 goals and added 43 assists for 67 points in 63 games. This past season though Zary truly broke out and torched the WHL with 38 goals and 48 assists for 86 points in just 57 games! Zary was easily the Blazers best player this past season. 

He’s currently ranked as the 15th best North American skater in the 2020 draft class on NHL Central Scouting’s list and I think that’s too low for a centre of his caliber. He easily has top-six upside and on a Rangers squad that needs center prospects desperately, he would fit right in. Would he be in the NHL next season? Not sure, he may need another year in juniors and that’s perfectly ok. Zary could prove to be the Rangers second-line centre of the future if things fall the right way. 

It’s never a bad idea to take a swing on talent and Zary would be a fantastic pick at 13th overall. 

A top-notch competitor with a nose for the net, Zary was the heart and soul of an improved Kamloops team that improved significantly from last season. He’s an intelligent two-way center who provides support in a variety of ways, including subtle touch or bank passes in the defensive zone that leads to swift breakouts. Playmaking is just one of his distinguishable assets, as he can deliver precision passes from either his forehand or backhand. Strong and well-balanced, Zary displays deceptive quickness and requires only two or three strides to accelerate to top speed and become an open-ice threat.

The Draft Analyst

Expert Opinion – Cam Robinson – Dobber Prospects –  “A puck-possession pivot who clicked well above a point-per-game this season. Great speed, deft puck skills, and equally dangerous with the shot and pass. An elder statesman.”

The Video Room – Zary’s slick shorthanded goal against the Seattle Thunderbirds

Dylan Holloway – C – University of Wisconsin – NCAA – 6’0” – 192 pounds

A powerful two way centre who lit up the AJHL prior to joining the Badgers, Holloway is one of the most perfect fits for the New York Rangers at 13th overall. After scoring 88 points (40 goals, 48 assists) in 53 games for the Okotoks Oilers of the AJHL, he decided to join the Wisconsin Badgers and put up eight goals and nine assists in 35 games for a young and talented squad. For a true freshman in the NCAA, those are great numbers. 

At almost 200 pounds, he is the biggest player of the five mentioned at this draft position. The Rangers have some good size up front and the back end will be getting a good dose of it once K’Andre Miller joins the squad. Holloway and Miller played together on Wisconsin’s squad this year so you can be sure Rangers scouts were checking him out as well when they went to check up on Miller. Holloway to me, makes too much sense and would be an excellent 2nd line centre of the future. 

He is currently ranked 12th on NHL Central Scouting’s North American skaters list. 

A hard-working power forward with a strong sense for the game, Holloway was one of the top players in Canadian Junior “A” for the AJHL’s Okotoks Oilers before beginning his draft year as a freshman for the University of Wisconsin. Blessed with ideal size and excellent balance, Holloway is a jack of all trades who can play either center or wing; serve as a playmaker or finish around the net; and most importantly, be matched up against opposing top players. Although his start with the Badgers has yet to produce eye-popping stats, one must consider his ability to impact shifts without denting the scoresheet. Additionally, he was a key figure in a Wisconsin recruiting class that also included forwards Alex Turcotte, Cole Caufield, and Owen Lindmark, so there is only so much puck for these talented underclassmen to share.

The Draft Analyst

Expert Opinion – Cam Robinson – Dobber Prospects – “A powerful, two-way pivot. Boasts a heavy release that he uses to draw defenders before expertly distributing. Made a nice impact at Wisconsin as a true freshman. Strong overall package.”

The Video Room – Holloway scores twice against Camrose in his AJHL days

Hendrix Lapierre – C – Chicoutimi Sagueneens – QMJHL – 6’0” – 181 Pounds

High risk but potentially massive reward,, Lapierre has one of the highest ceilings in the 2020 draft class. Lapierre was the first pick in the 2018 QMJHL draft and in his first season scored 13 goals and added 32 assists for 45 points in 48 games. No doubt expectations were high for him in his second season but the injury bug hit and no one saw him play all that much this year as he was limited to just 19 games due to injury. Although he did play just 19 games though, Lapierre put up 17 points (Two goals, 17 assists). 

Scouts see him as the complete package and the team who drafts him could ultimately end up with one of the biggest steals of the draft. Lapierre’s ceiling has always been extremely high and he has a great set of hands and a fantastic hockey I.Q. If the Rangers do decide to take a chance on him, they could end up with one of the steals of the entire draft. Similar to how the Rangers took a chance with K’Andre Miller, they could opt to do the same and take a player with an immensely high skill level and swing for talent at the 13th pick. Lapierre, a centre, would be a remarkable albeit risky pick at 13. Does the reward outweigh the risk? That’s up to the Rangers scouting staff to decide.

Lapierre is currently ranked 13th on NHL Central Scouting’s North American Skaters list.

Expert Opinion – Mike G. Morreale – NHL.com – “The left-shot forward has great hockey sense, compete and playmaking qualities. He was limited to 19 games because of an upper-body injury but may have the highest ceiling of any player projected to go in the first round.”

The Video Room – Lapierre highlights from the 2018-19 QMJHL Season

Noel Günler – LW/RW –  Lulea HF – SHL – 6’2” – 174 pounds

Now I’m no nostradamus, but if Gunler is available with the 13th pick in the entry draft, there’s a high chance of him becoming a New York Ranger. The Rangers love European prospects and he is one of the most dynamic talents in this draft. He is also one of the most controversial. Gunler’s draft stock has suffered this season due to what many say are attitude issues and laziness on the ice. But according to some analysts and scouts, those claims are unfounded. 

Gunler has an absolutely lethal shot and has one of the highest ceilings in the entire draft class. He hasn’t been getting a lot of ice time this season and for some reason, he’s been left off national team rosters. Even so, in his limited amount of ice time, Gunler still manages to produce and he’s so good that I believe, even with the need for a center in the organization, if he is available at 13, the Rangers won’t be able to pass him up. 

Just try to imagine Gunler, a right handed shot, being another lethal portion of the Rangers offense along with Panarin, Kakko, Zibanejad, Kreider, Chytil and Buchnevich. He would almost certainly force one of those players out of the top six in the near future and that would make their top nine even stronger. His presence could also mean a winger could be dealt for a quality centre. Centre is the immediate need yes but someone of Gunler’s talent is too much to pass up and he will be a huge steal for whoever gets him in the draft. 

Gunler had four goals and nine assists for 13 points in 45 games in the SHL this season and is criminally underrated. He currently ranks ninth on NHL Central Scouting’s International Skater’s list. 

Gunler is a strong north-south skater with deceptive lateral quickness. He own a wide stride which can seem choppy at times, but he still is a threat in open ice, not only for his above-average straight-line speed but also for his ability to keep defenders puzzled by looking off while alternating speeds and feigning indecision. The truth is that Gunler is one of the more calculated forwards in his age group when it comes to getting the puck into the zone cleanly, and even at the adult level, opponents seem to have a legitimate fear of playing him too close upon entry. These developments can yield undesirable results for the other team, especially the goalie, who then has to worry about Gunler blistering a nasty wrister from as far out as the top of the circle. Concerns about his footwork or quickness seem to be overstated — when he’s engaged and locked in, Gunler can outpace quick forecheckers by a good stride or two.

The Draft Analyst

Expert Opinion – Cam Robinson – Dobber Prospects – “For whatever reason, Sweden has shied away from including Gunler on their national teams, but wherever this kid goes, he produces. Owns one of the most lethal shots in the draft. A great mind for finding soft spots.”

The Video Room – Gunler’s highlights from the 2019-20 SHL season

Wrapping Up

So it’s clear that the Rangers will have a nice selection of players with their 13th overall selection. They could opt to stay a little safer in guys like Mysak, Zary and Holloway or decide to swing for the fences on talent with guys like Lapierre and Gunler. Since they have two first rounders they may just decide to take a big swing for talent and be safer with their second pick or they could go with the opposite, stay safe at 13 and go risky at 23. With their recent track record of drafting I have no doubt the Rangers will make a good selection at 13. Join us for five players the Rangers should target at 23rd overall later this week!

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