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2015 NHL Draft: New York Rangers Draft Recap

Bobby Bevilacqua

2015 NHL Draft logo

Photo courtesy of the Florida Panthers.

The Rangers were without a first round draft pick again this season, unable to get one in return for Cam Talbot, but they still managed to stockpile seven young prospects in the deep 2015 NHL Entry Draft.

The second draft day was hectic for Glen Sather and his management group, trading away Carl Hagelin and some draft picks to the Anaheim Ducks for Emerson Etem and to move up to the 41st pick in the second round. Cam Talbot was dealt shortly after that to the Edmonton Oilers for a three picks, which Sather eventually turned into four with a trade with the Washington Capitals.

After the day was done, Assistant GM Jeff Gorton said that the Rangers were motivated by their lack of draft picks, and that combined with the salary cap was the main reason for the trades. After dealing away so many first round picks in recent years, Sather needed to recuperate his losses and garner as many prospects as possible.

The Rangers drafted seven players; five forwards, one defenseman and a goalie. The first selection of the draft came at pick number 41.

Ryan Gropp – Seattle Thunderbirds, WHL (#41)

With the 41st pick, which the Rangers acquired from the Anaheim Ducks, Glen Sather selected Ryan Gropp, a 6-2 winger from the WHL. Jeff Gorton said afterwards that he rated as one of the team’s six favorite forward prospects in the entire draft. Gropp was Seattle’s leading scorer in his second season with the Thunderbirds, finishing the season with 30 goals and 28 assists, a +9 plus/minus and 44 penalty minutes in a total of 67 games. He had to shoulder a lot of the load in Seattle due to injuries to the team’s key players and good scorers in Roberts Lipsbergs and Mathew Barzal. Gropp is said to possess a rare blend of size, speed and skill. He has great straightaway speed, and can place his quick and hard wrist shot from all over the ice. His size isn’t used towards aggression, but rather towards shielding the puck from defenders. Some said that Gropp’s numbers were a product of playing with Barzal, the 16th overall selection by the New York Islanders. But the two were on different lines for most of the year, and Barzal missed two months with injures. Gropp looks to be a very good prospect in the Rangers organization. Robin Kovacs – AIK IF, Sweden-2 (#62)

After trading away Carl Hagelin, Sather selected Robin Kovacs, another speedy Swede playing for AIK IF in the Swedish developmental league.

Kovacs was the top scorer for his Stockholm based team, tallying a total of 19 goals and 35 points in 62 games while maintaining a -4 plus/minus on a team that was nearly relegated to a lower league. He’s an aggressive, determined forward that gets in on the forecheck, with his feistiness attested to by his 67 penalty minutes. However, at 6’0”, 172 pounds, Kovacs will need to bulk up in order to stay in the NHL at some point.

The best way to describe him is a feisty winger that gets quick jumps on pucks, is willing to battle and test opposition, and has a sneaky wrist shot with good speed. Kovacs doesn’t excel in one area, but could become a good all-around player one day.

Sergey Zborovskiy – Regina Pats, WHL (#79)

This was a surprising, off the board pick by Sather and Co., taken with the 79th pick in the draft. Zborovskiy is a 6-foot-3, 198 pound defenseman from the WHL that showed a fondness for the New York Rangers, and Ryan McDonagh in particular. Zborovskiy quickly rose through the ranks with the Regina Pats, becoming a staple on Regina’s blue line. The 18 year old Russian was tied for third on the team in scoring amongst rookies, finishing with three goals and 16 assists for 19 points in 70 games. He is physical, and needs to watch the penalties, considering the fact that he had 70 PIM last season. I don’t know too much about him, but he’s young, big, physical, a right-handed shot, and only 18. Clearly Sather and Gorton saw something in him if they took him with the 79th pick. Aleksi Saarela – Assat, Finland (#89)

Saarella is another fast, European skater that the Rangers took in this draft, with a good offensive upside. At just 5’10” and 194 pounds, he won’t blow you away with his stature, but he uses his skating ability to create scoring chances and energy.

Like many other European players, he has a good hockey sense and knowledge which benefits his silky smooth hands and stickhandling ability. He’s a powerful skater with a lot of jump in his step, allowing him to slip through defenders and rush up the ice. When on offense, he possesses good vision and puck-distribution skills, as well as a strong and accurate wrist shot. Saarela has the tools to develop into a dangerous offensive player.

Brad Morrison – Prince George Cougars, WHL (#113)

Sticking with the trend from this draft, the Rangers selected center Brad Morrison from the WHL. Just 18, Morrison has shown speed and cunning ability to create separation on the ice. He’s very smart with the puck, and has great hands in front of and around the net. Don’t give him time or space, because he can easily capitalize on that advantage. He works hard when battling in the corner, but can get pushed around if not careful. Overall, Morrison is another fast, skillful forward that can carry the puck and create offense with ease.

Daniel Bernhardt – Djurgarden Jr., Sweden-Jr. (#119)

Bernhardt was one of the leading scored in the Swedish Junior Hockey league for his Djurgarden club, scoring 26 goals and 35 assists for a total of 61 points in just 44 games, as well as posting a +23 plus/minus rating. He’s a left handed shot that can play either wing, and his 6-foot-2, 190 pound frame is a huge asset. You can’t teach size. Bernhardt is a very interesting prospect, and someone to keep an eye on.

Adam Huska – Green Bay Gamblers, USHL (#184)

With their seventh round pick, the Rangers drafted Adam Huska, a Slovakian goalie playing in the USHL. In the NHL, bigger goalies are becoming an increasing trend, and Huska fits that role. At 6’3”, 189 pounds, Huska fills up more of the net than the average goalie. He was the 16th ranked goalie by Central Scouting, but was 5th in the midterm rankings, and he was listed as the third most athletic goalie by Future Considerations. They listed him as the 10th overall goalie. He was also named one of the top three players on his team while representing Slovakia at the 2015 IIHF U-18 World Junior Championship.

Huska is described as big and mobile, and someone that tracks the puck well. He has a high compete level but needs to work on his rebound control. He can find himself out of position at times and then begins to scramble. He’s a long term goalie project with a potential upside for an NHL team that is willing to carve out his game.

This is a very safe pick for the Rangers. Benoit Allaire is a goalie guru, and arguably the best goalie coach in the entire league. If there is one team that can grow a goalie, it’s the Rangers. Sometimes 7th round picks turn into Henrik Lundqvist.

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Posted on June 28, 2015, in Rangers Updates and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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