Going into the 2016 entry draft, the Rangers had the rights to six draft picks–with none earlier than the third round. Given the need for at least a partial rebuild, and New York’s recent penchant for trade day deals to add selections, it was somewhat of a surprise that the team did not make any draft day trades to add to the number of selections, but it is likely that the weakness of the mid to bottom end of the 2016 draft held the team back from pulling the trigger on that type of trade.
The one trade the Rangers have made this weekend (so far) was to acquire Nick Holden from the Colorado Avalanche. Holden, who is 29 and played in all the Avalanche games this season, has a very manageable $1.65 million cap hit and is likely to replace one of the defenseman that will be moved out before opening day. The Rangers only had to give up a fourth rounder in 2017 to get Holden, who has one more year on his current contract, is pretty solid in his own zone and moves the puck well. He will likely play a bottom pairing role on the NHL team during the 2016-17 season.
Obtaining Holden, however, was only a small portion of the movement expected over the coming days and does little for the team’s long term defensive issues. As discussed in my draft preview, the Rangers’ prospect pool is quite diminished at the forward and defensive positions. And it was hoped that there would be deals made during the draft to improve that pool. But according to GM Jeff Gorton, the Rangers were unable to do so at a reasonable price, which left New York with the six picks they had after trading the rights to Keith Yandle.
With the six selections, the Rangers picked three forwards, two defensemen, and one goaltender–four from the CHL, one from Europe and one from Canadian Junior B hockey.
Sean Day, D, Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)
Third Round (81st overall)
2015-16 Stats: 57 GP, 6 G, 16 A, 27 PIM
The first thing you notice about Day when you see him is his size–Day is big and solid. Then you see him on the ice and realize that he can really skate, use his body, and move the puck. A first round talent, right? Not so fast, because when the game starts you see that there are issues. In fact, Day is just the type of player that the Rangers love to take in the third round–the guy that everyone thought would be tremendous, one who may have first round talent, but for some reason has not quite yet put it all together.
The questions with Day surround his hockey sense, which has been questionable thus far in his junior career. He was so good as an early teen, that the OHL granted him “exceptional status” to play in the league at age 15. (The only other players to be granted such early entry were John Tavares, Aaron Ekblad, and Connor McDavid.) Hockeyprospect.com calls Day, “one of the biggest boom or bust prospects available at the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. … His upside is of a top four, power play defenseman in the NHL, but his bust of never making the NHL is a very realistic concern.”
It will remain to be seen whether Day will develop into a top four, two way blueliner, but he was a very good risk to take at this point in the draft. Considered a project, he will need at least three to four years to become NHL-ready.
Tarmo Reunanen, D, TPS U20 (Jr. SM–Liiga)
Fourth Round (98th overall)
2015-16 Stats: 11 GP, 2G, 4A, 14 PIM
Reunanen is an offensive defenseman that sees the ice well, has a good shot, and plays a physical game. He is several years away from the NHL, but he does have bottom pairing power play specialist potential. Expected to play at least one more season in Europe (and likely more), Reunanen should play in the Finnish Liiga this coming season, skating with and against men for the first time.
With only one other offensive blueliner (Calle Andersson) in New York’s prospect pool, the Rangers needed to add at least one more such player. Andersson did not live up to the Rangers’ hopes in Hartford last season, so it was imperative for the team to draft another offensive defenseman. Reunanen was a sleeper player that Rangers really liked when he played in the Ivan Hlinka tournament. The team might have gotten Reunanen lower in the draft, however, with not another pick until later in the fifth round, the Rangers did not want to risk losing out on selecting him.
Timothy Gettinger, LW, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)
Fifth Round (141st overall)
2015-16 Stats: 60 GP, 17G, 22 A, 32 PIM
Gettinger obviously has a very big frame. And although he does need to fill out quite a bit, he has excellent hands and likes to go to the net. However, Gettinger’s questionable decisionmaking and lack of offensive production in the OHL this past season had him slip to the Rangers in the fifth round. It is important to note, however, that the big forward improved his production from his rookie 2014-15 season to last year and is considered a late developer. A high risk, high reward player, Gettinger’s upside is to become an NHL power forward and valuable power play asset. Do not expect that to happen until at least three more years of development.
Gabriel Fontaine, C, Rouyn-Noranda (QMJHL)
Sixth Round (171st overall)
2015-16 Stats: 63 GP, 20 G, 25 A, 43 PIM
Fontaine fell to the Rangers in the sixth round because he had a terrible start to his CHL career in Sherbrooke, and was available for the 2015 draft and not selected. Fontaine is an excellent two way forward, with a high work ethic, outstanding hockey sense and good shot blocking abilities. He began to shine after his June 2015 trade to Rouyn Noranda, and was very effective in the playoffs (16 points in 20 games) that saw the Huskies become the QMJHL champions.
Fontaine could be the Rangers steal of this draft. He has the tools and the work ethic. He actually reminds me of when I first saw Ryan Callahan play in Guelph. Do not expect to see him in New York for two to three years, but when he gets here he could make a big impression.
Tyler Wall, G, Leamington (GOJHL)
Sixth Round (174th overall)
2015-16 Stats: 31 GP, 1.49 GAA, 94.0 sv %
Wall led the GOJHL last season, with a 27-2 record for the year. Committed to Umass–Lowell for the 2017-18 season, the 18-year old Wall was named the Rookie of the Year in the Western Conference of the GOJHL last season.
With five goaltending prospects in the organization already, it was a little surprising that the Rangers would select another. But, the scouting staff felt that Wall should have gone higher than he did, and when he was available late in the sixth round, New York was unable to pass him up.
Ty Ronning, RW, Vancouver (WHL)
Seventh Round (201st overall)
2015-16 Stats: 67 GP, 31 G, 28 A, 18
Ronning, the son of former NHLer Cliff Ronning, is small, with excellent acceleration and good hands. A product of the Vancouver Royals, whose current President and GM is former Rangers Asst. GM Cameron Hope, Ronning has the skills to become an offensive producer in the NHL. The question about him is size and strength. A boom or bust pick for the Rangers, he either will be a top six forward in the NHL or wow AHL crowds for a long time.
The Rangers generally did a good job with the picks they had. This was not an overly strong draft beyond the second round and it might have not been worth moving up in it, given what New York might have given up and other transactions the team is hoping to make in the next weeks. Time will tell if any of the 2016 draft picks become regular players on Broadway. Perhaps more important than this draft to the Rangers are the moves that will be made from now until the season opener.