John Lilley had a playing career of nine years in the late 90’s. While he went on to play in only 23 games in the NHL, the former forward has been in the NHL scouting business since 2006 with Toronto.
After being hired last season by the New York Rangers as the director of player personnel, Lilley has worked on finding and developing young talent to fit the mold of a potential Stanley Cup Final Contender.
His first draft with the team went pretty smooth.
After a trade that sent backup goaltender Alexander Georgiev to Colorado for draft picks, the Rangers used all six picks on day two of the 2022 draft and added to their already rich prospect pool.
With the selections of five forwards (three of them centers), the Rangers addressed areas of needs. Lilley was pleased with the overall talent that was accumulated.
“I thought we added to a good prospect pool.” Lilley said following the draft. “We got some depth, some centermen…all around we added some good pieces and we look forward to development camp.”
One of the common denominators of the draftee’s were a tenacious and physical level of play. That wasn’t an accident according to Lilley.
“There’s always a premium on centers, it’s one of the hardest positions to play….the way the list fell, those were the players that we selected. We’re excited to get all these players in the pipeline.”
No announcement of the official development camp roster has been announced, but the Rangers added a number of talented forwards to their pipeline. With a plethora of young talented defensemen dominating the pipeline, many analysts predicted that New York would go forward-heavy in the 2022 draft.
The Rangers wouldn’t disappoint on that end, but Lilley was adamant that the team did not draft based on need, but by responding to how the draft board was shaping out.
Lilley highlights 2022 Class
With a class full of tenacious and aggressive hockey players, the Rangers continued to fortify their identity of a scrappy but aggressive hockey team. Their new second round pick, Adam Sykora had already begun to idolize his playing style to the All-Star, Brad Marchand. Lilley understood the comparison.
“He (Sykora) really stands out…his motor and willingness to get involved physically is really impressive.” Lilley said. “He exudes confidence and the type of player you look forward to win in the playoffs.”
Lilley also highlighted the later round selections like Vittorio Mancini as an “on-the-radar” player.
“He’s a good player. He’s defensive minded and I just, over time, have seen him improve every year.”
New York also selected two players at the collegiate level like Mancini and sixth round selection, Zakary Karpa. While not unusual, the pro personnel director was aware to make the advantageous decision of selecting them.
“I think you get extra time with college players…maybe an extra year or two. Time is on their side with college players.” Lilley said. The front office executive later emphasized that college hockey players do not have the same wear and tear as opposed to other professional hockey leagues as another advantage.
Lilley responds to COVID scouting concerns
Throughout the draft process, one of the main issues with scouting and finding good players amid the COVID-19 pandemic. While it brought new challenges to all NHL front offices, Lilley was nor fazed by it.
“I think in general things have been different in hockey and non-hockey. I think our staff did a great job in identifying players last year in shortened seasons…coming into this year with a good place to start.” Lilley responded. “This year there was a couple pauses but for the most part it was business as usual. If league’s were shut down we did as much video as possible. Our staff did a good job even when there were restrictions.”
Lilley also added the importance of video scouting in the past few years being a major part of the decision making and scouting process.
While the 2022 NHL Draft is over, John Lilley’s job doesn’t stop. With free agency set to begin next week, and the development camp set to start shortly, the Rangers front office is continuously looking for ways to make the current roster better.
And the draft is only one way to do it.
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