What is the Rangers strategy for the 2022 NHL Draft after surprise playoff run?

Rangers line projection
New York Rangers’ Frank Vatrano (77) is congratulated for his goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the second period of Game 1 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs Eastern Conference finals.
AP Photo/Frank Franklin II

For a team as well balanced as the New York Rangers, young prospects could already be seen as an unnecessary, but fruitful addition. 

In 2021, the Rangers were the fourth youngest roster across the league before adding Andrew Copp (27), Frank Vatrano (28) and Tyler Motte (27) at the deadline. 

With a young core of stars mixing well with an experienced, but still young group of veterans, the need for prospects just isn’t as big of a concern for a team without a first round pick in the 2022 draft. 

As it stands, the Rangers own just four picks in the 2022 draft which is set to kick-off on Thursday. 

  • Round 2, 63rd overall
  • Round 4, 111th overall
  • Round 5, 159th overall
  • Round 6, 191st overall

While not a ton of capital in a talented class, the strong cupboard of prospects already on the roster allows the Rangers to be flexible on draft night.  

There are also plenty of options to help improve the roster. 

Is trading out an option for the Rangers?

It’s never good to give up all draft capital for a number of rental players. With the plethora of options in the farm system though, it allowed New York to swing big on rentals like Copp and Vatrano. 

There’s also an opportunity to help the team now for New York. 

The Rangers are tight on overall cap space, and speculation on the future of Copp and Vatrano means New York could lose one or both in free agency. 

One way to clear some cap space is by trading away Patrik Nemeth. The 30 year old defender is set to make $2.5 million this season and has an additional year on his contract next season. For a player that didn’t play a lot and was later scratched in the playoffs, the high contract could be given as a part of an extension towards Copp, Vatrano or other free agent needs. 

Trading a large contract like Nemeth’s though will most likely cost a draft pick. Could the Rangers be willing to trade their second round pick this year to sweeten the pot to ship Nemeth out of town? 

The 2022 NHL Draft class is full of talent in the first round and has a lot of depth. While the Rangers are in win-now mode though, the need for a depth piece in the future just isn’t as important as locking up solid free agents. 

Are Forwards that big a need?

The short answer: yes.

While the Rangers do have plenty of solid prospects, the need for a center and right wing is very strong. 

In January, the Rangers were ranked at 18th among the NHL in their overall system with players like Brennan Othmann, Will Cuylle, Ryder Korczak all under the age of 20.

That being said, there are young forwards playing every day that have already left their mark on the franchise. The “kid line” of Alexis Lafrenière (20), Filip Chytil (22), and Kaapo Kakko (21) were a huge reason for New York’s late run in the postseason. 

But the team is relatively short on talent on the right wing and could use more prospects at center. Fraser Minten is ranked as the 63rd best player from the Athletic, while Topi Ronni, Devin Kaplan and Aleksanteri Kaskimäki are all viable options that are expected to be available when the Rangers make their pick in the second round. 

Ronni and Minten aren’t strong skaters according to their scouting reports, but are solid playmakers that could develop into solid players in the Rangers farm system.

It’s important to note that the Rangers have done a very solid job of having their young players ready to play in the big leagues. The “Kid Line” is an obvious example but Adam Fox, K’Andre Miller and Ryan Lindgren are all under 25 and important pieces to the future of the New York Rangers. 

While Copp’s future in New York can certainly be questioned, it’s important for the Rangers to have prospects ready to develop in the case that the right winger chooses to go elsewhere. 

Will a prospect help right away? Definitely not. And that’s why New York can be seen as a win-now team. Missing on Copp could mean the team will be looking to flip prospects for other replacement options as well. 

Trading out of the second round to add cap space to bolster the team is certainly in play, but there’s enough depth in this draft to be excited about a late second round selection. 

With the 2022 NHL Draft just days away, the Rangers will need to decide on what to do with their four selections.

How the team handles those picks could very well determine what they do in free agency as well. 

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