Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Should New York Rangers Trade Up In Draft For Game-Changing Forward?

For the past several years the New York Rangers have been a youth/homegrown talent movement that has seen them rebuild a depleted prospect core and have those players emerge into key roles on the NHL level.  In their forward core the team has Ryan Callahan, Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov and Derek Stepan playing key roles at young ages.  On defense the team is highlighted by Marc Staal, Michael Sauer and Michael Del Zotto from the drafted core while Dan Girardi, an undrafted free agent, and Ryan McDonagh, acquired in a trade, also play key roles for the Blueshirts.

The once depleted prospect core has much more on the way with the potential of Chris Kreider, Dylan McIlrath, Christian Thomas and Carl Hagelin among many others with NHL possibilities.  The one thing the Rangers are really lacking however is that game changing talent in their young group of forwards.  This is partially because the Rangers have not picked higher than 10 in the past six years and have only selected one forward in the top 12 since 1999.  While the Rangers NHL and prospect forward rankings boast significant depth, other than potentially Derek Stepan, there is not much hope for a true game changer in the group.

There are likely to be many fine options to select at number 15 if the Rangers stay put there, but the question is whether now is the time to take a chance and move up looking for a player that could become a consistent producer.  Without that game changer the Rangers are bound to be in many ways similar to what they are now, which is an honest, hard-working team that is comprised of mainly second line talent.  With the depth in the ranks and young talent coming up on the roster now might be the time to look for the splash and a move up in the draft to select a player more likely to develop into a first line player.  The cost of trading up into the top 3 of the draft to select a Ryan Nugent-Hopkins or Jonathan Huberdeau is likely to be too expensive for the Rangers to consider, but a move into the 6-8 range is something that might be more doable. 

One player that the Rangers could target in that range would be Ryan Strome of the Niagara Ice Dogs in the Ontario Hockey League.  In 65 games this season Strome put up an impressive 33 goal, 73 assist, 106 point campaign.  The 6’1” 183 pound center is considered a tremendously talented offensive player that has strength as his biggest flaw and continuing to develop his defensive game, but there is no questions about his offensive skills.  While there are questions about his strength for the NHL level at this point there is nothing that suggests he plays a soft game as he goes to the dirty areas to make plays and initiates a lot of contact.  He has plenty of time to put mass on his frame as he will not even turn 18-years-old until after the draft on July 11.

The New York Rangers have done an excellent job of rebuilding their prospect core and having it produce more and more at the NHL level over the past few years.  Now is the time for the team to take a chance on moving up and getting that missing potential star player to go with all the quality two-way players they already have within the organizational ranks.  Obviously cost would play a factor in whether they actually make the move or not, but Strome is among those worth paying a price to move up for this year.

Highlight Video:
Some scouting reports:

Kirk Luedeke of Bruins Draft Watch:
Ryan Strome, C Niagara- No player in the draft did more to come from the middle of the pack to grab elite draft status than Strome did this season. He had a magnificent year, finishing with 33 goals, 73 assists and 106 points, holding the OHL league scoring lead until the last day of the season, when Kings and Flyers prospects Tyler Toffoli (5 points) and Jason Akeson passed him up to both finish with 108. Missed a few games due to a Joey Hishon sucker punch, otherwise he probably would have led the OHL in scoring. Strome came into the season not on many radars in terms of being a first-round pick, but hit the ground running and never looked back. Average size, but grew a bit since last year, which helped him in terms of where he's regarded amongst scouts. Excellent skater who can beat defenders with his speed or elusiveness. Very soft hands and superb puckhandler who uses his feet and creativity to be a going concern offensively. Just a dynamic scorer who isn't quite in RNH's class, but isn't too far off, either. Will probably break into the top-5 in June because he is such a skilled player who can both score the goals and set them up. He's a hard worker who doesn't have any real flaws to his game- just needs to get stronger and continue to be diligent in the defensive aspects. He's a high character kid who has a good sense of humor and is one of the more adept young players on Twitter these days, which means little in the grand scheme of things, but will be welcome news for the media relations folks with the NHL team who drafts him. We don't want to say he came out of nowhere, because Strome did show flashes of his potential with Barrie and Niagara last season after coming over in a trade, but you'd have to be related to Nostradamus if you want to say that you saw this kind of a year coming.

Stock watch:
Blue-chip; Strome is shooting through the roof right now because of what he did to tear it up after returning from the Hishon-induced concussion. He took it to the wire scoring-wise and impressed myriad scouts with his outstanding skills and hockey sense. He has all the makings of a solid top-six forward at the NHL level and has star potential as well.
Strome was the talk of the prospect world by November and didn’t let up as the year progressed. He’s a highly skilled forward with some of the craftiest hands in the crop and the ability to create a scoring chance at any opportunity. His statistics will indicate that he’s more of a playmaker, but Strome is also a very adept goal scorer and has a pretty good release on his wrist/snap shot. His game doesn’t come without concerns, however, as Strome is very weak and easily muscled off the puck. He had trouble in the playoffs against stiffer competition, which was a bit of a symptom of that problem. Probably will need at least another year in the OHL to add some strength before he makes the jump.
 “I remember telling one of our scouts last summer that Strome was very talented but played too much on the perimeter in Minor Midget. It didn’t surprise me when he started going into dirty areas that his whole game changed. Ryan started to become a pretty complete player in all 3 zones. I knew how skilled and shifty with the puck he was, but it was when he became willing to pay the price to win pucks all over the ice that he turned the corner for me.”
Ryan Strome - Forward - Niagara IceDogs
Few players have had the meteoric rise that Strome had this season. From offensive depth player to nearly winning the OHL scoring title in one year. Strome is an absolutely electrifying offensive player. He can make moves at top speed and will make one defenseman look like a fool nearly every game. He is a very complete offensive player who can really wire the puck (especially on the one timer ala Steve Stamkos), but he's also a very good playmaker. He works hard in the offensive end and really slows the game down to give his linemates good opportunities to score. Strome is tenacious away from the puck and goes hard into the corners looking for loose pucks. He'll even drop the mitts if he has to (and has some general pest like qualities to him). But he's not without his flaws. He'll need to improve his two way play in order to play center at the NHL level. I think he could also stand to add another gear to help create even more offense off the rush. Strome was also a little bit disappointing in this year's playoffs for me. He never really found a groove offensively. That being said, I see him having a TON of offensive potential at the NHL level. He's the type of dynamic player you build your first line around.