Overall, the NHL did a classy job with last week’s Entry Draft, kicking the event off with ceremonies that honored two Hockey Hall of Famers who passed away in Guy LaFleur and Mike Bossy and former player Bryan Marchment who died while in Montreal as a scout. Bossy’s daughter and LaFleur’s son were up on stage with commissioner Bettman and gave speeches about their parents.
On the morning of the first day of the draft, Ranger general manager Drury traded goalie Alex Georgiev to the Colorado Avalanche for a third and fifth-round pick this year and a third in 2023, which gave the Blueshirts two extra picks at this year’s draft. With this boost, the Rangers entry draft saw them take six players and with their 63rd overall pick, the Rangers entry draft team selected Slovakian forward Adam Sykora (Maybe the Devils draft their next goalie and his name is Marcus Lundqvist in 2024?). One of the team’s top prospects is Brennan Othmann, the 16th overall pick in 2021 who scored 97 points in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) this season. It’s possible that Othmann makes the team next year even though he will have to edge out Vitali Kravstov and young players like Kaapo Kakko for playing time next season in the bottom six. Drury described what he likes about Othmann’s game. “He’s a big-time goal scorer and has a little bit of an edge to him too.“
Lastly, it’s a big deal that former NHL player Mike Grier who was a Hockey Operation Adviser with the Rangers this season was hired last week as the first Black General Manager in NHL history.
It didn’t surprise me how much he picked up right away when he came to work for the Rangers. He was in scouting development, coaching, he’s a very smart guy, it didn’t take long for me to realize this was going to happen for him and it did.Ranger GM, Chris Drury on his former teammate Mike Grier’s recent hiring
However, the focus is on what Drury did to supply the Rangers’ farm system with talent that can pay off in the future. Here is a breakdown of the six picks the Rangers made at the 2022 NHL Entry Draft.
63. Adam Sykora – LW/C (SVK)
This draft was historic for Slovakia because it can take credit for the first two picks; Juraj Slafovksy to the Montreal Canadiens and Simon Nemec to the New Jersey Devils. Sykora, bearing the same name as good scorer Petr Sykora, was far from as highly touted as those two but still represents the top player the Rangers picked after their exciting playoff run.
Sykora spoke about what the draft meant to Slovakia. “I’m supportive of those guys, Slafkovsky go first, Nemec second and Filip Mesar went 26th, it’s the best draft for Slovakia.” Then the Rangers draft pick said which star player he models himself after. “I really like Brad Marchand because he’s like a rat and he’s not scared about bigger players.” Not sure Marchand would like that comparison but let’s hope Adam Sykora will climb the ranks and bring his tenacity to Madison Square Garden one day.
97. Bryce McConnell-Barker – C (OHL)
McConnell Barker scored 63 points as an 18-year-old center in the OHL last season and SB Nation thinks he fills a void at the center-ice position in their system. I can see that since there is no center on Hartford who is threatening to make the team and the team’s top two prospects, Brennan Othmann and Vitali Kravtsov are wings. If Bryce Barker, who already sounds like a superhero, pans out this will go down as one of Drury’s smartest trades, and a massive victory for the Rangers entry draft team. The Rangers swapped a mediocre backup goalie in Alexandar Georgiev for three picks and potential good NHL players from Colorado including the 97th pick which they used to pick up Barker. A lot of people see him as a culture-building player because he has size, offensive ability and heart.
Don’t take my word for it, this is what Barker had to say about his own game.
“I’m a two-way center. I work really hard give it my all. Good defensively but I can also produce offensively as well, put the puck in the net and make some good plays too.”
111. Noah Laba– C (USHL)
After taking small and scrappy Adam Sykora with their first draft pick the Rangers entry draft team went on a binge. Four of the Rangers’ five remaining picks were all players with the hockey world’s favorite buzzword “size.” Laba is no exception coming in as a 6’2”, 190-pound center which gives him the frame of Mika Zibanejad. Laba comes from the United States Hockey League (USHL), probably the Bundesliga of NHL junior leagues (OHL- Prem, WHL- MLS).
The Michigan-native tallied 39 points this past season but forget about that and focus on what this quote reveals about him. “I take pride in the defensive zone and creating offense,” Laba said. “Really looking to having more of a finishing touch…” Laba is not a super-talented offensive player but is determined to add that to his repertoire. He may not have been picked very high but is excited to start his quest to become a Ranger and that is an encouraging thought. Laba will begin his quest at Colorado College as a freshman next season.
159. Victor Mancini – D (NCAA)
Did somebody say “size”? Yes? Whatever you do, don’t look up because, with their first fifth-round pick, the Blueshirts picked up a guy who is 6’3” and 216 pounds. At 20 years old; Mancini will be a sophomore at the University of Omaha-Nebraska next season and is built like one of the NHL’s heaviest hitters, Jacob Trouba but weighs seven more pounds than him. This begs the question will Mancini be a project that Hartford Wolf Pack coach Kris Knoblauch takes on with the aim of turning Mancini into the next Trouba? After their first pair, the Rangers lack a towering defenseman, and would it not be nice to have another like the St. Louis Blues cup-winning blueline had in 2019? Sure and it also helps that the Rangers could have two Swedish players on their roster in Patrik Nemeth and Gustav Rydahl and Mancini played two seasons for Henrik Lundqvist’s old team, Frolunda in the Swedish top professional league.
161. Maxim Barbashev LW- (QMJHL)
Speaking of the St. Louis Blues the Rangers Entry Draft team picked the brother of current Blues forward Ivan Barbashev (who had 60 points this year) in the fifth round. Here is another player who has the frame to be a difficult guy to play against with his 6’1”, 183-pound frame, could he be the next Dustin Brown? Highlights of Barbashev scoring in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL), show he knows how to get open, and has the hands and the release to score, as he has done 21 times in the last two seasons. However, he is still raw at 18 years old and will take some time to develop, but Barbashev will be an interesting prospect to watch develop and seems like a solid pickup.
191. Zakary Karpa C (NCAA)
With their final pick at the 2022 NHL draft, the Rangers Entry Draft team selected the son of former defenseman, Dave Karpa. Zakary Karpa stands 6’2” and weighs in at 185-pounds, meaning the Rangers did not mess around when it came to adding some big forwards to their prospect pipeline. Karpa did not show himself to be an exciting scoring talent this past year in D-1 college hockey but did post six goals and six assists for Harvard this year as a freshman. This was a good start to Karpa’s career with the second-oldest D-1 men’s hockey team (behind Yale).
Again, with their last pick, the Rangers get another player who understands his role; he is not the flashiest forward but is a two-way player and a student of the game. When young players do not come up thinking they are going to take the NHL by storm with goal scoring or being a physical beast, they work harder at becoming versatile, to give themselves the best opportunity to play in the NHL and the Rangers are hoping Karpa can follow in his father’s footsteps.
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