Trading in May? That’s like snow in July! But yes, the Rangers have sent prospect Ethan Werek to the Phoenix Coyotes in return for center Oscar Lindberg. With all of the prospects whose rights were going to expire being signed, Ethan Werek was the elephant in the room, so to speak. The Rangers were high on him when they selected him in the second round two years ago, so the fact that they were quiet about the situation with him certainly made it clear something was up. Let’s look at why the Rangers moved Werek and what we’re getting in Lindberg:
Werek drew comparisons to Adam Graves stylistically, and many viewed him as a potentially great third line center or solid second liner. After a great 2009-2010 season with the Kingston Frontenacs of the OHL, getting 63 points in 57 games, there were high hopes for Werek going into this season. However, his season was pretty crazy and for all the wrong reasons. Werek bulked up and supposedly the Rangers were worried that it would affect him, specifically his speed. Werek experienced multiple injuries, including a ligament tear in his wrist that he initially tried to play through and avoid surgery on. At the end of the season, he was suspended five games for a clear-cut headshot. If you look at Werek’s OHL career as a whole, he did pretty well all things considered. Even this year, with all the drama and setbacks, he ended up with 24 goals and 52 points in 47 games. However, the Rangers couldn’t care less about that. Glen Sather and the scouting staff are trying to find guys who will succeed in the NHL, and it’s clear that the Rangers weren’t confident that he could make it to the NHL with the Rangers. It’s pretty easy to see that they don’t think he’d be worth the headache.
19 year old Oscar Lindberg was a second round pick by Phoenix in the last draft, and he seems to be a “safe” prospect. That is, the ceiling isn’t incredibly high but he has a good chance of making the NHL in some capacity. Lindberg led the SEL, probably the 2nd best hockey league in the world, in faceoff’s with a 69(!)% win percentage. Here is eliteprospects.com ‘s profile of Lindberg:
"A very smart two-way center. Takes care of his defensive responsibilities, but also contributes offensively with good speed, technical skills and playmaking ability. Not an overly physical player, but he gets involved. Pretty good shot, but not a natural scorer. A team player who is good at face-offs."
Sounds a lot like Samuel Pahlsson, nationality included. It’s also worth noting that Lindberg is related to former Ranger Jan Erixon, who played a similar style. Lindberg had 14 points in 41 games this year, and while that seems pretty bad at face value, the SEL is not a high scoring league and is specifically tough on young guys. Mattias Tedenby never eclipsed 19 points in three years in the SEL. Marcus Johansson’s high was 20. Not that Lindberg will be as good offensively as either of those guys are, but it proves the point that stats don’t tell us very much.
Ethan Werek is the more talented player in the deal, make no mistake. But it takes more than talent to succeed in the NHL. The Rangers are staying away from the Pavel Brendl’s now and adding more of the Derek Stepan’s. Attitude, demeanor, and work ethic is foremost in the minds of the NYR brass, and it’s evident that the Rangers weren’t liking what was going on with Werek. The Rangers had to sign Werek by June 1st or else the Rangers would have lost his rights and he would have ended up back in the Entry Draft. Lindberg doesn’t have to be signed until next year. Good on Sather to get a very solid prospect for a guy whom they clearly had no intentions of keeping. That is great asset management.