Rangers draft preview: Defensemen they could target

The strength of the New York Rangers is their blueline so drafting a defenseman won’t be a priority for the Blueshirts, but there are some defenders worth considering.

The New York Rangers have a fabulous collection of young defenders on the major league roster as well as in their prospect pipeline.  The team’s immediate need is depth at forward, so the likelihood is that they will go that route at the NHL Entry Draft.  Still, there are defenseman the Rangers could be interested in.

For many years, the Rangers’ draft philosophy has been to draft the best player available, regardless of position. They went that way two years ago when they drafted Swedish goalie Olof Lindbom in the second round.  With a stacked number of goalie prospects in their system, expending their only second round pick on another netminder seemed to make absolutely no sense.  No picks from the 2018 draft selected after Lindbom have become regulars in the NHL and Lindbom is still considered a solid prospect, though injury prone so the pick is by no means a disaster.

If the Blueshirts do go for the best available player, they could pick a defenseman, probably with the second first round pick that they own.  We’ve gone over the top defensemen available in our prior reports including Jamie Drysdale, Kaiden Guhle, Justin Barron,Braden Schneider and Jake Sanderson. This time we’ll look at some candidates that could be around later in the first round.

For guidance we looked at the players ranked by ten of the top hockey websites. A full list is at the end of this article with links if you want to see their complete lists.  Here’s a look at some defensemen worth considering.

William Wallinder – Allsvenskan (Sweden)

William Wallinder is a left handed shooting defenseman who is ranked the 14th best European skater by NHL Central Scouting.  He’s a big kid at 6’4″,  191 pounds and he doesn’t turn 18 until this summer.  This season, he made the jump from junior hockey to MoDo of Allsvenskan, the second tier Swedish pro league.

Wallinder has his fans and with some experts seeing him as a mid-first round pick.  Chris Peters of ESPN sees him going 17th overall and says that “he has good puck skills and can get pucks up ice quickly.”   Craig Button of TSN ranks him 18th overall.  Eliteprospects.com and Sam Cosentino of Sportsnet both see him going 25th overall, with the latter citing his size.

Wallinder has signed on for two more years in Sweden so he is definitely a long-term investment.

Shakir Mukhamadullin – KHL (Russia)

Shakir Mukhamadullin is a lefthanded shot who split his season between the MHL and the KHL in Russia.  Playing for Tolpar Ufa in the MHL (second tier pro league in Russia), he had ten goals in 13 games and was called up to Salavat Yulaev Ufa in the KHL where he played 27 games. notching one assist.

Mukhamadullin is 6’2″, but only weighs 170 pounds so he needs to put on some muscle.  Ranked the 17th best European skater by NHL Central Scouting, he has a big fan in Ryan Kennedy of the Hockey News who projects him going 15th overall in the first round.  Kennedy wasn’t alone as ISS Hockey projected him at 22nd overall and Steve Kournianos of the Sporting News pegged him at 20th.  Kournianos calls him a “crease clearer and one-one-one eraser.”   He went on to describe him as the “most polished of any draft-eligible defenseman” and cites his ability as a  “top penalty killer, shutdown defender (who) can quarterback a power play.”

Mukhamadullin is committed to the KHL next season and will continue his development playing in a man’s league where he was able to compete this season at age 18.

Jeremie Poirer – QMJHL

Jeremie Poirer is ranked the 18th best North American skater by NHL Central Scouting and Cory Pronman of the Athletic has him as the 14th best player in the first round.  He’s another lefty shooter and doesn’t turn 18 until June.

Poirier was an offensive force for the St. John Sea Dogs where he scored 20 goals and had 53 points in 64 games.  Those 20 goals led all QMJHL defensemen and he was second in total points.

At 6’1″, 195 pounds, the left handed shot has good size.  Pronman said that “He’s got a ton of skill, as much as any defensemen in the draft and close to the level of some of the top forwards in the class” and cites his danger off the rush.

Other than Pronman , he was consistently ranked to go in the last third of the first round and the only knock on him is his “so-so” defense.  He is one of the most gifted offensive defensemen in the draft, something the New York Rangers do not need. Still, as highly regarded as he is, if he is around when the Blueshirts make their second pick in the first round, they would have to consider him.

Ryan O’Rourke – OHL

Ryan O’Rourke has had  two full seasons with the Soo Greyhounds and improved this year to seven goals and 37 points in 64 games.  At 6’2″, 187 pounds, he has a supporter in Ryan Kennedy of the Hockey News who places him 16th overall.  O’Rourke shoots from the left side and turns 18 this month.

Sam Cosentino places him 30th overall, saying that his   “Great self awareness will allow him to adapt. At his worst, he’s a simple, hard-to-play-against, puck-moving defenseman of high character.”

The upcoming draft is not particularly deep at defense, good news for the Blueshirts.  Teams hungering for blueliners may pass on some higher ranked forwards who could fall into the Rangers’ lap.

Here is the list of 10 draft ranking websites we used.  Click on the website name to see their full rankings.

Elite Prospects.com – The top 31 prospects ranked in April.

ESPN, Chris Peters – Top 50 players in the draft, ranked on January 29

The Hockey News, Ryan Kennedy – The top 31 players in the draft, ranked in January after the WJC.

ISS Hockey – March rankings of the top 31 players

McKeen’s Hockey, Ryan Wagman  – The top 31 picks ranked midseason

NHL Central Scouting – The official final draft rankings divided between North American and European skaters and goalies.

The Sporting News, Steve Kournianos -Top 125 picks ranked in December..

Sportsnet, Sam Cosentino – He ranked the top 31 picks on April 8.

TSN, Craig Button – The TSN prospect guru revealed his top 103 picks  on March 30.

The Athletic (subscription required) –  Corey Pronman ranked the top 31 at the midseason on January 29

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