The New York Rangers’ rebuild is starting off on the right foot thanks to three first-round selections on Friday night in Dallas at the 2018 NHL Draft.
After seeing a seven-year streak of postseason appearances snapped last season, which resulted in the firing of Alain Vigneault, the trading of Rick Nash and Ryan McDonagh and the hiring of new head coach Dan Quinn out of Boston University, the Rangers are stressing youth as the franchise begins to move in a new direction.
The draft presented the Rangers with a golden opportunity to add to its youth ranks and general manager Jeff Gorton didn’t let the opportunity go to waste as two defensemen and a winger was nabbed by the Blueshirts in the first 28 picks. Here is what you need to know about all three.
Vitali Kravtsov, RW, Chelyabinsk (KHL)
There were some initial eyebrow raising and head scratching when the Rangers decided to draft Kravtsov out of the KHL, Russia’s top league, instead of the available Oliver Wahlstrom, who slid down to the Islanders at No. 11. But there is an enormous amount of promise to his game.
At 18 years old, Kravtsov was one of the best players during the KHL playoffs as he recorded 11 points in 16 games on his way to Rookie of the Year honors.
This is a power forward who stands at 6-foot-3. He not only can create offense around the net but he is a skilled and smart enough skater to open up scoring options from anywhere in the attacking zone. A quick set of hands does all the rest.
Pro comparison: Evgeny Kuznetsov, Washington Capitals
K’Andre Miller, D, US National Team Development Program
The blue line is a relatively new home for Miller, who will be attending the University of Wisconsin next season. A forward for most of his life, Miller didn’t make the shift to defense until 2015 but has quickly developed into one of the best young Americans at the position.
Miller is a gifted skater who handles the puck well but sometimes is unsure when to join the offensive attack. When it comes to his defensive game though, there are no such problems as his aggression is one of his strongest aspects.
The more he works on his positioning, the better a prospect he will become.
Pro comparison: Roman Josi, Nashville Predators
Nils Lundkvist, D, Lulea (SHL)
Compared to Miller, Lundkivst is more of an offensive defenseman. Given his build at 5-foot-11, the Swede is more of a finesse blueliner.
He has above-average distribution skills, which could make him an assist machine on special teams.
The 17-year-old is a skilled skater capable of carrying the puck out of danger and with his vision, he will be able to spark offensive rushes with relative ease. He’ll need every bit of that skill because he will be overpowered by larger players, but he likely still has some growing to do given his age.
Pro comparison: Jonas Brodin, Minnesota Wild