Rangers are in Philly tonight, for the second of their home and home series with the Flyers. If things are going to get ugly, it'll be tonight.
Some of the kids, including Duclair, Haggerty and Hayes will play again tonight. This leads me to hope that the jobs are really open and that the Rangers don't plan on starting the season with retreads. It also leads me to talk about how underrated the Ranger system has been lately.
There's a tendency in hockey to sanctify draft position. In other words, a first rounder will get more attention and more chances as time goes by because he was a first rounder. So even when a team makes a first round mistake, that player will still get more chances than say a third or fourth rounder who can skate circles around him. I think the Rangers dearth of first rounders has lead to the pundits underrating them.
But, the Rangers have been getting bang for their bucks in the draft whether they've had first rounders or not, and are really making hay, or Hayes, with these college players they are signing. Haggerty and Hayes remind me a bit of when the system finally started bouncing back, several years ago now, and produced Callahn and Dubinsky.
Hockey's different than say baseball because it's so team intensive, i.e., you play offense and defense together and share the puck at all time. Still, Bill James said something about baseball players that make as much sense for hockey players. He said that the majority of a player's value was in his being average. That can be easily understood by looking at a stat like OPS+ . Saying a guy has an OPS+ of 120. He's then 20% above average, but most of his value is in being league average.
If you think about hockey players, it's much the same. Gretzky might have had a couple of season when he was 2 x average, but the greatest part of even the great one was his being average.
Okay, so what's this got to do with the Rangers? When the Ranger farm is productive, like it is now and has been for awhile, they are producing players who can be better than average, and those are the kind of guys that teams win with.
Prospect rankings generally focus too much on presumptive value above average without accounting for the average part enough, which is deficient in most players who bust. Thus, the Rangers' system of above average prospects will always be underrated, until the players start helping the Rangers win at the NHL level.
Having said all of that, Duclair is the goods, and so is Buchnevich. They're only underrated because they were third rounders, and they were only third rounders because of league wide mistakes.
We'll see if Duclair scores again tonight, but one thing that's worth watching while he's out there is his aggressive defense. He is alway trying to steal the puck back, and usually getting very good position.