Names To Know: Does Rutger McGroarty's Size, Offensive Instincts, Make Up For His Perceived Skating Deficiencies?

By Dan Dukart on June 13, 2022 at 10:15 am
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Welcome to the 21st installment of 'Names To Know', a look-ahead at prospects who the Columbus Blue Jackets could select in the upcoming NHL Draft.

The Blue Jackets have two first-round draft picks—No. 6 and No. 12–providing general manager Jarmo Kekalainen the opportunity of shaping his team for the future as they look to get closer to contention status and being a formidable playoff threat.

Since the Blue Jackets have two first-round picks and many ways to go in a wide-open draft, we've covered quite a few names to this point, with each player providing an interesting case for selecting them.

Some, like Kevin Korhinski and Lian Bichsel, are risers in the public sphere and mock drafts. Others, like Ivan Miroschnichenko and Brad Lambert, are complete wildcards, although for entirely different reasons. Finally, we looked at players like Logan Cooley and Juraj Slafkovsky, who most do not anticipate would be available for the Blue Jackets' first selection. 

Today, we turn our attention to Rutger McGroarty, a talented American-born forward that is committed to the University of Michigan.

 

 

 

 


McGroarty has been one of the top 2004-born American players going back for many years. His father, Jim, played professionally before making the jump into coaching, where he's coached and managed in the USHL since 2003. 

Growing up in the Lincoln, NE, area where Jim coached the USHL's Lincoln Stars gave Rutger a jumpstart on his playing career. Rutger moved to Michigan for much of his youth hockey before making the jump to the U.S. NTDP in 2020-21. This past season, McGroarty was a top forward on the team, while simultaneously leading the program as the club's captain. He is committed to Michigan, where he'll begin his freshman campaign this fall.

McGroarty boasts several appealing attributes, namely his NHL-caliber wrist/snapshot. At 6'1", 205 lbs, he has an NHL frame and isn't afraid to play in traffic. He also uses his size to win battles in the corners, and, while he's not an overly physical player, he's definitely not shy.

The knock on McGroarty is heavy feet. Paradoxically, McGroarty is a menace off the rush, scoring many of his points on odd-man rushes, breakaways, and rush chances. But these types of plays become less frequent at the higher levels of hockey, and his cumbersome stride will likely prevent him from getting even an NHL-average number of these chances.

The Athletic's Corey Pronman ranked McGroarty 21st overall in his recent big board, comparing him to Tyler Toffoli. 

Analysis: McGroarty is a highly-skilled winger who is a threat inside the offensive zone because of his very good puck skills, shot and vision. He can make a lot of plays with finesse, but also is highly competitive. He forces a lot of turnovers, wins a good number of battles and can create around the hard areas of the offensive zone. The knock on McGroarty historically has been his skating. He has an awkward stride that lacks ideal balance and mechanics, but he has enough quickness to be able to play in the NHL. He projects as a top-nine winger with the potential to play higher in a lineup.

 

The Athletic's Scott Wheeler had him ranked 15th on his big board, noting his charisma, and concluded that "if he can get a little quicker from the jump, he’s got all of the other makings of a legitimate top-nine forward who can play up and down a lineup with a variety of player types."

McGroarty is almost surely a first-round pick, given the boxes that he does check. With the game faster than ever, I understand the reluctance to use a premium pick on a player with an NHL sub-average stride. On the other hand, that McGroarty has been able to produce at such a high level and possesses some of the best raw talent/hockey sense in the draft, suggests that he may be worth the gamble. And, with NHL scouting staffs that have been simultaneously working on their draft lists and watching the Stanley Cup Playoffs, I would imagine McGroarty's name has been often-cited, as his size/competitiveness would be a huge asset as the games get tighter.  

I would be surprised if the Blue Jackets took a swing on him at 12 given the other players that will be theoretically available, but it wouldn't be completely out of left field. 

Mock Draft Results
MyNHLDraft 18th
The Athletic 19th
Tankathon 16th
NHL.com 16th
Sporting News 17th
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