Red Wings’ 2022 Draft Targets: Rutger McGroarty

If there is one thing that we have learned about Steve Yzerman in his first three drafts as executive vice-president and general manager of the Detroit Red Wings is that mock drafts are fairly meaningless in predicting who he will select. Fans just have to go back to 2019 when he surprised everyone by selecting Moritz Seider with the sixth-overall selection. Nobody had him nearly that high in their rankings and fans who watched that draft even remember Seider’s surprised reaction as he wasn’t expecting to go that high. That selection seems to have worked out well for Detroit as he emerged in 2021-22 as a candidate for the Calder Trophy.

Rutger McGroarty is a player that could catch the eye of the Red Wings and is projected as a solid first-round option in this year’s 2022 Draft. Here is a look at his career to date and how this prospect may be a fit for the Red Wings.

Path From Nebraska to the NHL

How does one become a first-round NHL draft prospect growing up in Lincoln, Nebraska, where the only rink in the city is a small 3,500-seat arena called The Ice Box? His father Jim McGroarty had the key to the rink (from ‘Meet Rutger McGroarty, the Nebraska kid making history on his way to the 2022 NHL Draft,’ The Athletic, Nov 29, 2021). Jim was head coach of the United States Hockey League’s (USHL) Stars and eventually general manager, which gave young Rutger access to the rink at virtually any time. The only other player drafted into the NHL from the state of Nebraska is Pittsburgh Penguins forward Jake Guentzel.

Rutger McGroarty USNTDP
Rutger McGroarty, USNTDP (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

After playing four years of organized hockey in Lincoln, it was time for McGroarty to move on in the development of his hockey career. He joined AAA Detroit Honeybaked at the start of the 2014-15 season and played there for five seasons before playing his final year of 15U for the AAA Oakland Jr. Grizzlies where he posted 82 goals and 160 points, putting him on the map in all scouting circles. He went on to become the team captain for the U.S. National Team Development Program and has also committed to play at the University of Michigan as part of the 2023 freshman class.

Scouting Report on McGroarty

McGroarty is described as a force in the offensive zone. He uses his size at 6-foot, 205 pounds to generate high-danger chances for himself and set up scoring opportunities for his linemates. He also possesses very important intangibles, such as a high hockey IQ and strong leadership skills likely honed from spending his younger years around the rink with his father.

The area of his game that basically every scouting report deems as his biggest need for improvement is his skating ability. McGroarty’s stride seems to be a little deeper and more powerful than others, but what he gains in power, he loses in overall speed. He’s shown flashes of being able to exhibit much quicker feet and explosiveness with the puck on his stick, but will need to make it a consistent part of his overall game as he develops in the coming seasons.

Passing on a player with demonstrated offensive production just because he isn’t a great skater can be a costly mistake. One example was the 2007 Draft when the Philadelphia Flyers passed on Jamie Benn in favor of James van Riemsdyk who was believed to be a more polished and NHL-ready caliber prospect at the time. Benn went on to win the Art Ross Trophy as the league’s top scorer in 2015.

McGroarty’s Potential Fit with Detroit

The pipeline of Red Wings prospects has significantly improved over the last three years with Yzerman in charge of the franchise and making smart decisions with his high draft choices. Two of his recent top picks emerged in 2021-22 with both Lucas Raymond (drafted fourth overall in 2020) and Seider making significant contributions in their first seasons in the NHL. Yet with signs of life emerging in Detroit, Yzerman will still likely stick with a draft strategy of selecting the best player he views available regardless of position.

McGroarty possesses a high hockey IQ, competitive character, and leadership traits that Yzerman likes to build his team around. He likely won’t be deterred by questions regarding his skating ability especially after playing with Tomas Holmstrom, who was regarded as not a great skater, but created major havoc around the opposition’s net and was a major component of four Stanley Cup championships in Detroit.

Tomas Holmstrom Detroit Red Wings Nashville Predators Pekka Rinne
Tomas Holmstrom was not considered a strong skater but helped Detroit win four Stanley Cups (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)

Yzerman is very quiet and doesn’t give the media very much information in terms of draft strategies or inside information on what he may do with the eighth selection in this year’s 2022 NHL Draft. With McGroarty projected to go anytime after the 15th selection in the first round, he likely won’t be Detroit’s selection. But as history has shown, I wouldn’t rule him out as a possible surprise pick for the Red Wings.

Other Quotes

“While McGroarty is known more for his exploits in the offensive zone, he has shown himself capable of being a presence in his own end of the ice as well. Using his size, smarts, and positioning, he is able to knock players off the puck and quickly transition to offense in the blink of an eye. Some scouts believe he needs to improve upon his skating mechanics (mostly his first few strides) to maximize his potential in the NHL, but those things can be easily fixed by a skating coach. All things considered, he is a pretty complete package and any team who drafts him will be getting a productive top-six player for years to come.” – Matthew Zator, The Hockey Writers

“McGroarty shines in the offensive zone, displaying elite goal-scoring and playmaking ability. He’s a slick puck handler who, if he can develop better skating technique, will be a high-round pick in next year’s draft.” –  Joey Padmanabhan, EPRinkside

“McGroarty plays the game with pace and works hard away from the puck. He has a balanced offensive skillset that allows him to facilitate, finish scoring plays, and create chances with his slick puck-handling.”  Nick Richard – Dobber Prospects

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