2021-22 Team: USNTDP Juniors (USHL)
Date of Birth: March 30, 2004
Place of Birth: Lincoln, NE, USA
Ht: 6-feet Wt: 205 pounds
NHL Draft Eligibility: 2022 first-year eligible
- NHL Central Scouting: 18th (amongst NA skaters)
- FC Hockey: 12th
- Recruit Scouting: 17th
- Peter Baracchini’s March Rankings: 17th
- Andrew Forbes’ March Rankings: 15th
- Matthew Zator’s February Rankings: 13th
- Smaht Scouting: 32nd
- Bob McKenzie’s Rankings: 26th
- Dobber Prospects Mid-Season Rankings: 14th
Yet another skilled American in this projected first-round draft class, Rutger McGroarty has already been showcased on several highlight reels this season playing for the United States National Team Development Program (USNTDP). Already boasting the likes of Logan Cooley, Seamus Casey, and Frank Nazar, this 2022 group will likely comprise the bulk of the first round this summer. With creativity, high hockey IQ, a heavy, accurate shot, and a tremendous work ethic in his arsenal, he could be one of the most dynamic players in this draft.
Related: THW 2022 NHL Draft Guide
Poised to become the second-ever Nebraska-born player to be drafted into the NHL (Jake Guentzel being the other), McGroarty has already made history as the state’s first to play for the USNTDP, now he will look to usurp him as its highest selected. By the way, Guentzel was drafted 77th overall in 2013, so unless the unthinkable happens and McGroarty drops like a rock, he will be the first to be chosen in the opening round, potentially even the top 15.
Coached by his dad, Jim, who played in the ECHL, WCHL, and other leagues during the 80s and 90s, including some professional roller hockey in 1995 and 1998, Rutger grew up living and breathing hockey. Jim also coached the United States Hockey League’s (USHL) Lincoln Stars in the early 2000s, so he was afforded some benefits not all aspiring hockey players get when they’re growing up.
“The benefits were obviously that my dad had the keys to the rink,” McGroarty said. “That was unbelievable. I loved every second of that…I was in the USHL [Lincoln Stars] locker room every day when I got school called off or at the end of the day when school ended. I’d hang out with those guys, so that matured me quicker than a normal 7- or 8-year-old, so that was awesome.”
Before the USNTDP came calling, McGroarty first got noticed in the 15U ranks when he put up an astonishing 82 goals and 160 points in only 63 games during the 2019-20 season. The burgeoning power forward was of course recruited by the USNTDP and started playing for them shortly after. In addition to the other attributes mentioned at the opening of this profile, he is also an elite playmaker, hence the 78 assists he put up during that monster campaign.
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 offence 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.
Other THW Draft Profiles
Rutger McGroarty – NHL Draft Projection
As I mentioned before, McGroarty has the potential to be selected in the top-15. Ranked all over the place by pundits in the scouting world from as high as 12th (Bob McKenzie/FC Hockey) to as low as 51st (Elite Prospects), he could be classified as a polarizing prospect. All I have to say is, if he’s drafted in the second round like Elite Prospects projects, that team will be getting an absolute steal. What might be holding experts back from putting him firmly in the top 15 are his skating and overall consistency. In my mind, those things are hardly weaknesses to warrant dropping him towards the end of the first round.
“The true definition of a power forward, McGroarty can utilize his large, powerful frame to muscle defenders off the puck, while at the same time regain possession and dish the puck off to a teammate. He is quite talented at making defenders commit turnovers in their own zone and has the skill and knowledge to make them pay the price for it…McGroarty has quite impressive vision on the ice, especially in the offensive zone when it comes to making plays. Often, he’s able to hit a teammate with a seam pass for a tap in goal, which many other players wouldn’t have the skill or gall to attempt. He’s able to do it while oozing confidence and is usually rewarded with a primary assist.” – Paul Zuk, Smaht Scouting
“In my opinion, this [his shot] is McGroarty’s best individual tool. He has the most dangerous shot out of all of the 2022 draft eligible players I’ve seen thus far in this draft class. He has the triple threat in terms of his shot, his deftness to deceive goalies with his ability to release his shot from any angle, and his accuracy to pick his spot and generates the power that will beat goalies from anywhere.” – Austin Broad, FC Hockey
“McGroarty is one of the most complete prospects in the 2022 draft class. He has good size, skates fairly well, competes hard, and has plenty of offensive skill. He blends a power game with finesse, able to take the puck to the net and finish with his soft hands. His shot is heavy and comes off of his stick quickly, making him a scoring threat on the inside as well as from the perimeter. McGroarty is a powerful skater who forces his way around defenders and keeps his feet moving to effectively hunt pucks on the forecheck but his feet can be a bit heavy at times…” – Nick Richard, Dobber Prospects
“He worked on his skating this summer, he’s committed to it, it’s improving. I’ve never seen him lose a puck race or a puck battle because of his skating, and I think because his mind is so good that he’s able to play the game fast…He’s a power forward that’s a really smart player. He’s strong, he’s got a really good release, he sees the ice and he’s competitive.” – Adam Nightingale, U18 head coach (from ‘Meet Rutger McGroarty, the Nebraska kid making history on his way to the 2022 NHL Draft’ Scott Wheeler, The Athletic, 11/29/21)
- Heavy, accurate shot
- Two-way game
- Work ethic
Under Construction (Improvements to Make)
- Skating mechanics
McGroarty has the ability to become a solid top-six player in the NHL with his power foward potential and goalscorer’s mentality. He will be an asset on the power play with his size and heavy shot and dynamic presence all over the ice at even strength. Clicking around Twitter, I saw him compared to Zach Hyman of the Edmonton Oilers, which is fair since his work ethic, and ability to make his linemates better are very much like the former Maple Leaf star. I believe he will end up being a more productive version in his prime, as Hyman doesn’t nearly have the shot McGroarty has.
Risk – 3/5, Reward – 5/5
Fantasy Hockey Potential
Offence – 8/10, Defence – 7/10
Matthew Zator is a THW freelance writer, media editor, and scout who lives and breathes Vancouver Canucks hockey, the NHL Draft, and prospects in general. He loves talking about young players and their potential. Matthew is a must-read for Canucks fans and fans of the NHL Draft and its prospects. For interview requests or content information, you can follow Matthew through his social media accounts which are listed under his photo at the conclusion of articles like this one about Tyler Motte.