Photo Credit: Rena Laverty
Scouting Report written by Paul Zuk
Buried almost smack-dab in the middle of the United States, the state of Nebraska has only had 1 player selected in the NHL Entry Draft. That statistic is likely to increase at this summer’s NHL Entry Draft, as center Rutger McGroarty is eligible to be selected. McGroarty hails from the Nebraska state capital, as his father Jim was an assistant coach for the Omaha Lancers of the USHL when Rutger was born. Jim McGroarty hails from Streetsville, Ontario, Canada, and currently serves as the General Manager for the Muskegon Lumberjacks of the USHL.
McGroarty played his minor hockey wherever Jim’s work took him, as he played for several top-quality programs in Michigan from the 13U ranks, all the way up to his time with the NTDP. His 15U season in 2019-20 was an absolute eye-opener for scouts, as he racked up a staggering 82 goals, 78 assists for 160 points in only 63 games. Such a monstrous season at a high level garnered the attention of the NTDP, thus beginning McGroarty’s tenure in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
In his first season suiting up for the NTDP U17’s, McGroarty impressed a lot of people, as he amassed 32 goals, 28 assists for 60 points in 83 total games with both the U17’s and U18’s. He also played for the USA in the IIHF World U-18’s, where he was held pointless in five total games.
This season as a full-time member of the U18’s, McGroarty’s draft-stock has risen very fast, as he’s having an incredible season thus far. As of March 14th, 2022, McGroarty has tallied 27 goals, 34 assists for 61 points in 54 games between Development Team and USHL play.
For the 2022-23 season, McGroarty will join the college hockey powerhouse University of Michigan. His recruiting class may go down as the best the NCAA has ever seen, as it has the names of four potential first-round picks in the 2022/2023 NHL Drafts. Joining McGroarty in Ann Arbor will be U18 teammates Seamus Casey, Frank Nazar, and Hunter Brzustewicz, along with brothers Adam and Luca Fantilli.
There’s no telling how much McGroarty’s overall game will improve being surrounded by such deep talent, but the sky’s the limit. Head Coach Mel Pearson will know exactly how and where to utilize McGroarty to obtain the maximum amount of output from his game, offensively speaking. Look for McGroarty to light things up at the NCAA level starting next Fall.
D.O.B – March 30, 2004
Nationality – American/Canadian
Draft Eligibility – 2022
Weight –205 lbs
Position – Center
Handedness – Left
McGroarty’s Style of Play
Much like his teammate Cutter Gauthier, Rutger McGroarty is an offensive-minded power forward, who excels at just about everything in the attacking third of the ice. Not only is he capable of using his offensive prowess to generate high-danger chances in the offensive zone, but he makes trying to defend him an absolute nightmare for opponents.
McGroarty is an absolute weapon in the offensive zone. His playmaking skills are next level, and he can generate chances from just about anywhere in the attacking third of the ice. Aside from generating chances of his own, McGroarty is just as capable of tucking home his teammates chances too.
When breaking into the offensive zone without the puck, he exhibits his high hockey IQ and puts himself in open ice for his teammates to distribute the puck to him. From there, McGroarty uses his excellent finishing skills, and the puck often finds its way into the back of the net.
One aspect of his game that should impress just about anyone is his leadership under pressure. For example, at January’s Biosteel All-American Game, where he registered a goal, an assist, and took home game MVP honours. McGroarty was a catalyst in the first Team Blue goal by Jimmy Snuggerud, as he worked a neat little passing play which led to the goal.
Lastly, he scored the game-tying goal for Team Blue, who would eventually take the game in OT. His great hand-eye coordination allowed for him to break up a saucer pass from Team White defender Luke Mittelstadt, and with the pressure applied on forward Marek Hejduk, forced a turnover at the blueline, leading to a breakaway and a clutch goal by McGroarty. This game was a true testament to the style of play McGroarty excels at and gave his team a quality shot at winning when it seemed out of the question.
Let’s take a deeper look at the finer aspects of Rutger McGroarty’s game:
Perhaps the weakest part of his game mechanically speaking, McGroarty’s skating isn’t necessarily the prettiest thing to watch. However, he more than makes up for it with effort and production, as his skating has little to no hinderance on his actual performance.
McGroarty’s stride seems to be a little deeper and more powerful than others, but what he gains in power, he sort of 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.
In the clip above, McGroarty shows off just how quick and powerful his skating can be. If he can continue to do this more often, the doubts about his skating may soon disappear.
Where McGroarty is lacking a little bit is primarily in the speed/acceleration aspect. He has the skillset and talent to beat opponents out wide/up the middle when entering the zone, but he seems to be a tad slower than expected, which somewhat limits his total chances. If he can find a way to increase his explosiveness and first few steps, there’s potential for him to achieve many more high-danger chances offensively per game.
While it’s clear to see he has improved a little bit regarding his form and mechanics, there is still a little bit of work to be done to truly develop his skating to the level of other first round notables in the 2022 class.
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.
When McGroarty is used on the powerplay, you can often find him in the slot waiting for a pass, or playing the role of a brick wall, as his large frame can screen the best goalies that the NTDP faces. Alternatively, he can ride the goal line to give his defenseman an outlet. From there, he likes to rush the net with the puck to create a scoring chance. Head Coach Adam Nightingale is clearly thrilled with McGroarty’s special teams play, as his powerplay time/game has almost doubled since last season (1:18min/game in 20/21, 2:25 min/game in 21/22).
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.
When breaking into the offensive zone, McGroarty likes to carry the puck and often cut towards the middle lane, allowing his linemates to fill in the other gaps and set up for a chance on net. While he loves to exploit the middle lane as often as he can, he would benefit a lot from breaking out wide more often. If he can work on his explosiveness as previously mentioned, he would be able to beat defenders wide more often, which should lead to more chances.
When tasked with defensive zone duties, McGroarty is no slouch. He always seems to be in proper position and can put pressure on attackers when they are in possession of the puck. He can also be relentless when trying to muscle opponents off the puck, putting his impressive strength and size to work.
While he’s not used in abundance on the penalty kill (0:48 min/game in 21/22), it’s not due to his inability to adequately defend. When killing penalties, McGroarty can once again use his size and strength to close the gap between the puck handler and himself, forcing them to move the puck into danger. Also, he has an active stick which helps him intercept erratic passes and clog up passing lanes for the opposition’s power play unit.
At times, McGroarty can be quite sneaky off an opponent’s counterattack, as he’ll follow an attacker, lift their stick, and steal the puck without any notice to the player. It occurs more often in the offensive zone, and it sometimes leads to a shot on net in a dangerous area.
As mentioned above, McGroarty’s overall game is amongst the top-tier of players in the 2022 draft class. As with pretty much any prospect, there are areas of his game that could use some polishing if he hopes to continue his elite-level playmaking and production output at the next level.
For starters, the mechanical side of his skating could use some TLC. His first few steps tend to be a little on the slower side, which may hold back some of his untapped offensive potential. If he can work on this trait, he could find himself racking up far more chances per game.
Perhaps McGroarty will look to make his overall compete level a little more consistent on a game-to-game basis. It’s not uncommon to see a prospect with this trait, as very few possess complete games with little to no flaws. There have been moments this season where he’s been the most focused and involved player on the ice the whole game.
Alternatively, he’s had moments where he’s been a passenger in all three zones. Whether that is caused from exhaustion, tuning out, or some other factor, McGroarty may look to polish this up over the next couple of seasons to truly develop into a can’t-miss prospect.
Overall, Rutger McGroarty is going to make whichever team that selects him quite happy in the seasons to come. In McGroarty, they’re getting a dynamic offensive player, who has proven at the U18 level he’s incredibly difficult to defend against and can be extremely deceiving when in possession of the puck. His defensive game is up to snuff as well, as he is counted upon to kill penalties and assist his defensemen when hemmed deep in their zone.
McGroarty can do it all on the ice, while bringing a sense of fear and hesitation into his opponent’s game. His draft stock has improved since the beginning of the year, and especially after winning MVP in the Biosteel All-American Game for Team Blue, with a goal and an assist as mentioned above.
You can find Rutger McGroarty’s name scattered amongst boards ranging anywhere from just outside the top-10, to the tail end of the first round. However, I have a sense he will be selected anywhere between 15-25th overall at this summer’s Entry Draft.
March 17, 2021
stats from InStat and EliteProspects
Prospect report written by Paul Zuk. If you would like to follow Paul on Twitter, his handle is @paulzuk_81.
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