Over the last two months, Last Word has focused on United States National Team Development Program players in scouting reports. That includes reports on Seamus Casey, Cutter Gauthier, and Logan Cooley. That trend will continue. Rutger McGroarty, one of the most known NTDP prospects in the 2022 class, is on the docket. Is McGroarty a top-20 pick in the 2022 class?
Rutger McGroarty Scouting Report
McGroarty, born March 30th, 2022, in Lincoln, Nebraska, is a winger for the NTDP. The 6’0” and 205 pound McGroarty has positional versatility, as he is also listed as a center on Elite Prospects, but is mostly seen playing on either wing with the NTDP. In his first season with the program, McGroarty played 34 games with the U17 squad, scoring 17 goals and 18 assists for 35 points. He played an additional 30 games with the U18 squad that year, scoring 12 goals and seven assists for 19 points. This year, McGroarty has recorded 25 goals and 30 assists for 55 points in 43 games. He is committed to the University of Michigan for the 2022-23 season.
When it comes to draft rankings, some love McGroarty and some don’t. He has been ranked 12th by FC Hockey, 14th by Draft Prospects Hockey, 17th by Recruit Scouting, 22nd by Dobber Prospects, 25th by The Puck Authority and TSN’s Craig Button, 26th by TSN’s Bob McKenzie, 27th by SportsNet, 29th by McKeen’s Hockey, 32nd by Smaht Scouting, and 51st by Elite Prospects. This writer has McGroarty ranked 18th on his unreleased rankings.
What traits does McGroarty have that lead certain scouts to love him? What aspects of his game does he need to improve for those scouts who are lower on him to change their minds?
Rutger McGroarty’s Skating Is Solid but Could Use More Work
Rutger McGroarty is a solid skater. However, he is not a blazing skater. While he doesn’t lag behind plays by any means, his top speed is only above-average, and that won’t fare well as he moves up levels from the USHL going forward. Working on his top speed will go a very long way. However, his acceleration is strong. McGroarty’s first few steps are powerful and technical, allowing him to win short-area battles and get a quick burst of speed to catch the opposition off guard. That’s what makes working on his top speed all the more important, as he could become a lethal skater if he had the next gear in his game.
McGroarty’s stride is very technically sound in most areas, as mentioned when bringing up his acceleration. There is one aspect of his skating mechanics he could work on, which could go a long way to improve his top speed: lengthening his stride. His stride can, at times, be choppy, and if he can work on being more consistent with longer strides, maximizing the power behind each step, McGroarty can find that next gear to become a much better skater. He certainly has the makings of a very good skater, and an NHL-level coach will likely find a way to get him there.
McGroarty’s value comes mostly from his dynamic offensive abilities. Paul Zuk of Smaht Scouting said, “McGroarty is an absolute weapon in the offensive zone.” Now, Zuk is not wrong, McGroarty is a dual-threat offensive talent and is just as dangerous setting teammates up as he is finishing scoring chances himself. But there are caveats to that. First, let’s look at the numbers on his playmaking.
McGroarty attempted 36 passes in the offensive zone across three tracked games, completing 21 of them (58.33% accuracy). Of those 36 attempts, just 16.67% were aimed at high-danger, and he completed just 16.67% of those passes. While the percentage of passes aimed at high danger was only slightly below the average among 17 total tracked forwards (22.56%), his accuracy was well below the average (51.96%). Not only were his high-danger passes well below average, but his low danger passes were questionable too. While the average among the 17 forwards tracked this year for low danger pass completions was up at 84.44%, McGroarty’s accuracy aimed at low danger was down at 66.67%! That ranked tied for 16th, ahead of only Jimmy Snuggerud (25% in one tracked game).
Rutger McGroarty’s Shooting Ability
As for McGroarty’s shot, there’s a lot to like, which will be detailed a bit later. However, the same issues in his passing numbers arise with his tracked shooting numbers.
In those same three games, McGroarty fired 20 total shots, with 12 hitting the net (60% accuracy). Of those shots, McGroarty sent 45% of them from high danger areas. That was actually over the average of 44.52%, ever-so-slightly. However, of those high danger shot attempts, only 66.67% were sent on net. The average high danger shot accuracy is 75.22%.
The one thing to really like about his shot is the fact that he doesn’t just shoot it from anywhere. The average percentage of shots that players fire from low danger is 22.61%, and McGroarty only fires 15% of his shots from those spots.
What Do These Numbers Tell Us?
For his passing, it shows that McGroarty doesn’t really push the needle with his playmaking a ton. He doesn’t get passes into high danger at a high clip, which he should work on more often. But what makes the fact that he doesn’t push the pace there often enough even more glaring is the fact that, when he does, he doesn’t really threaten opponents. He doesn’t complete nearly enough of those high danger passes, which leads to turnovers. That needs to change.
As for his shooting, he is better at attacking those high danger areas in terms of volume, but like with his passing, he doesn’t take advantage often enough. To go back to the low percentage of low danger shots, however, that shows that Rutger McGroarty knows to get tighter to the net and into more dangerous spots before firing shots. What the numbers show as well, though not as clearly, with the volume of high danger shots, is his off-puck movement skills. He does a great job finding open areas in dangerous spots without the puck, allowing teammates to set him up for great chances. His finishing ability is evident when watching him play, but he still needs more work as he moves up the ranks.
Rutger McGroarty’s Transitional Abilities
McGroarty is an extremely efficient transitional player, especially when it comes to exiting the defensive zone. In the tracked games, McGroarty was involved directly in 10 zone exit attempts, clearing the zone with possession on 90% of them. He also did not fail to clear the zone a single time in that span of games. Also, he skated the puck out of the zone himself on 40% of his attempts, which is above the draft average of 32%.
When it comes to entering the offensive zone, McGroarty is less effective, but far more involved. He was directly involved in 27 total zone entry attempts, entering the zone with possession on 59.26% of them. The average is 65%, showing the relative lack of efficiency in this area. Skating the puck into the offensive zone himself on 33.33% of his entry attempts, compared to the average of 47%, shows the area where he likely should improve moving forward.
Improving his overall skating impact, specifically his top speed, along with his stickhandling, will help him to improve his numbers transitionally. McGroarty already possesses the IQ and puck-carrying vision to be a solid transitional player, so adding those traits would make him even more effective.
Defensive Zone Play
McGroarty is an interesting player to watch in the defensive zone. He’s constantly moving his feet and pressuring the opposition. Not to mention, he plays a physical style. He forces the opposition to the outside and plays the body along the boards. McGroarty also knows how to be a bit more conservative. He knows how to use an active stick effectively, clogging passing and shooting lanes.
However, those more conservative moments are few and far between. Most of the time, McGroarty can be a bit too aggressive on the puck. Like getting pulled out of position due to puck-chasing. McGroarty has the makings of a solid two-way player. But he needs to reel in his aggressiveness in his own end more often. It helps that he tends to be more effective that way.
What Is Rutger McGroarty’s Potential?
McGroarty is a solid NHL prospect. There are reasons why some people are lower on him, for sure. His need to improve his playmaking abilities and being more aggressive with the puck, as well as being more efficient, is there. But those things can be a combination of luck and a need for more experience. That said, McGroarty has a style of play that is translatable to the NHL level. He has good size, a physical edge, a strong motor, and a high-upside offensive ability. Not to mention, the potential in the defensive end of his game is there.
Rutger McGroarty has the makings of a really strong middle six option in the future. That’s with the upside to play in all situations. Some people may look at him and see the lower-end of that potential, sticking him into a future third-line role. But with the possibility that his offensive game can continue to improve moving forward, making him even more dangerous both with and without the puck, there’s merit in believing he can be more of a future second-line option with special teams upside.
For a quick comparison, though this is no indication of upside, Rutger McGroarty is a Blake Coleman type of player. He has displayed strong offensive abilities while maintaining a physical edge and versatility in his game.