Top 10 prospects
The Rangers have the 10th overall selection in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.
The Rangers need to remedy a shortage of scoring forwards. After selecting defensemen in the first round of the 2005, 2006 and 2008 NHL Entry Drafts, as well as adding first rounder Ryan McDonagh through a 2009 trade, it is likely that the Rangers will select a forward in the first round of this year’s draft. A specific need exists at center, where the team (and system) are short on first and second line center icemen. Although recent graduate Artem Anisimov will likely eventually fill a second-line role and Derek Stepan is projected to be a first to second line forward, there is no purely first-line center in the system. With Evgeny Grachev already playing wing in the AHL, and expected to continue developing in that position, a playmaking center will be at the top of the Rangers list later this week.
The Rangers system is strongest along the blueline, where McDonagh and Bobby Sanguinetti are top prospects expected to join the Rangers roster by the fall of 2011. Projected to be second pairing defensemen, when McDonagh and Sanguinetti are ready to join young roster players Marc Staal, Michael Del Zotto and Matt Gilroy, the Rangers should be very strong defensively.
Left wing is another position of strength within the Rangers system. Evgeny Grachev and Chris Kreider played on the left side for the 2009-10 season and both are growing into the role of power forward. Carl Hagelin and Dane Byers are also left wing prospects who are expected to compete for third and fourth line roles in the coming years.
The weakest position in the system is at right wing. The tragic loss of Alexei Cherepanov still lingers for the Rangers, who believed that the young Russian would play on the right side for the Blueshirts for many years. The signing of Marian Gaborik fills the top line on that side, however there is a big hole after Gaborik. With Ryan Callahan better suited to play on the third line than the second, and prospect Dale Weise more of a third to fourth line player, there is a need for a skill player on that wing. It is expected that the Rangers will select one or more players in this year’s draft and possibly sign a free agent with this organizational weakness in mind.
Another weakness of the organization is in goal. Although Henrik Lundqvist is expected to remain as the No. 1 netminder in New York for at least until the end of the 2013-14 season, there is no obvious heir apparent. The Rangers do have four goaltending prospects in the organization, however, it is not clear that there is a potential No. 1 among them. Chad Johnson is the most highly regarded netminding prospect, however, it is unclear as of now whether he has the potential to grow into the No. 1 role. Recently-signed Cameron Talbot should provide some competition, but both may just have journeyman potential.
This is the first top-ten selection that the Rangers have had since 2007, when Director of Player Personnel Gordie Clark began running New York’s entry draft. For the 2007 and 2008 drafts, the Blueshirts selected the best player available at the 17th and 20th positions overall. In the 2009 draft, New York had the 19th overall selection and badly wanted Kreider at that spot. Having scouted Kreider extensively, and willing to take a chance on a player with excellent size and speed, albeit playing at a lower level, Clark was willing to move up several picks to get him. That proved unnecessary, but at the time, selecting Kreider was a high risk/high reward. At the 10th position, the Rangers don’t have the luxury of taking a high-risk player. As Clark told HF last month, at the 10th pick, the Rangers are looking for a player who looks to be a "sure thing."
Hockey’s Future staff mock draft result: Jeff Skinner
New York has a "short list" of players that they are interested in for their first-round selection. Several players will satisfy their need for a forward who can score. Almost all were already selected in the HF mock draft prior to the 10th pick. Although Skinner’s size and speed are not as good as some of the players who were selected before him, the young Kitchener Rangers center was a star in the OHL playoffs, has great hands and agility, is an excellent finisher, and an unmatched work ethic.