Rangers Update: Tracking the Past

By Brandon LeBourveau

How successful have the New York Rangers been at the draft table? Below is an analysis of the past five drafts for the Rangers.

1996 Draft:

22nd Overall – Jeff Brown
48th Overall – Daniel Goneau
76th Overall – Dmitri Subbotin
131st Overall – Colin Pepperall
158th Overall – Ola Sandberg
185th Overall – Jeff Dessner
211th Overall – Ryan McKie
237th Overall – Ronnie Sundin

The 1996 Draft was not only a horrible draft for the Rangers, but for the entire NHL. Everyone knew heading into the draft that the crop of prospects was weak, and it’s being proven now. The Rangers 1st round pick that year, defenseman Jeff Brown, is now currently playing in the UHL, a huge bust. At best, he could probably be a decent minor leaguer. Daniel Goneau played about half a season as a Ranger and it was obvious he didn’t have the skills. Goneau was coming off a great season in which he scored 105 points in the QMJHL, and the Rangers thought he could be a scorer at the NHL too. Too bad it didn’t work out. Goneau spent this last season in the IHL with the Manitoba Moose, and without an NHL contract after the Rangers released him this September. Dmitri Subbotin was plucked from the Rangers in last June’s expansion draft by the Columbus Blue Jackets, and he is still currently playing in Russia. He might get a shot with Columbus since any expansion team is hungry for talented players.

Colin Pepperall was drafted out of the OHL, and he improved his numbers in the following two seasons, but he wasn’t able to crack the AHL, let alone the NHL. He spent the 2000-01 season with the Greenville Grrrowl of the ECHL in which he scored 25 goals and 45 points. Ola Sandberg is still Rangers property but is still playing in Sweden. Jeff Dessner just finished a solid college career at the University of Wisconsin, and the Rangers could make an effort to sign him this summer and bring him to training camp. He likely will play this season in the AHL. To wrap up this ’96 draft, Ryan McKie was a complete bust and Ronnie Sundin was one older European who came over and played a few games for the Rangers but returned to Sweden. He will not likely come over again. Out of eight selections in this draft, none so far have been regular NHLers, but that could change depending on what happens with Jeff Dessner.


1997 Draft:

19th Overall – Stefan Cherneski
46th Overall – Wes Jarvis
73rd Overall – Burke Henry
93rd Overall – Tomi Kallarsson
126th Overall – Jason McLean
134th Overall – Johan Lindbom
136th Overall – Mike York
154th Overall – Sean Degagne
175th Overall – Johan Holmqvist
182nd Overall – Mike Mottau
210th Overall – Andrew Proskurnicki
236th Overall – Richard Miller

The 1997 Draft has produced a lot of great players so far, and Stefan Cherneski could have been one of them if he didn’t have to retire because of a serious knee injury. Cherneski would have been that banging, 2nd line 20-goal scorer in the Adam Graves mode that the Rangers desperately need. His work ethic was second to none and there’s no doubt in my mind he wouldn’t have been a very valuable player to this organization. He retired in December of 2000 because the pain in his knee was too much to handle. He shattered his knee cap in a game in the AHL two years ago, and after returning to the ice this season for the Wolf Pack, he wasn’t the same type of player he used to be.

The Rangers second round pick, Wes Jarvis, is still developing in the minor leagues and it is possible he could make the NHL in a few years as a 6th/7th defenseman in the Eric Cairns type mold. Burke Henry is a defenseman who could be a darkhorse to make the team in the 2001-02 season. Burke has good size at 6’2 185 and put up 8 goals and 30 assists in 80 games for the Wolf Pack this season. Tomi Kallarsson, a Finnish defenseman taken in the 4th round, is still over in Europe and it is hard to tell if he could be an NHLer. He has zero offense to his game, and is strictly a stay at home defenseman. He finished this season playing for Timra in the Swedish Elite League. The Rangers took a goalie, Jason McLean, in the 5th Round. McLean was never signed by the Rangers, and there is no evidence of him playing beyond the 98-99 season. He might have retired or may be playing in some lower league.

Later in the 5th round, the Rangers took an older Swedish forward named Johan Lindbom. Lindbom played 38 games with the Rangers in the 97-98 season, registering a goal and 3 assists, along with 28 penalty minutes. However, the following summer he went back to Sweden and is currently still playing there. The Rangers still retain his rights, but it is unlikely he will come back over to North America. The Rangers hit the jackpot in the 6th round, when they took a center by the name of Mike York from Michigan State University. Mike York just finished up his second season in the NHL this year, after placing third in rookie scoring in 99-00 with 50 points and 1st among rookies with 26 goals. Bigger and better things were expected of him this year, but with the return of Mark Messier, York’s ice time diminished and he was never able to get into a groove. Although he was consistently one of the team’s best forwards every game, Ron Low did not give “Yorkie” the playing time he deserved. A speedy skater and a great penalty killer, Mike York should have a nice career in the NHL. The Rangers took another goalie later in the 6th round by the name of Sean Degagne from the Kitchener Rangers of the OHL. The Rangers never signed Degagne, and that was a good decision. Degagne played in the ECHL this season with the Pensacola Ice Pilots. Too bad this was a wasted pick, because up-and-coming Colorado Avalanche netminder David Aebisher was selected 7 picks later.

The Rangers hit gold again in the 7th round, and this time they did it twice. Their 3rd goaltender selected from the draft, and the best of them all, Johan Holmqvist was grabbed with 175th pick overall. Holmqvist enjoyed a couple of great seasons over in Sweden before playing his first season in North America this year with the Hartford Wolf Pack, in which he posted a 2.89 GAA and .906 save percentage in 43 games, including 2 shutouts. He appeared in 2 games with the Rangers, losing 4-1 to the Pittsburgh Penguins and 6-5 to the Ottawa Senators. The Rangers are banking on Holmqvist to be there goalie of the future. Seven selections later, the Rangers drafted defenseman Mike Mottau from Boston College. Mottau went on to have a great college career, and won the Hobey Baker Award his senior year in 99-00. This season he spent the majority of the year in the AHL, where he was an AHL all-star and was selected to the AHL all-rookie team. He recorded 10 goals and 33 assists along with 45 penalty minutes in 61 games in the AHL, and 3 assists and 13 penalty minutes in 18 games with the Rangers. He will likely earn a full-time job on the Rangers blue-line next season and he should be a future number 3 defenseman. The Rangers took Left Winger Andrew Proskurnici in the 8th Round, and never signed him as well. He spent this season in the ECHL. Richard Miller, a defenseman drafted in the 9th Round, finished a 4 year career at Providence College, and I can’t find any stats on him for this season. But don’t bet on him ever cracking an NHL lineup. Out of 12 selections in this draft, only Mike York has been a regular NHLer, although both Mike Mottau and Johan Holmqvist have seen time with the Rangers and could be with the team full-time next season. Burke Henry and Wes Jarvis also could see some time in the NHL in the next few seasons.


1998 Draft:

7th Overall – Manny Malhotra
40th Overall – Randy Copley
66th Overall – Jason Labarbera
114th Overall – Boyd Kane
122nd Overall – Patrick Leahy
131st Overall – Tomas Kloucek
180th Overall – Stefan Lundqvist
207th Overall – Johan Witehall
235th Overall – Jan Mertzig

The 1998 Entry Draft has also produced a lot of skilled NHLers so far, with 21 of the 27 picks having already played an NHL game, and 13 of them have been consistent producers on their respective clubs. With the 7th Overall pick in this draft, the Rangers fell in love with center Manny Malhotra, who just finished up his 3rd year in the NHL, although his 2nd year was one everyone wants to forget. Malhotra played great in the last 15 games of the season when coach Ron Low put Malhotra on the left-side along with Radek Dvorak and veteran Mark Messier. The line instantly clicked and the tandem was the best line for the Rangers to close out the season. We can expect a solid 4th year from Malhotra if he spends the whole year on Messier and Dvorak’s line. Although I still feel this was a bad pick considering talented players such as Alex Tanguay, Simon Gagne and Scott Gomez went later in the draft, I think Manny will develop into that 15-20 goal bruising 2nd liner in the Michael Peca mold. In the 2nd round, the Rangers selected Randy Copley, a skilled forward who scored 34 goals in the QMJHL during his draft year. However, Copley soon displayed horrible play, making the Rangers decide it wasn’t worth signing him. Copley was given a try out with the St. Louis Blues, and failed to make an impact for the Blues. He spent this season with the Florida Everblades in the ECHL, putting up 22 goals and 18 assists for 40 points in 69 games. He most likely will be a career minor leaguer.

In the 3rd round, the Rangers took goaltender Jason Labarbera. Many teams did not have Labarbera ranked high in the draft as his numbers in the WHL were nothing to be excited about. However, the Rangers looked past the numbers and saw talent in Labarbera, who all throughout his life has been cursed with playing on bad teams. Labarbera came to camp this year and impressed the Rangers management enough that he won the back-up job to Kirk McLean until Mike Richter was able to come back from his knee injury. Labarbera appeared in 1 game, for 10 minutes, and made 2 saves in relief of Kirk McLean in an 8-6 loss against the Pittsburgh Penguins in early October. After Richter came back from his injury, Labarbera was assigned to the minors, but since the Rangers already had Johan Holmqvist and JF Labbe in Hartford, Labarbera was assigned to the Charlotte Checkers of the ECHL to split duty with Russian goalie Vitali Yeremeyev. When the Rangers dealt Labbe to the Columbus Blue Jackets, Yeremeyev was promoted to the AHL, leaving Labarbera as the main man in the ECHL. He had a solid season, although again he played on a horrible team, as Charlotte was one of the worst in the ECHL. Labarbera played 35 games in the ECHL, registering a 3.20 GAA, .910 Save % and 1 shutout. He also appeared in 4 games with the Hartford Wolf Pack, allowing 12 goals on 93 shots in 154 minutes of playing time. With Johan Holmqvist to likely get the back-up job this season in New York, Labarbera will likely split time in the AHL with Vitali Yeremeyev.

The Rangers selected re-entry Boyd Kane in the 4th round, after he was originally drafted in the 3rd round in 1996. Kane put up 48 goals and 93 points in 68 games in the WHL, catching the attention of the Rangers scouts. However, since being drafted, Kane hasn’t done much to impress Rangers management until mid-season this year when he started producing playing on a line with Brad Smyth and Derek Armstrong in the AHL. Kane is a big Left Winger at 6’2 198 and possibly he is starting to develop into a power forward like the Rangers imagined. Kane posted 11 goals and 28 points in 56 games with Hartford, and also had 9 goals and 17 points in 12 games with Charlotte of the ECHL. It will likely be a couple more years before Kane possibly could challenge for a spot on the Rangers. The Rangers had 2 5th round picks, and with the 1st one, 122nd overall, they selected winger Patrick Leahy from the Miami (Ohio) University. Leahy just finished up his senior season this year with 13 goals and 32 points in 37 games. Leahy is without a contract, but he will likely get one this summer from the Rangers and will see some time in the AHL before making the jump to Broadway.

With the second 5th round pick, the Rangers struck a pot of gold. Defenseman Tomas Kloucek was selected with the 131st overall pick, and he is now on his way to stardom. Kloucek came over to North America that summer, and played the 98/99 season in the QMJHL with the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles. After getting accustomed to the North American style of hockey, Kloucek played the next season in the AHL as a 19 year old, and was one of the best defenseman in the league. He was selected to the AHL 1st all-star team and was also the Hartford Wolf Pack’s rookie of the year. This season Kloucek started off in the AHL, but was called up when injuries occurred and played 4 games in the NHL. He impressed the Rangers coaching staff a lot, but was returned to Hartford after 4 games. Later in the season with injuries bothering the Rangers again, they recalled Kloucek and gave him about 15 minutes of ice-time to see what he was made of, and he didn’t disappoint. Kloucek stayed with the Rangers for the rest of the season, and quickly became a fan favorite with his gritty, physical style of play. At 6’3 220 Kloucek made it difficult for opponents night in and night out. He paired with Kim Johnsson most of the season and the two played against the other teams top lines and consistently shut them down. Brian Leetch called Kloucek the best defenseman he has seen the Rangers bring up through the system since he has been with the team. Kloucek finished his season on a low note however, as he tore both the MCL and ACL in his knee in one of the last games of the season. He will likely be out until around December of next season, but when he comes back healthy everyone should keep their eyes open for this future star.

In the 7th round, the Rangers selected Swedish forward Stefan Lundqvist. Lundqvist is a power forward who has been called “a Swedish John Leclair” by some, although it is unlikely. Lundqvist is a good skater who drives to the net hard and scores most of his goals from in front of the net. It is unclear when he will come over to North America, but the Rangers would like to bring him over and let him play in the AHL and see what he’s made of. With the next two picks, the Rangers grabbed Swedish veterans Johan Witehall and Jan Mertzig in the 8th and 9th rounds, respectively. Mertzig, a big defenseman, came over to North America the following summer and played about 20 games with the Rangers during the 98/99 season. He has since returned to Sweden and he’s probably not coming back. As for Witehall, he played a couple of seasons in the AHL before playing in a lot of games for the Rangers this year. However, he was claimed off waivers by the Montreal Canadiens late in the season and it appears as if he will be a 3rd or 4th liner for the Habs in the future. In this draft, 3 out of 9 players have already become regular NHLers, while Jan Mertzig played some in the NHL. Boyd Kane, Patrick Leahy, Jason Labarbera and Stefan Lundqvist have the potential to be future NHLers, but we’ll have to wait and see what happens in a few years.


1999 Draft:

4th Overall – Pavel Brendl
9th Overall – Jamie Lundmark
59th Overall – David Inman
79th Overall – Johan Asplund
90th Overall – Patrick Aufiero
137th Overall – Garrett Bembridge
177th Overall – Jay Dardis
197th Overall – Arto Laatikainen
226th Overall – Evgeny Gusakov
251th Overall – Petter Henning
254th Overall – Alexei Bulatov

Entering the 1999 Draft, the Rangers had the 11th pick overall. At the end of the day, they had the 4th and 9th picks. After pulling off two blockbuster deals, Neil Smith was extremely happy with what the Rangers ended up with. After dealing away goalie Dan Cloutier, winger Niklas Sundstrom and the Rangers 1st (Nikita Alexeev) and 3rd round (Tyler Hanchuck) picks in 2000 to the Tampa Bay Lightning for the 4th overall pick, the Rangers selected scoring whiz Pavel Brendl from the Calgary Hitmen of the WHL. Brendl was viewed by many scouts as a future all-star in the NHL with the ability to score 50 goals a season. After spending the last two years in the WHL, this season it will either be the AHL or NHL for Brendl, depending on how he performs in training camp. In 49 games this year, Brendl potted 40 goals for the 3rd consecutive season, and finished with 75 points. He also led the Czech Republic to a gold medal at the World Junior Championships, and led the entire tournament with 4 goals and 10 points in 7 games. Brendl played excellent in this year’s WHL playoffs, leading the Hitmen to a 1st round upset over the Regina Pats with some big time clutch goals, and almost got them past the number 1 CHL ranked Red Deer Rebels in the 2nd round, but Brendl was forced to miss a game with a sore throat. He was going to participate in the AHL playoffs with the Wolf Pack, but unfortunately the Wolf Pack were ousted in the 1st round. It will be a huge training camp this year for Brendl, as there are a lot of critics who doubt Brendl’s ability to become an NHLer. I am one who believes in the 20 year old Czech.

The Rangers second draft day trade was made with the Calgary Flames. The Rangers dealt young center Marc Savard and the 11th Overall pick to the Flames in return for Czech prospect Jan Hlavac, the 9th Overall pick, and a 3rd round pick. The Rangers went on to draft center Jamie Lundmark from the Moose Jaw Warriors of the WHL with the 9th overall pick, and the Flames drafted Russian winger Oleg Saprykin of the WHL’s Seattle Thunderbirds with the 11th pick. The Rangers had high hopes for Jamie Lundmark in the following training camp, and he didn’t disappoint them at all. He had an outstanding camp and almost won a roster spot if it wasn’t for Mike York who played even better. Lundmark suffered a broken wrist at the 2000 World Junior Championships, and that caused him to miss half of last season and the rust showed this past year at training camp as Lundmark definitely looked like he was out of action for a while. He was returned to the WHL, and was traded from the Moose Jaw Warriors to the Seattle Thunderbirds early in the season. The presence of Lundmark helped turn the entire Thunderbirds team around and helped them earn a playoff spot. Lundmark also participated in the 2001 World Junior Championships for team Canada, and was their leading scorer. The Thunderbirds were ousted in the 2nd round of the WHL playoffs, leaving Lundmak with an adventurous summer ahead of him of training to try and make the Rangers in 2001/2002. He will be given every opportunity to make the team this year, and all of us hope this future star who has been compared to a Steve Yzerman/Jeremy Roenick can crack the NHL.

In the 2nd round, the Rangers selected University of Notre Dame center David Inman with the 59th overall pick. Inman is a slick playmaking center who has the potential to be a 2nd liner in the NHL. The only knock on Inman is that he doesn’t have the hockey sense to be a top line player. If he had the hockey sense, he would have dominated college hockey. Inman just finished his junior season at Notre Dame with 11 goals and 17 points in 37 games. With their own 3rd round pick, 79th Overall, the Rangers drafted Swedish goaltender Johan Asplund. Some scouts are excited about Asplund’s potential, saying he is more advanced than Johan Holmqvist was at his age, while others say he plays too deep in his net to be a solid NHL keeper. Whatever the truth turns out to be, the Rangers scouts felt it was a risk worth taking. With the 3rd round pick the Rangers received in the trade with Calgary, they selected Boston University defenseman Patrick Aufiero with the 90th overall pick. Aufiero is a solid two-way defenseman who just finished up his junior season at BU, and it is a possibility that the Rangers will sign him this summer and let him develop in the AHL. If he doesn’t sign, he’ll return to BU for his senior season. In the 5th round, 137th overall, the Rangers drafted center Garrett Bembridge from the Saskatoon Blades of the WHL. Bembridge had a career year this season, potting 38 goals and 78 points in 72 games, and those numbers are more impressive when you see that Saskatoon had a pretty poor team this year. Bembridge played some games in the AHL after his junior season was completed and he should be in training camp this fall.

In the 6th round, the Rangers selected center Jay Dardis from Proctor High School with the 177th Overall pick. Dardis has played the last 2 seasons in the United States Hockey League (USHL), and he hasn’t put up good numbers in either season. I seriously doubt he will make it any higher than a low minor league. The Rangers looked to Finland in the 7th Round, drafting stay-at-home defenseman Arto Laatikainen with the 197th Overall pick. Laatikainen is still a few years away from coming to a Rangers training camp, but he has the potential to be a 5th/6th defenseman. In the 8th round, the Rangers looked to Russia, drafting 6’6 230 pound forward Evgeni Gusakov. Gusakov has great size and is an intimidating power forward, but he has below average NHL speed. Gusakov came over to North America the following summer and played 61 games with the Baie-Comeau Drakkar of the QMJHL, potting 25 goals and 47 points. However, this season it has been hard to track Gusakov. He had 11 goals and 31 points in 32 games with the Drakkar, and then went home to Russia, where he played 1 game for Lada Togliatti, in which he went scoreless. The team released him the next day, and I can’t find any stats on where he played after that. But, he should be back in North America this summer preparing for Rangers camp in the fall. In the 9th round, the Rangers took Swedish forward Petter Henning 251st overall and Russian winger Alexei Bulatov 254th Overall. Both players haven’t produced much for their respective teams over the past 3 years and they are extreme long shots to make the NHL. Out of 11 selections in this draft, none have played in the NHL so far, however both Pavel Brendl and Jamie Lundmark have the potential to be future all-stars. But also keep an eye on everyone else as you never know who could come out of nowhere and be a star.


2000 Draft:

64th Overall – Filip Novak
95th Overall – Dominic Moore
112th Overall – Premsyl Duben
140th Overall – Nathan Martz
143rd Overall – Brandon Snee
175th Overall – Sven Helfenstein
205th Overall – Henrik Lundqvist
238th Overall – Dan Eberly
269th Overall – Martin Richter

The 2000 Draft was the first draft in the last 5 years that the Rangers did not have a first round pick. The last time they did not have a 1st round pick was in 1995, when they dealt the pick to the Hartford Whalers in return for forward Pat Verbeek. The pick which was 16th overall, turned out to be promising young goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere who is now with the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. The reason they did not have a 1st round pick this year is because they dealt it to the Tampa Bay Lightning at the 1999 Draft in the deal to move up and grab sniper Pavel Brendl. At the beginning of the draft, the Rangers 1st selection was at 38th overall, early in the 2nd round. However, Rangers general manager Glen Sather made the fans wait even longer to make their 1st selection, as he dealt the 38th overall pick to the Detroit Red Wings in return for a 2nd round pick (64th overall) and a 3rd round pick (95th overall). When pick number 64 finally came around, which seemed like days, the Rangers selected Czech defenseman Filip Novak from the Regina Pats of the WHL. Novak is an excellent two-way defenseman who loves to chip in offensively. He’s an excellent skater and also has great straight away speed. He’s solid defensively and was one of the top defenseman in the WHL this season after being returned to juniors after training camp with the Rangers. Novak impressed the whole Rangers management at camp and the only reason why he was sent back to juniors was because the Rangers wanted him to gain another year of experience in North America and bulk up a little bit. As of now, the selection is looking like a huge steal and Novak has the potential to be a number 2 defenseman in the NHL.

With the 3rd rounder the Rangers received from the Red Wings in the trade, they selected center Dominic Moore 95th Overall. Moore currently finished up his sophomore season at Harvard of the ECAC where he led his team in scoring. The Rangers were very impressed with Dominic’s play this season, particularly him doubling his production from his freshman season. Moore will likely stay at Harvard for his junior and senior seasons. He definitely has the potential to be a very good 3rd line center in the future. So after analyzing this deal with the Red Wings, who selected Slovak center Tomas Kopecky with the 38th overall pick, I love this deal for the Rangers. They get a great defenseman in Filip Novak and a future 3rd line center in Dominic Moore for Tomas Kopecky, whose upside is as a 2nd liner but he still has a lot of question marks, mostly about his skating. The Rangers made another trade, this time with the San Jose Sharks. They dealt their 4th round pick (104th Overall) to the San Jose Sharks for a 4th round pick (112th Overall) and a 5th Round pick (143rd Overall). In the 4th round, the Rangers took a gamble by selecting Slovak defenseman Premsyl Duben with the 112th overall pick. Many hockey people questioned this selection, as most teams didn’t even have Duben down on their list for the 9 round draft. Whatever the reason was, the Rangers liked Duben and selected him. He came over to North America this season and played with the Baie-Comeau Drakkar of the QMJHL. He only played in about 30 or so games because he suffered an ankle injury in the middle of the season. Duben is a long term project and it will be 3-4 years before he gets a chance in the NHL.

In the 5th round, the Rangers grabbed center Nathan Martz from Chilliwack of the BCJHL with their own pick, 140th overall. The 6’3 169 pound center scored 35 goals and put up 110 points in 59 games with Chilliwack. This season he attended the University of New Hampshire (Hockey East), but didn’t play a big role. He played mostly on the third line and wasn’t used in big situations. He has a lot of potential and could be a future NHLer. With the 5th round pick the Rangers got from the Sharks, they goaltender Brandon Snee from Union College of the ECAC. Snee is a solid goaltender, but played behind a bad Union team this season. It will take a couple of years for him to develop. The Rangers struck gold in the 6th and 7th rounds, drafting Swiss forward Sven Helfenstein and Swedish goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. For some reason, Sven Helfenstein fell to the 6th round after many people believed he would be a late 2nd round pick. Helfenstein is an offensive player who lives to score the big goals. On the other hand, people are saying Henrik Lundqvist could be the best goalie to ever come from Sweden. He backstopped team Sweden to a 4th place finish at the 2001 World Junior Championships in Russia. Both players could have great futures and are definitely ones to keep an eye on. In the 9th round, the Rangers had 2 picks and selected college defenseman Dan Eberly from RPI and Czech defenseman Martin Richter. Eberly is a long term project, and probably will not make it to the NHL. On the other hand, Martin Richter is 22 years old and could challenge for a spot on the Rangers soon. We’ll have to wait another 3-4 years before we can actually determine who are the booms and busts.

Overall:


Overall, the Rangers have made 49 selections in the past five years, and only 11 of them have played in an NHL game, while only 5 of them have been regular NHLers. There are still more that will definitely make it to the show, but other than a couple of players, the Rangers drafting has not been very good.