1. Jamie Lundmark, C, Seattle (WHL), 20 yrs old, Drafted 9th Overall in ’99
Comments: Edge and I had Lundmark ranked 1st, while Evan had him ranked 2nd. Many consider Pavel Brendl the top ranked player in the Rangers’ organization, however we feel that Lundmark is a safer bet to make the NHL as he plays a great all-around game that you do not see from many players. Lundmark was traded to the Thunderbirds early last season and turned that entire team around and got them into the playoffs. Lundmark will be fighting for a spot with the Rangers in training camp this September, and in a few years he should be a great player in the NHL.
2. Pavel Brendl, RW, Calgary (WHL), 20 yrs old, Drafted 4th Overall in ’99
Comments: Evan had Brendl ranked 1st, while Edge and I had him ranked 2nd. Was one of the most exciting players to watch in the WHL for the past three seasons. Brendl has one thing on his mind every game: To score goals. And that is what he does best. Some people like to knock him for his skating, his work ethic and his commitment to defense, but Brendl is the total offensive package. He has the potential to be a 50 goal scorer in the NHL, and he has a very good chance to make the team come this September.
3. Dan Blackburn, G, Kootenay (WHL), 18 yrs old, Drafted 10th Overall in ’01
Comments: Edge and I had Blackburn ranked 3rd, while Evan had him 4th. Blackburn is a sure-fire NHL goaltender and has the potential to be an all-star. He has great focus in net and is one of the best mentally-tough goaltenders you will see. He plays a similar style to Curtis Joseph of the Toronto Maple Leafs, as he plays inbetween a stand-up style and a butterfly style. Glen Sather has said it is a possibility Blackburn could make the team as a backup this season, but he will likely be sent back to the Kootenay Ice of the WHL before the season starts.
4. Mike Mottau, D, Hartford (AHL), 23 yrs old, Drafted 182nd Overall in ’97
Comments: Evan had Mottau ranked 3rd, while Edge and I had him 4th. Mottau had a great first year in the AHL, being named to the Planet USA All-Star team while also being named to the AHL All-Rookie Team. Mike also played 18 games with the Rangers, registering 3 assists. Mottau has a bright future ahead of him and should develop into an excellent two-way No. 2 or 3 defenseman. Has great offensive instincts combined with a mean streak. Should make the team full-time this year.
5. Filip Novak, D, Regina (WHL), 19 yrs old, Drafted 64th Overall in ’00.
Comments: Evan, Edge and I all had Novak ranked as the 5th best prospect. He was one of the top defenseman in the WHL this past season and is looking like a huge steal as he was drafted 64th overall in the 2000 Draft. Came close to making the team out of camp last season, but with Novak a little on the small side, the Rangers felt it was best for him to go back to juniors for another season to bulk up and improve his game. Improve he did, as he increased his point total from 39 points in 47 games in the 99/00 season to 67 points in 64 games this past season, which included 17 goals. Is a two-way defenseman who is a great skater and posses excellent speed. Also has excellent offensive instincts, and should develop into a Scott Niedermayer type player.
6. Peter Smrek, D, NY Rangers (NHL), 22 yrs old, Acquired from St. Louis
Comments: Evan and Edge had Smrek ranked 6th, while I had him at 9th. Smrek played 14 games for the Rangers this past season after being acquired from the Blues, who he played 6 NHL games for. With 20 games of NHL experience, Smrek should make the team full-time this year. Another two-way, puck-moving defenseman, Smrek plays a tough, physical game in his own zone, while being creative with the puck in the offensive end. Smrek will likely be a No.4 defenseman but if he continues to improve his play, could climb up the ladder.
7. Johan Holmqvist, G, Hartford (AHL), 23 yrs old, Drafted 175th Overall in ’97
Comments: I had Holmqvist ranked 6th, while Evan had him 7th and Edge had him 9th. Johan had an inconsistent, but impressive, first season in North America this past year with the Hartford Wolf Pack, as he went 19-14-5 with a 2.89 GAA and a .906 SPCT, along with 2 shutouts. Started 2 games for the Rangers and lost them both, although he did face two of the top offensive teams in the league in the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Ottawa Senators. Will likely spend another season or two in the AHL getting accustomed to the North American game, but with an excellent training camp, could backup Mike Richter this season.
8. Barrett Heisten, LW, Seattle (WHL), 21 yrs old, Signed as a Free Agent
Comments: All three of us had Heisten ranked 8th. He was signed as a free agent in June after he did not come to terms with the Buffalo Sabres, who drafted him 20th overall in the 1999 Entry Draft. Played with Jamie Lundmark in Seattle of the WHL, and the two had great chemistry. Heisten is a gritty, physical forward who loves to bang around in the corners while also chipping in offensively. Has the potential to be a 2nd liner, but will likely be a 3rd liner at even strength who sees time on the 1st power play unit because of his excellent playmaking skills. Could make the team this season, or be sent down to Hartford to improve his game.
9. Fedor Tyutin, D, St. Petersburg (Russia), 18 yrs old, Drafted 40th Overall in ’01
Comments: Edge and I had Tyutin ranked 7th, while Evan ranked him 12th. Tyutin is a 6’3 200+ pound defenseman drafted this year from Russia. A big stay-at-home defenseman, Tyutin has drawn comparisons to Phoenix Coyotes’ defenseman Teppo Numminen. Will probably not be an all-star, but a solid all around player who will get recognition from other teams. He was drafted in the CHL Import draft, and he might come over to play a season in juniors, or he will remain in Russia for a few seasons.
10. Henrik Lundqvist, G, Vastra Frolunda (SWE), 19 yrs old, Drafted 205th Overall in ’00
Comments: Evan had Lundqvist ranked 10th, while I had him 11th and Edge had him 13th. Lundqvist bounced around between the Vastra Frolunda senior team in the Swedish Elite League and their junior team, and also was the starter for Sweden at the 2001 World Junior Championships in Moscow, Russia. Has the potential to be an NHL starter, and a few more years of development should improve his game tremendously.
11. Garth Murray, C, Regina (WHL), 19 yrs old, Drafted 79th Overall in ’01
Comments: Evan had Murray ranked 9th, Edge had him 10th and I had him 16th. A big center at 6’2 205 pounds, Murray is already 19 years old and could have a chance at making the Rangers this season. He plays a solid all around game, and excels at the physical aspect of it. Loves to throw his body around along the boards and in the corners, and is a heart and soul type player that teams love to have. Reminds some of Adam Graves, although a 52 goal season for Murray will likely never happen. Had 28 goals and 183 penalty minutes in 71 games for the Regina Pats this past year, as he was teammates with Rangers prospect Filip Novak. Definitely looks like an NHLer based on his size and style of play.
12. Mikael Samuelsson, RW, Kentucky (AHL), 24 yrs old, Acquired from San Jose
Comments: Evan and Edge had Samuelsson ranked 11th, while I had him ranked 23rd. A big Right Winger (6’2 200 lbs), Samuelsson is a great skater with blazing speed. Scored 32 goals and 78 points in his first season in North America with Kentucky of the AHL, and has a good chance of making the NHL with the Rangers this upcoming season. Was acquired from San Jose in the deal for Adam Graves, and because of how much Graves was loved by the fans, if Samuelsson doesn’t pan out, Rangers fans will not be happy.
13. Dominic Moore, C, Harvard (ECAC), 20 yrs old, Drafted 95th Overall in ’00
Comments: I had Moore ranked 10th, Edge had him 12th and Evan had him 23rd. A gritty, physical center who led the Harvard Crimson in scoring this past season as a Sophomore, Moore is the youngest brother of three to be drafted in the NHL (Mark was drafted by Pittsburgh, Steve was drafted by Colorado). He has the potential to be a 3rd line center some day in the NHL, and 2 more seasons in college will definitely improve his game a lot. The Rangers are high on him and expect some great things in the future.
14. Patrick Aufiero, D, Boston University (NCAA), 21 yrs old, Drafted 90th Overall in ’99
Comments: I had Aufiero ranked 14th, while Edge and Evan had him ranked 16th. A two-way defenseman who plays solid at both ends of the ice, Aufiero is entering his senior season at BU, although the Rangers will try and sign him this summer so he can develop in Hartford. It is a possibility he will leave school early, but Aufiero needs to bounce back this year after he had an inconsistent season this past year. Has the potential to be a top 5 defenseman.
15. Patrick Leahy, RW, Miami (Ohio) University (CCHA), 22 yrs old, Drafted 122nd overall in ’98
Comments: Edge and I had Leahy ranked 15th, while Evan ranked him 18th. Patrick just completed a four-year career at Miami (Ohio) University, although his numbers in his senior season tailed off from the numbers he posted the year before. Projected as a potential 2nd liner but a likely 3rd liner, Leahy is one of the only power forwards the Rangers have in their system. He needs to be signed this summer and most likely he will be. A spot on the Rangers next season remains a possibility, however, most likely you’ll see him with the Wolf Pack for a season or two.
16. Johan Asplund, G, Brynas (SEL), 20 yrs old, Drafted 79th Overall in ’99
Comments: Evan had Asplund ranked 13th, while I had him 17th and Edge had him 19th. Once seen as being a potentially better goalie than Johan Holmqvist, Asplund’s play tallied off this past season and he will need to have an excellent year this year to regain those comments. Some say Asplund will never make the NHL because he plays too deep in his net, while others say he will be an NHL starter some day. It’s too soon to tell, but another season or two in Sweden before coming over to North America for Asplund should give us a better look on where he stands.
17. Jason Labarbera, G, Charlotte (ECHL), 21 yrs old, Drafted 66th Overall in ’98
Comments: I had Labarbera ranked 13th, while Edge had him 14th and Evan had him 24th. A potential NHL starting goaltender, the only thing holding back Jason is his conditioning and work-ethic, which has been labeled poor by a lot of scouts. Jason is a big goaltender who takes up a lot of the net and plays the angles well. With Vitali Yeremeyev likely headed back to Russia, Labarbera should see some time in the AHL this season with the Hartford Wolf Pack, sharing duties with Johan Holmqvist.
18. Matt Kinch, D, Calgary (WHL), 21 yrs old, Signed as a Free Agent
Comments: Evan had Kinch ranked 15th, Edge had him 18th and I had him 22nd. Signed as a free agent after not being able to come to terms with Buffalo, Kinch will be in training camp fighting for a roster spot just like all the other prospects. Considered too small for the NHL by many at 5’11, Kinch plays a two-way game that favors his offensive talents. He led the WHL in scoring by a defenseman this past season. Will likely play for the Hartford Wolf Pack of the AHL in 2001/2002.
19. Marek Zidlicky, D, HIFK (Finland), 23 yrs old, Drafted 176th Overall in ’01
Comments: Zidlicky was ranked 20th by all three of us. Another two-way, puck-rushing defenseman in the Rangers system, Zidlicky has a good shot at coming to training camp and winning a spot on the Rangers defense. At 23 years old, Marek has played the last couple of seasons against Men in the top league in Finland, where this past year he put up impressive numbers for a defenseman with 37 points and 146 penalty minutes in 51 games. He still needs to be signed, but that shouldn’t be a stumbling block.
20. Layne Ulmer, C, Swift Current (WHL), 20 yrs old, Signed as a Free Agent
Comments: Edge had Ulmer ranked 17th, while I had him 21st and Evan had him 28th. A dynamic offense player in juniors, it is still unclear if Ulmer can translate those offensive numbers over to the NHL. He will be in training camp fighting for a spot, but realistically he’ll need a few seasons in the minors to improve his game and adjust to the quicker pace of play. Seen as an average skater, that may be something that could hold Ulmer back, or it could give him the motivation needed to prove the critics wrong. We’ll see come training camp.
21. Sven Helfenstein, RW, Le Chaux de Fonds (SWI), 19 yrs old, Drafted 175th Overall in ’00
Comments: I had Helfenstein ranked 12th, Edge had him 26th and Evan did not rank Helfenstein among the Top 30 prospects. Seen as an offensive player, Helfenstein has great wheels which gives him the ability to do magic with the puck. He bounced around a bit this past year and probably didn’t have as good of a year as he hoped to, but next year we can expect Helfenstein to come out strong from the start and have a solid campaign.
22. Bryce Lampman, D, Omaha (USHL), 18 yrs old, Drafted 113th Overall in ’01
Comments: I had Lampman ranked 18th, Edge had him 22nd and he was not ranked by Evan. Drafted this past year in the 4th round by the Rangers, Lampman will attend college next season and will look to further develop his game. A potential top 5 defenseman, Lampman is a character player who gives 110% every game. Has excellent leadership qualities, as he captained the Omaha Lancers of the USHL this past season.
23. Shawn Collymore, RW, Quebec (QMJHL), 18 yrs old, Drafted 139th Overall in ’01.
Comments: I had Collymore ranked 19th, Edge had him 21st and he was not ranked in the Top 30 by Evan. A magician with the puck, Collymore is a dynamic offensive player who would have put up over 100 points in juniors if he played on a better team. A high scoring player who also commits himself to getting back on defense, Collymore is a couple of years away from making an impact in the NHL.
24. David Inman, C, Univ. Of Notre Dame (CCHA), 21 yrs old, Drafted 59th Overall in ’99
Comments: I had Inman ranked 25th, Evan had him 19th and Edge ranked him 28th. David has the best natural talent of just about every Rangers’ prospect, however Inman does not have the hockey sense to be a dominant player, and it doesn’t appear as if he will put the total package together any time soon. Will probably wind up being a pretty good minor leaguer, but as of right now, the NHL does not appear to be in this kids future.
25. Vitali Yeremeyev, G, Hartford (AHL), 25 yrs old, Drafted 209th Overall in ’94
Comments: Evan had Vitali ranked 17th, I had him 26th and Edge did not rank him among the top 30 prospects. Expected to return to Russia this season, Yeremeyev started off his first year in North America strong, posting oustanding numbers with the Wolf Pack, but then his play started to tail off towards the end of the season. Played 4 games for the Rangers, allowing 16 goals in 212 minutes of play, and it seemed as if he was easily beaten by NHL opponents. I’ll let you all know if he does indeed sign with a Russian team, but for now he is still considered a Rangers prospect and thus he gets the 25th overall rankings.
26. Martin Richter, D, SaiPa (Finland), 23 yrs old, Drafted 269th Overall in ’00
Comments: I had Richter ranked 30th, Evan ranked him 14th and Edge did not rank him. An older prospect at the age of 23, Richter is a two-way defenseman who is a very mobile and excellent skater. He is also very physical in his own end, and tallied 80 penalty minutes in 41 games this past season. If he comes over to North America, he may have a shot in the NHL with the Rangers, or he can get accustomed to the North American game in the minors.
27. Stefan Lundqvist, LW, Skelleftea (Sweden), 23 yrs old, Drafted 180th Overall in ’98
Comments: I had him ranked 24th, Edge had him 27th and Evan did not rank Lundqvist. Once said to be “A Swedish John LeClair”, those comments right now seem way off the mark. Although Lundqvist has the potential to be an NHLer, it will likely be as a 3rd or 4th line power forward if he leaves Sweden and comes over to North America.
28. Ilja Gorokhov, D, Russia, 23 yrs old, Drafted 195th Overall in ’95
Comments: Evan ranked Gorokhov 21st, while Edge and I did not rank him among the Top 30. Is currently playing in Russia, and may come over in a few years to develop his game in North America. A longshot to make the NHL, but one to possibly keep an eye on in the future.
29. Chris St. Croix, D, Saint-John (AHL), 22 yrs old, Acquired from Calgary Flames
Comments: I did not have St. Croix ranked, while Evan had him at 22nd and Edge had him at 30th. Was acquired during the 2001 Draft from the Flames in return for defenseman Burke Henry. St. Croix is a stay-at-home defenseman who plays physical and loves to hit. Is likely a career minor leaguer, but could see some spot duty in the NHL because of injuries to the big club.
30. Nathan Martz, C, Univ. Of New Hampshire (NCAA), 19 yrs old, Drafted in ’00.
Comments: I had Martz ranked 28th, while Edge had him ranked 25th and he was not ranked by Evan. A big center with loads of potential, Martz needs to refine his game over the next couple of years in college to improve his chances of making the NHL in the future.