After a dismal season, the New York Rangers came into the 2004 Entry Draft armed with optimism and 13 draft picks, including two in the first round and three in the second round. The team selected 11 forwards, only one defenseman and one goaltender. Four of the picks were from European leagues, with three of the four out of the Czech Republic.
Alvaro Montoya, G
Round 1, 6th overall
University of Michigan (CCHA)
With their first pick at No. 6, the Rangers found themselves with their second highest draft position in the last 28 years. Adding an elite player was a must. Many felt that the Rangers would take a forward, since the system lacked offensive talent. Instead, the Rangers opted for a goaltender in Alvaro Montoya from the University of Michigan.
Montoya established himself as one of the top goaltenders in college hockey as a freshman in 2002-03 as the youngest player in Division I hockey. He played in 43 games, setting a Michigan record with 30 wins, the most by a freshman goaltender. Montoya was named to Inside College Hockey Online All-Rookie Team, the CCHA Super Six Tournament Team and Most Outstanding Player at the NCAA Midwest Regional.
In 2003-2004 Montoya again started the majority of games for the Wolverines, recording a 26-12-2 record in 40 games. He was selected to the 2003-04 Jofa/AHCA All-America West second team, earned All-CCHA second team, and as a finalist for the CCHA Goaltender of the Year Award. Montoya also earned a gold medal as the started for the US National Team at the 2004 World Junior Championship in Finland. He was named the top goaltender of the tournament, posting a 1.33 GAA and a .944 save percentage.
Montoya is a flashy goaltender that plays his best when he is involved in the game. He is solid on his skates and moves well in the net. He plays a hybrid butterfly style and is extremely sound in his positioning and reads angles well. He is a strong puck handler who likes to start the play for his defensemen. He has excellent reflexes and is agile enough to make difficult, acrobatic saves look routine. If he has a weakness it is that he can be too aggressive playing the puck in the corner or moving up to challenge a shooter which can, at times, put him out of position. He does have a great deal of confidence which allows him to bounce back after allowing a bad goal.
Montoya will return to Michigan for at least one more season and garner the majority of the starts for one of the best programs in the nation.
Lauri Korpikoski, C/W
Round 1, 19th overall
TPS Jr (Finland Jr.)
The Rangers traded their second first rounder (24th overall) and the second rounder they received in compensation for not signing R. J. Umberger (46th overall) to the Calgary Flames for the 19th overall pick. With the 19th pick the Rangers took Lauri Korpikoski out of Finland.
Korpikoski’s emergence this year took many by surprise. He wasn’t a regular participant in national team tournaments until his draft year. Along with a great performance at the Five Nations tournament, Korpikoski scored 6 goals and 11 points at the U18 World Championship, tying him for first in points.
Korpikoski brings an impressive array of skills to the table, not to mention plenty of speed and a decent frame. He isn’t as much of a shooter as his numbers indicate. Although he can’t be labeled as a two-way specialist, his attitude nears perfection. Everything he does on the ice he does with great enthusiasm. With no glaring deficiencies, the overall level of his talent remains the biggest question mark.
The TPS pro team coach has Korpikoski in his plans for the 2004-05 season. He will take a few years before he’s ready for the NHL.
Darin Olver, C
Round 2, 36th overall
Northern Michigan University (CCHA)
Olver led the Northern Michigan Wildcats in scoring as a freshman in 2003-04 with 34 points (13 goals, 21 assists) playing in all 41 games this season. He was twice named CCHA Rookie of the Week (December 8th and March 8th) and was an honorable mention for the CCHA All-Rookie Team. During the 2002-03 season, Olver played for the Chilliwack Chiefs (BCHL) where he posted an astounding 89 points (34 goals, 55 assists) in 59 games played. He was named a co-recipient of the BCHL’s Bob Fenton Trophy (for most sportsmanlike) and garnered Chilliwack’s Rookie of the Year honors. He is the son of Idaho Steelheads (ECHL) head coach John Olver.
Olver is a forward who excels in traffic and possesses excellent scoring ability. He has shown a knack for scoring timely goals. The biggest drawback is his size at 6’0, 165. Olver is a very good skater with some quickness along with good acceleration. He has shown a willingness to drive to the net and block shots and has excellent passing abilities and shooting skills. He is able to play the point on the power play as well.
Asked what he brought to the table at the draft, he said “I bring speed and quickness, obviously I’m not the biggest guy now, but speed and quickness and moving the puck. I’m a playmaker.”
Olver will return to Northern Michigan in the fall.
Dane Byers, LW
Round 2, 48th overall
Prince Albert (WHL)
Byers played at the 2004 Top Prospects game and played for Canada at the U18 Championships in Belarus where he had one assist in seven games. He missed 21 regular season games with a broken finger, but in the 51 games he did play with Prince Albert, he scored 17 points and had 134 penalty minutes.
With his 6’2 frame still filling out, Byers has already become an aggressive power forward. When he is at his best he hustles and forechecks as well as anyone in the WHL. Not much for hands, most of the goals Byers gets will be from going to the net and banging in loose pucks. The knock on Byers is that he doesn’t show up every night and that he might lack motivation.
“What you see is what you get,” one NHL scout told Hockey’s Future before the draft. “He likes to run around and bang guys, start fights and get the team motivated but he’s just going to be a depth guy.”
“I saw him play a game against Lethbridge when the Hurricanes were trying to get into the playoffs and they were trying to stir the pot,” another scout said. “Byers, who is supposed to be this big tough kid, didn’t show up for any of it. I’ve heard some guys say he’s a big tough kid who is going to be a power guy but I haven’t seen it.”
Byers has attractive size and if a team believes they can work on his internal drive, the strong winger could do well. He will return to Prince Albert in 2004-05.
Bruce Graham, C
Round 2, 51st overall
Graham centered fellow top prospect Martins Karsums on Moncton’s second line for most of the season and recorded 14 points, all assists, in Moncton’s run to the Q league final. He was selected to play for Team Orr in the 2004 CHL Prospects game.
Graham has towering size (6’6 220lbs) and has shown significant improvement in his game this season. Graham improved from a 28-point rookie season to record 57 points in his sophomore campaign. He also improved his skating and defensive play, both of which will undoubtedly be re-addressed when he turns pro. Though he doesn’t possess a mean-streak and likely won’t be a fighter, will grind it out along the boards and take a beating in front of the net.
Graham needs to develop a more consistent scoring touch and improve his skating. He will return to Moncton in 2004-05.
Brandon Dubinsky, C
Round 2, 60th overall
With their final pick of the second round, the Rangers took center Brandon Dubinsky from Portland of the WHL. Dubinsky is a highly skilled forward who led his team in points, with 30 goals and 78 points in 71 games. He has excellent puck skills, good on-ice vision and a competitive streak, but his skating is weak and has not committed to defense. At only 5’11, 180 pounds, size is also a concern.
Zdenek Bahensky, RW
Round 3, 73rd overall
Zdenek Bahensky has spent his entire playing career in the system of the HC Chemopetrol Litvinov team. He performed at many tournaments on the international stage during the last three seasons, including the 2004 Under-18 WJC and a three-game series against Finland for the Czech Under-19 team this season.
Bahensky’s strongest asset is his smooth skating and good quickness. He shows strong bursts of speed along with an above-average agility. He can handle the physical rigors of the game quite well, playing with a solid edge and going regularly into traffic areas. At 6’1”, 183 lbs. Bahensky is still a bit skinny and will need to bulk up, though.
Bahensky possesses considerable smarts and has decent shooting skills. He could use better stickhandling skills as he sometimes gets into trouble when having to corral a bad pass or deke an opponent in a one-on-one situation. His wrist shot is blessed with a fast release, but could use some improving in the accuracy of his slap shot. Bahensky isn’t an one-dimensional player and has made strides in improving his defensive awareness. He has to further develop his consistency, he can be a real force when on his ‘A’ game, but also disappear in some games.
Drafted by the Saskatoon Blades in the 2004 Import Draft, Bahensky is ready to come over to play in 2004-2005.
Billy Ryan, C
Round 3, 80th overall
Cushing Academy (USHSE)
Ryan, a 6’1, 175-pound center, had 90 points in 37 games with Cushing Academy in 2003-04. The Boston, Mass. native will play for the University of Maine beginning in 2005-06.
Ryan Callahan, RW
Round 4, 127th overall
Ryan Callahan is a speedy winger who excelled in the OHL playoffs last year. In the regular season, he had 68 points, 36 of them goals, in 68 games for Guelph. The 5’10 175-pounder is a native of Rochester, NY.
Roman Psurny, LW
Round 5, 135th overall
Zlin Jr. (Czech Jr)
Roman Psurny emerged as one of the main offensive forces on the Zlin junior team in 2003-04. He took advantage of his excellent chemistry with his twin brother Michal, and Stanislav Balan, who skated alongside him for the fourth consecutive year. Psurny added an inch to his frame during the last year, but still has to fill out at 6’1, 176.
This season he showed an increased commitment to upgrading his aggressiveness. Psurny didn’t play as a feared crash and banger, but when he had the obvious chance to dish out a hit, he wasn’t afraid of throwing his body around. Psurny was very consistent during the whole season as he avoided any scoring slumps and scored at a point-per-game average. Zlin juniors head coach Stanislav Prikryl used him mostly on the second unit and Psurny saw playing time on both power play and penalty killing units. In December he was promoted to the senior team along with his twin brother Michal.
Roman was used sparingly on the fourth line of the Zlin senior team and was there mostly to make his feet wet in the senior Extraleague and gain some experience for the likely full-time promotion next season. Psurny didn’t see any action during the senior Extraleague playoffs, where Zlin won the championship trophy. He was useful in the junior team playoff run, where he contributed to the bronze medal finish.
Psurny was a key member of the Czech Under-18 team in 2003-2004. Psurny performed at the World Junior Cup in August 2003, and contributed to the bronze medal finish with 6 points. He missed the Christmas evaluation camp of the Under-18 team because of the flu and he didn’t join the Under-18 team till the pre-Under-18 evaluation camp. Along with Michal, Roman was promoted to the Under-20 team in early February to take part in a Four Nations Tournament. His performance at the Under-18 WJC was decent, but in some games Psurny showed only glimpses of his offensive prowess from the previous tournaments.
Jordan Foote, LW
Round 6, 169th overall
One of the top rookies on the Nanaimo Clippers of the BCHL, lanky Jordan Foote made tremendous strides in his game during the 2003-04 season, so much so that he was able to help his team to the BCHL Championship that year. Foote was so highly thought of by Clippers General Manager/Head Coach, Bill Bestwick, that he was placed on a line with Clippers top player Tyson Mulock and BCHL Rookie of the Year, Raymond Sawada (drafted by Dallas).
The joke in Nanaimo is that there’s footspeed and then there is ‘Foote-Speed’. Jordan Foote can really fly around the rink. His feet seem to never stop moving, thus making him look even faster. Foote is a great energy player who can not only skate, but hit well. He loves to play in traffic and is excellent in front of the net. Another great intangible Foote displays is his penchant for going down to block shots. Because of that, as well as his tenacious attitude on the ice, he has developed a reputation as a guy who wears his heart on his sleeve, a player who puts the team first and the individual second. As a goal scorer, Foote is more opportunistic than anything, though he displays good hands and shooting skills. He doesn’t seem to pursue his offensive chances as much as linemate Sawada does. Jordan takes his defensive responsibility very seriously, and often has become the defensive conscience of the line.
Foote could be a great NHL third or fourth liner due to his energy, size, and speed. Not blessed with great offensive skills, but has the heart and intangibles to be a useful part of any team.
Jonathan Paiement, D
Round 8, 247th overall
Paiement was the only defenseman the Rangers selected in the entire 2004 Entry Draft. In 68 games last season with Lewiston, the 6’1 201-pounder had 13 goals and 52 assists, along with 140 penalty minutes.
Round 9, 266th overall
Petruzalek was the second player the Rangers took from Litvinov in this draft, Zdenek Bahensky in the third round being the first.
Litvinov players seem to travel often in pairs, as the OHL Ottawa 67’s selected Petruzalek with the 26th overall pick in the CHL Import Draft, also acquiring San Jose Sharks draft pick Lukas Kaspar. Ottawa 67’s general manager and head coach Brian Kilrea told Hockey’s Future, “The players we selected played together and were hoping to come to the same team.”
In obtaining both Kaspar and Petruzalek, the 67’s may have a very dangerous duo who will likely comprise two-thirds of Ottawa’s first line. Petruzalek’s issue is his size, at only 5’9 167-pounds, but moving to North America will be a test of his abilities. Last season he had 89 points in 53 games with Litvinov.
Brendan Fitzpatrick, Michael Simmons, Pekka Lampinen, DJ Powers, Guy Flaming, Connor Robinson, Robert Neuhauser, Kevin Wey, Holly Gunning and Jay Thompson contributed to this article. Do not duplicate in any form without written permission of the editorial staff.