The New York Rangers brass had reason to be smiling when they left GM Place late on Saturday evening, June 24, 2006. A surprisingly good season record had left New York selecting late in the first round of the 2006 Entry Draft, so the Rangers did not expect to be able to draft an elite player with their first pick. So it was a total surprise that elite defenseman Bob Sanguinetti was still available at No. 21.
With seven picks in the draft, the Rangers continued to do well, picking up six forwards with their other picks, including several players that had inexplicably fallen out of favor. After choosing only North American skaters in the 2005 Entry Draft, New York looked to Europe for four of their picks in 2006, including two who spent the 2005-06 season playing in the Czech Republic.
Bob Sanguinetti, D
Drafted: First Round (21st overall)
Height: 6’1, Weight: 174 lbs.
Date of Birth: 2/29/88
Widely expected to go in the top 15, it was a coup for the Rangers to get the offensively-minded Sanguinetti with the 21st selection. The smooth-skating New Jersey native had just completed his second season as a member of the Ontario Hockey League’s Owen Sound Attack, and was one of the leading point getters among defensemen in the league.
After a solid 2004-05 rookie season (24 points in 67 games, with a plus/minus of +16), Sanguinetti was named a second team all-star by the OHL, and team Rookie of the Year. He returned for his sophomore season as the alternate captain of the Attack, and had an incredible offensive 2005-06 season. In 68 games, he tallied 65 points (14 goals, 51 assists), with 44 PIM, and a plus/minus of -6. He was selected to participate in the 2005-06 OHL All-Star Classic and also played in 11 postseason playoff games with Owen Sound. In postseason play, Sanguinetti recorded 15 points (5 goals, 10 assists), with 4 PIM, and a +2 plus/minus.
Sanguinetti has very good hockey sense, and demonstrates both agility and balance. He is used extensively on the power play and knows when to jump into the play for an offensive chance. He is solid defensively, “makes hard accurate outlet passes, sees the ice well and is able to move the puck through traffic,” according to NHL’s Central Scouting. The lanky defenseman does need to fill out and get stronger prior to jumping into professional play, but the Rangers are very happy to have the opportunity to let him do so.
Artem Anisimov, C
Drafted: Second Round (54th overall)
Height: 6’3, Weight: 187lbs.
One of the youngest Russian players available for this year’s draft, Anisimov was expected to be selected either late in the first round or early in the second. It was another happy surprise for the Rangers to find that the big forward was still available at No. 54 overall.
Born and raised in Yaroslavl, Russia, Anisimov is a product of the Lokomotiv hockey school. He made his semi-professional debut on Lokomotiv’s junior farm club Lokomotiv 2 during the 2004-05 season, and continued to skate for the squad during the 2005-06 season. Anisimov played in four major international tournaments in 2005-06, including the U18 World Cup and the 2006 U18 World Junior Championships. It was in the WJC that Anisimov attracted North American attention. In six games, the center registered five points (3 goals, 2 assists), with 2 PIM, and a plus/minus of +3.
Blessed with excellent on-ice vision, Anisimov is projected to be a first- or second-line center. He understands the game well and is a very good puckhandler. Additionally, Anisimov possesses a very impressive wrist shot. With deceptive moves, and more than adequate skating ability, he has the tools to be a power forward. However, Anisimov does need to bulk up and improve his physical presence, as he is weak along the boards and less than stellar in the faceoff circle due to his lack of upper body strength.
Ryan Hillier, LW
Drafted: Third Round (84th overall)
Height: 5’11, Weight: 179
This speedy winger has spent the last two seasons as a member of the QMJHL Halifax Mooseheads. Filling in for injured players in 2004-05, Hillier skated in 23 games, scoring two points. He played the entire 2005-06 season with Halifax, a member of the team’s top line, alongside overage players Rane Carnegie and David Brine. Hillier served as the playmaker on the line, finishing the season with 57 points in 68 games (+11 plus/minus and 76 PIM). Those totals placed him third among his teammates in scoring. Hillier was rewarded for his breakout season by being chosen to participate in January’s CHL Top Prospects game, and by representing his country in the November 2005 Canada-Russia Challenge.
An excellent skater, Hillier accelerates well, particularly with the puck. He is a smart playmaker and puck handler, while being conscious of the defensive game. ISS reports that Hillier has a good combination of speed and skill, plays with a lot of energy, and shines when the puck is on his stick. Expected to return to Halifax for at least one more year in junior hockey, Hillier has the speed and puckhandling skills to eventually play in the new NHL. He will, however, need to gain strength and play with more discipline to move on to the next level.
David Kveton, RW
Drafted: Fourth Round (104th overall)
Height: 5’11, Weight: 180 lbs.
A resident of Novy Jicin, Kveton was the first of two Rangers’ 2006 draftees who spent the 2005-06 season playing in the Czech Republic. Expected to be selected in the second or third round, he had dropped to the fourth round after questions arose about his defensive skills. The Rangers were all too happy to snap him up at No. 104 overall.
The Czech winger had spent two years with Vsetin’s Junior League team before his promotion to the Elite League team last season. Skating in 45 games with the elite club in 2005-06, Kveton tallied 10 points (6 goals, 4 assists) and 18 PIM. He also appeared in seven games for the Czech Republic in the 2006 U18 World Junior Championships, recording 7 points (2 goals, 5 assists) and 2 PIM. Kveton is expected to play in North America during the 2006-07 season, and, to that end, was selected by the QMJHL’s Gatineau Olympiques in the recent 2006 CHL Import Draft.
Considered to be an excellent skater, Kveton has good puckhandling skills and a very creative game. The not particularly physical winger uses speed and imagination to create scoring opportunities on the ice. Kveton’s weakness is his defensive game, and according to ISS, he could benefit from bulking up and being “willing to battle in the corners.” Coming to North America this season should help Kveton adjust to a more physical game, although, if he seeks to improve his defensive skills, perhaps he should be spending the season in a more defensive-minded environment.
Tomas Zaborsky, RW
Drafted: Fifth Round (137th overall)
Height: 5’11, Weight: 180 lbs.
A native of Slovakia, Zaborsky played for Trencin of the Slovakian Junior League in 2005-06. He recorded 49 goals and 27 assists with a +59 plus/minus and 20 PIM for the team during those games. A natural scorer, Zaborsky adds excellent defensive skills to great hands, wonderful on-ice vision and good hockey sense. Somewhat unknown in North America, Zaborsky was recently drafted No. 36 overall in the 2006 CHL Import Draft, and it is expected that he will play for the OHL Saginaw Spirit during the 2006-07 season.
Eric Hunter, LW
Drafted: Sixth Round (174th overall)
Height: 6’1, Weight: 194 lbs.
The oldest of the Rangers’ 2006 draftees, Hunter had previously been selected by the Chicago Blackhawks (eighth round, 229th overall) in the 2004 Entry Draft. Released by Chicago the following spring, he was not re-drafted in 2005. After a breakout season as part of the WHL Prince George Cougars in 2005-06, he was named his team’s MVP this past March. Hunter played in 71 games and recorded 72 points, 125 PIM, and a +11 plus/minus during the regular season. Additionally, he participated in the 2005 Canada-Russia Challenge, and registered four points in five playoff games with the Cougars.
According to Prince George’s general manager, Dallas Thompson, Hunter played with an edge this past season, with a bit more of an attitude. That attitude certainly got him noticed. With a nose for the net and good protection of the puck, Hunter was a very good pick for the Rangers in the sixth round. If he can play a more disciplined game and keep getting stronger, Hunter could grow into a very good third- or fourth-line NHL player.
Lukas Zeliska, C
Drafted: Seventh Round (204th overall)
Height: 5’11, Weight: 176 lbs.
The Rangers’ final selection is a native of Slovakia, but played his 2004-05 hockey in the Czech Republic. This past season, Zeliska, who can play either center or right wing, appeared in 36 games for Trinec of the Czech Junior League. During that time, he registered 16 points (12 goals, 4 assists) and 85 PIM. He also was selected to play for Slovakia in the U18 World Junior Championships, and in six games, he tallied 1 goal and 1 assist and 10 PIM.
According to NHL Central Scouting, Zeliska is “[a] good skater with great fine top speed … an effective stickhandler [with] soft hands and a fine selection of shots.” He was recently drafted (11th overall) by the WHL Prince Albert Raiders in the 2006 CHL Import Draft and is expected to play for them during the 2006-07 season.
Jason Menard, Sergei Balashov, Phil Laugher, and Glen Erickson contributed to this article. Copyright 2006 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.