Rangers 2002 draft evaluation

By Leslie Treff

The New York Rangers selected nine players in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft. Without a first-round selection, which was traded to Florida as part of the deal that brought Pavel Bure to the Blueshirts, the Rangers also swapped second-round selections with the Panthers in the same trade.

Of the all the players drafted by the Rangers in 2002, only one, Petr Prucha, has played in the NHL on a regular basis, and he is likely to be the only 2002 draft selection that will play with the Rangers. Although two other 2002 draft prospects remain in the Blueshirts’ system, neither is expected to become a regular NHL player. Two other draftees, Nate Guenin and Joey Crabb, are legitimate NHL prospects, but are no longer part of the Rangers organization.

The 2002 NHL draft was the only one in recent memory in which the Rangers did not choose a single CHL player, or, in fact, any Canadian nationals at all. Instead, the team selected three Europeans and six Americans.

Lee Falardeau, C – 2nd round, 33rd overall (Michigan State University-NCAA)
Status: NHL Prospect
NHL Games Played: 0

Falardeau was a product of the US National Team Development Program and had just completed his freshman season at Michigan State at the time of his selection as the Rangers’ first pick in the draft. A physical defensive forward, Falardeau’s career has not panned out in the way that the Rangers would have hoped. Signed to a professional contract in September 2004, Falardeau has shuttled back and forth between the AHL Hartford Wolf Pack and the ECHL Charlotte Checkers over the past three years. The big center spent most of the 2006-07 season toiling with the Checkers and doing well there, but not well enough to merit a reassignment to the AHL. A long shot to ever become a regular in the NHL, Falardeau’s NHL contract is not likely to be renewed.

Marcus Jonasen, RW – 3rd round, 88th overall (Vasteras IK, Ungdom Jr. 18-Sweden)
Status: NHL Bust
NHL Games Played: 0

With their third-round pick in the 2002 entry draft, the Rangers selected the 6’4, 220 lb, 18-year-old winger from Sweden. Although Jonasen did not immediately come to North America to play hockey, he was first a member and then captain of the Tri-City Americans during the 2003-04 and 2004-05 seasons. In total, Jonasen appeared in 113 WHL regular season games, amassing 67 points and 87 PIM (-8 rating). He was more productive in the playoffs, 11 points in 16 games, but just was not productive enough to garner an NHL contract after his second WHL season. Rather than return to the Americans in the fall of 2005, Jonasen returned to Sweden and has played with Almtuna IS since that time. The Rangers’ rights to him expired last summer, and he is not expected to return to North America to play any time in the foreseeable future.

Nate Guenin, D – 4th round, 127th overall (Green Bay Gamblers-USHL)
Status: NHL Prospect
NHL Games Played: 9

Guenin was the first of three Green Bay Gamblers selected by the Rangers in 2002. After being drafted, the big, aggressive defenseman headed to Ohio State University, where he played along the blue line for four years. He played a big, mean game, but just did not demonstrate the skill level the Rangers were looking for, and when he completed his senior season in the spring of 2006, Guenin was not offered an NHL contract by the Blueshirts. Guenin became a free agent and, on August 16, 2006, signed a two-year contract with the Philadelphia Flyers. Although he spent most of the 2006-07 season as a member of the AHL Philadelphia Phantoms (68 games, 12 points, 92 PIM, -11), Guenin was recalled several times to play with the NHL team. The Pennsylvania native appeared in nine games with the Flyers this past year (2 points, 4 PIM), and it is very possible that his NHL appearances will increase during the 2007-08 season.

Mike Walsh, LW – 5th round, 143rd overall (Detroit Compuware-NAHL)
Status: NHL Bust
NHL Games Played: 0

Walsh spent four years playing for Notre Dame prior to beginning his professional career last fall. Although he had one very promising season (his second year) at Notre Dame, he did not develop sufficiently to garner an NHL contract offer form the Rangers. Walsh became a free agent last summer, and, on September 15, 2006, he signed a one-year AHL contract with the Grand Rapids Griffins. Assigned to the ECHL Toledo Storm in late September, Walsh played 66 games this past season with the ECHL team. He was recalled to Grand Rapids several times, but only appeared in nine games with the AHL team. It is highly unlikely that Walsh will play in the NHL.

Jake Taylor, D – 6th round, 177th overall (Green Bay Gamblers-USHL)
Status: NHL Prospect
NHL Games Played: 0

Taylor followed up his USHL career with an excellent freshman season at the University of Minnesota. The Rangers signed him to an NHL contract on August 4, 2004, and assigned him to the AHL. Taylor had a difficult rookie season in 2004-05, but followed it up with a better showing during 2005-06. During this past injury-shortened season, Taylor played in both the AHL and ECHL. It is questionable whether Taylor will see any time in the NHL, and even more questionable as to whether it will be in a Rangers uniform.

Kim Hirschovits, C – 6th round, 194th overall (HIFK Helsinki-Finland)
Status: NHL Bust
NHL Games Played: 0

A forward in Finland‘s junior A league at the time he was drafted by the Rangers, Hirschovits was 20 years old and had played a part of that season with the Chicago Steel of the USHL. However, he has never played professionally in North America since then. The Rangers’ rights to him expired in 2006, and while he is unlikely to ever play in the NHL, Hirschovits has had outstanding seasons for the last two years in Finland‘s Elite league. During the 2006-07 season, he was his team’s leading scorer (59 points in 54 games) while maintaining a +16 plus/minus rating. A late bloomer, Hirschovits is now an excellent center who, had he not chosen to remain in Europe, could have made a contribution to the Rangers organization.

Joey Crabb, RW – 7th round, 266th overall (Green Bay Gamblers-USHL)
Status: NHL Prospect
NHL Games Played: 0

Crabb, a product of the US National Team Development Program, was drafted while he was a member of the Green Bay Gamblers. The following fall, he entered Colorado College, where Crabb played for four years. In his final year as a Tiger, Crabb recorded 43 points in 38 games (including 12 power-play goals). However, an organizational decision was made not to offer Crabb an NHL contract. The Atlanta Thrashers signed Crabb to an NHL contract on August 31, 2006, and he played 66 games during the 2006-07 season with their AHL affiliate Chicago Wolves. Crabb had a good, but not spectacular, rookie AHL season, and is a legitimate NHL prospect.

Petr Prucha, LW – 8th round, 240th overall (Pardubice Jr.-Czech Republic)
Status: NHL Player
NHL Games Played: 161

The only Rangers 2002 draft selection to see NHL time in a Blueshirts uniform, Prucha has been one of the most pleasant surprises of the entire draft. After being selected by the Rangers, Prucha continued to play in the Czech Republic, however, during the NHL lockout, he played against many NHLers and after scouting him extensively in Europe, the Rangers signed Prucha to an NHL contract on August 17, 2005. Once in North America, the winger made an immediate impression upon Rangers management and coaching staff. In 68 games in his rookie NHL season, Prucha recorded 47 points, including 16 power play goals. Although his offensive production was down somewhat during the 2006-07 season, Prucha is without question the highlight of the 2002 draft for the Rangers.

Rob Flynn, RW – 9th round, 270th overall (Harvard University-NCAA)
Status: NHL Bust
NHL Games Played: 0

A former member of the US National Team Development Program, Flynn was a freshman at Harvard at the time of the 2002 draft. He played four years with the Crimson and never developed into the player that the Rangers had hoped for when they chose him in the final round. He was not offered an NHL contract, and over the last two seasons has played in both the ECHL and UHL.

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