The New York Rangers selected six players in last month’s NHL Entry Draft. Although the team had only two selections in the first four rounds of the draft and did not get a pick until No. 17 overall, the draft was successful for the Rangers, if only because their first-round selection was one of the most skilled forwards in the entire draft.
Alexei Cherepanov‘s drop in the draft reflected a new NHL reality. The CBA only allows teams two years to sign both European players and CHLers, but provides at least four years to sign NCAA and NCAA-eligible players. Therefore, NHL teams are loathe to take the risk of drafting a European player early, unless that player makes a commitment that he will be coming to North America. This is particularly true of Russians, because of Russia‘s refusal to sign the IIHF agreement. This worked to the Rangers advantage with Cherepanov, as he had previously indicated his intention to honor at least one year of the two-year commitment that remains on his contract with Omsk Avangard of the Russian Super League. It also affected Rangers’ selections in the later rounds, where they chose three NCAA or college-bound players.
In total, the Rangers chose five forwards and a goaltender with their draft selections. It was the first year since the mid-1980s that the Blueshirts failed to select a defenseman. However, with top prospects Bobby Sanguinetti, Marc Staal, and Michael Sauer chosen in 2005 and 2006, the Rangers have a good number of solid blueline prospects in the system, and had other needs to address.
Additionally, because the Rangers had used their third and fourth-round selections as part of previous trades, after their first two draft picks, the Rangers did not have a chance to draft another player until No. 138 overall. This was a wise use of the team’s assets, as the 2007 group of prospects was widely agreed to be a rather weak (after the top few players).
In all, the Rangers selected a top prospect and quite a few long shots in a draft year where there were very few players available that were "sure things" to play in the NHL.
Alexei Cherepanov, RW
Height: 6’0; Weight: 183
2006-07 Team: Omsk Avangard/ Russian Super League
Drafted: 1st round, # 17 overall
An excellent skater with great hands, this young Russian can do it all offensively. He is extremely creative with the puck and has great vision. He could use some work in his own end, but this was an outstanding selection for the Rangers, especially given their draft position.
Although Cherepanov was unhappy with his fall to No. 17, he was only too happy to be chosen by the Rangers. And the Blueshirts were delighted to obtain the rights to him. Cherepanov immediately came to New York and participated in the team’s one-week prospect development camp. Speaking to HF through an interpreter, Cherepanov said that he "cannot not wait to play in New York. New York is the best place to play, with the best players in the NHL." Cherepanov confirmed that he will be returning to Russia to play this coming year, but hopes to join the Rangers in the fall of 2008.
With their second-round selection, the Rangers chose the biggest goaltender in the draft. Lafleur completed his second season as a member of the Rocket in 2006-07 and had made major improvements in his play during the regular season (49 games, 2.97 GAA, .909 save percentage). Although not as impressive in the playoffs, Lafleur has good lateral movement, stays square to the shooter and is not afraid to come out high to challenge the shooter. He does need some work with his glove hand, but his size and hockey smarts will serve him well as he strives to move to the next level.
Prior to this draft, Al Montoya and Chris Holt were the only young netminders in the Rangers’ system. As Montoya is almost NHL ready and there are questions about Holt’s ability to become an NHL-level goaltender, it was imperative that the Rangers select a netminder in this draft. Ranked third overall by NHL Central Scouting, it was somewhat of a surprise that he would be selected before both Trevor Cann and Jeremy Smith, but his size makes Lafleur a desirable netminder.
Max Campbell, C
Height: 6’0; Weight: 170
2006-07 Team: Strathroy Rockets/ Western Ontario Junior "B"
Drafted: 5th round, # 138 overall
With 95 points in 46 games, Campbell was a prolific scorer in Junior "B" hockey. Recently named the Junior "B" Player of the Year for the 2006-07 season, Campbell was also named an OHA Top Prospect, as well as the Western Ontario Hockey League’s Most Valuable Player for this past season. The 2006-07 alternate captain of the Rockets’ team is going the college route, and is committed to attend Western Michigan University this fall.
Hagelin had an excellent 2006-07 season with his hometown team of Sodertalje SK. In 40 regular season games, he scored 55 points (24 goals, 31 assists), while accumulating 42 PIM, and a +14 rating. Used in all situations, he tallied eight power-play and two shorthanded goals. In three playoff games, Hagelin recorded six points and 20 PIM. A recruit of the University of Michigan, Hagelin is expected to begin his studies there this fall.
Skokan is a defensive forward who has a solid two-way game. Excellent at puck control, Skokan likes to hit and play a checking game. Selected by Rimouski in the 2005 Import Draft, the Slovakian center has played two seasons in the QMJHL. Additionally, he has represented his country twice in the World Junior Championships.
Skokan was expected to be drafted prior to the seventh round. He was selected to play in the CHL Top Prospects game this past January, recorded one assist in the game, and did very well in the puck control portion of the skills testing. Ranked 14th among North American skaters the NHL Central Scouting mid-season, he dropped to 40th in the final rankings. He was ranked 74th overall by ISS pre-draft. And when the draft was finally held, Skokan dropped even further. While the reasons for this are not entirely clear, he just was not the consistent on and off-ice contributor as was expected this past season. So the Rangers may have gotten very lucky with this pick, but to make it to the next level, Skokan will have to work hard, and on every shift.
Hobbs joined the USHL this past season after being a member of the Stansford College Prep team during the 2005-06 season. In 60 regular season games in his rookie 2006-07 campaign, Hobbs accumulated 21 points, 36 PIM, and a -24 rating. In the playoffs, the Shawville, Quebec native recorded two assists in 4 games, with two PIM, and a -2 plus/minus rating. Hobbs has a verbal commitment to the University of Massachusetts at Amherst for the 2008-09 season.
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