Rangers 2009 draft review

By Leslie Treff

The NY Rangers made seven selections in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. Having previously traded away their second and fourth round picks, Rangers applied for and was granted a second-round selection as compensation for their failure to sign Alexei Cherepanov. Although nothing could really compensate for Cherepanov’s tragic loss, the 47th overall selection allowed the Rangers to pick up a very good player in Ethan Werek.

With their selections, the Rangers drafted four forwards, two defensemen, and one netminder. For the first time in recent memory, the Rangers selected two players who were essentially U.S. high school forwards, along with three players from the CHL, and two Europeans.

The Rangers needed a potentially high-scoring forward from this draft. In fact, they selected two players that are in that category — Chris Kreider and Ryan Bourque.  According to Rangers Director of Player Personnel, Gordie Clark, the team was looking at two players, Zach Kassian and Chris Kreider with the first pick. Both were potential NHL power forwards, and in looking at the deals that were out there, the Rangers decided that Kassian was not a realistic possibility. Once that was determined, Clark said, “we wanted Chris and would have moved up to get him. Turns out we did not have to.”

It appears that the Rangers swung for the fences in this draft. From Kreider to Bourque to Mikail Pashnin (who was the No. 1 overall pick in the recent KHL draft), these are high risk/high reward prospects. The team made a solid selection with its second-round pick, as Werek has late first to early second round potential, but all of the other picks were somewhat of a surprise and risky. Only time will tell whether this strategy works out.

Chris Kreider, C/LW—Phillips-Andover Academy (USHS)

First Round, 19th overall
Height: 6’2”; Weight: 201
DOB: 4/30/91
Committed to Boston College (Fall 2009)

Kreider, a smooth skater with great vision, completed his junior year in high school not many weeks ago. However, he was determined to enter Boston College this fall, and took extras courses to finish high school prior to August to make that happen. This strong determination does not surprise those who know him. According to his coach at Phillips Andover, Dean Boylan, Kreider “is a character player, who has a combination of excellent physical and mental strength.” In 26 games with Phillips Andover, Kreider posted 56 points (33 goals, 23 assists) and 10 PIM.

The big center/left wing is expected to be converted into a winger full time over the next few years. He is a boom or bust pick for the Rangers, who took a big risk with this selection. Kreider was dominant in his level of play and did very well at the Combine, but on the ice, he was almost invisible at development camp the week following the draft. Although he was new to this level of play, and younger than most of the other players on the ice, a couple of the other 2009 selections made better impressions last week.

Kreider is committed to attend BC this fall, and although he insists that he is attending the school, he was drafted by the QMJHL St. John Sea Dogs in 2008 (10th round, 178th overall) and playing CHL hockey is still an option for him. It remains to be seen which route will prove the best for his development. In the meantime, Kreider is very excited to be selected by the Rangers and looking forward to going to college in the fall.

Ethan Werek, C — Kingston Frontenacs (OHL)
Second Round, 47th overall
Height: 6’1”; Weight: 190
DOB: 6/7/91

The Rangers were able to select Werek with the compensation pick received from the NHL as the result of Cherepanov’s death. Ranked 32nd among NA skaters by NHL Central Scouting prior to the draft, the Markham, Ontario native had been moving up in the scouts’ minds during his rookie OHL season in Kingston.

Werek finished fifth in OHL rookie scoring with 64 points in 66 games this past season, while his 32 goals ranked second in the league among first-year players. The all-time leading rookie scorer for the Fronts was also selected as an Eastern Conference All-Star, and played in both the CHL Top Prospects Game and the U-18 WCs this spring.

A strong center with a solid frame, Werek has an excellent physical game, which he uses along the boards and in front of the net. He still needs to work on his acceleration and play in his own zone, but Werek was an excellent value for this selection and he “couldn’t be happier to come to New York.” With at least one friend already in place in NYC, Werek was “very excited to come to the city, and the team” for development camp. Last week, he showed good positioning in the offensive zone and a toughness that the Rangers were looking for, however, he will be working even harder to show his offensive prowess in Traverse City this September.

Ryan Bourque, C — U-18 NTDP
Third Round, 80th overall
Height: 5’9”; Weight: 163
DOB: 1/3/91

Bourque, one of HHOFer Ray Bourque’s sons, was one of the most interviewed players after the draft. At 5’9”, he was one of the smallest players in the draft, but he is one of the speediest, with some of the best hands among all the players. He plays bigger than his size, and does not shy away from defensive, physical play, but the question is will he be able to play professional hockey and not get knocked off the puck?

Only time will tell, however, Bourque was a highly productive member of the U-18 NTDP in Ann Arbor, Michigan this past season, as well as an excellent performer in the U-18 WJCs this past April.  After narrowly missing being named to the U-20 US WJC team last fall, Bourque has been invited again to Lake Placid for this summer’s tryouts,.

After initially committing the University of New Hampshire, Bourque has decided to play for the QMJHL Quebec Remparts this coming season, because he feels that it was better for his development. Drafted by the Remparts in the seventh round (117th overall) in the 2008 QMJHL Entry Draft, Bourque is expected to make a big offensive contribution to the team coached by another HHOFer, Patrick Roy.

A middle-school classmate of Kreider, Bourque is excited to join the Rangers organization.  The fact that its an original six team, and “the fast offensive game that New York showed at the end of last season,” were high on his list of reasons for this excitement. Although he “had several interviews with the Rangers, and knew he was on their radar,” nothing was certain.

What was certain is that Bourque was impressive in development camp. His speed and quick hands made him the star of last week’s scrimmage. He will have to still work on decision-making with the puck, but under the guidance of Roy, there is every expectation that he will be able to make the changes necessary to move to the next level.

Bourque will also be working on his strength the next couple of years. The Rangers have provided him with a program to work on and are hoping that Bourque will take to it and make some progress in this area prior to Traverse City. 

Roman Horak, C — Ceske Budejovice HC Jr. (Czech U-20)

Fifth Round, 127th overall
Height: 6’0”; Weight: 189
DOB: 5/21/91

An excellent skater with good puck-handling skills, Horak was a standout player for the Czech Republic in the recent U-18s in Fargo, North Dakota. Horak is good on face-offs and when the game is on the line. Recently selected by the WHL Chilliwack Bruins in the 2009 CHL Import Draft, Horak is expected to play in North America this coming season.

Scott Stajcer, G — Owen Sound Attack (OHL)
Fifth Round, 140th overall
Height: 6’3”; Weight: 180
DOB: 6/14/91

This was not a year for high-profile goaltenders, and none were taken in the first round. After the Rangers last goaltending pick, Anton LaFleur, was not signed this year, the team was low on prospects that play between the pipes. In Stajcer, the Rangers found a solid pick, with good size and reflexes. Stajcer shared the netminding duties for the Owen Sound Attack during the 2008-09 season with Dallas Stars prospect Tyler Beskorowany, playing in 35 games and recording a 15-15-3 record (3.56 GAA and .906 save percentage) in the regular season.  Less successful in the post-season, Stajcer is a project for the Rangers, but given the goaltending ahead of him, New York could afford to take this chance on its second fifth round pick.

Daniel Maggio, D — Sudbury Wolves (OHL)

Sixth Round, 170th overall
Height: 6’3”; Weight: 198
DOB: 3/4/91

Ranked 189th among NA skaters by NHL Central Scouting, Maggio is a stay-at-home defenseman who is big and likes to throw his weight around. Not really a fighter, Maggio is physical and has a right-handed shot.  He was completely invisible at development camp last week, however, if the Sudbury Wolves blueliner can learn more discipline and become more of a force on the ice, it is possible that he may become a big asset in the Rangers’ system.

Mikhail Pashnin, D — Mechel (Russia-2)

Seventh Round, 200th overall
Height: 5’11”; Weight: 187
DOB: 5/11/89

With their final pick, the Rangers selected Pashnin, who is a reliable two-way defenseman. He had a breakout 2008-09 season with Mechel and was recently drafted first overall in the KHL draft. Although he is expected to sign a two-year deal with CSKA Moscow, after the contract expires, there is certainly a chance that Pashnin will play in North America.

Although his size is not impressive, Pashnin is a solid overall blueliner. With two more years of experience, it is likely that he will at least come over to take a look at joining the North American game.