Rangers 2005 draft evaluation

By Leslie Treff

Coming out of the lockout, the Rangers were in great need in all areas. The 2005 NHL entry draft was considered to contain a good crop of players, so it was no surprise that despite the fewer number of rounds in the draft, the Rangers maximized their chances to select good players and made several trades to obtain picks.

The Blueshirts had drafted a goaltender, Al Montoya, early in the first round of the 2004 NHL entry draft, and, at the time of the 2005 entry draft, he and Henrik Lundqvist (who was signed the day before the draft) were considered to be the netminders of the future for the franchise. The Rangers had also selected forward Lauri Korpikoski later in the same round of the 2004 entry draft, so it was no surprise that the team selected a defenseman in the first round of 2005 draft. 

In total, the Rangers made nine picks in the 2005 NHL entry draft, including five forwards and four blueliners. Of the nine, two are current NHL players, four are prospects, and three are considered NHL busts. The nine selections have appeared in a total of 288 games, 244 of which have been played by one player — Marc Staal

Marc Staal, D, Sudbury (OHL) – 1st Round, 12th overall
Status: NHL Player
NHL Games Played: 244

The Rangers originally had the 16th selection in the first round of the draft. However, Atlanta had obtained the 12th pick from San Jose, with which the Rangers found that they could obtain Staal (this was unexpected as Staal had been predicted to be a top 10 selection). In exchange for the 12th overall selection, New York gave the Thrashers both its 16th and 41st picks in the draft.

Shortly after the draft, former Head Coach Tom Renney said of Staal, "He’s got a real presence on the ice with his size and mobility and range. It looks like he understands the game well and he positions himself well."

Staal showed this was the case upon his return to Sudbury for the 2005-06 season. Scoring almost a point a game, with an excellent plus/minus ratio given the Wolves numbers, Staal looked to be a strong candidate to join the Rangers in the fall of 2006.

After a long stay in training camp, it was determined that Staal was not quite NHL-ready for the 2006-07 season, and was returned for one final year in the OHL.

By the fall of 2007, however, Staal became the young player around which the Rangers began to rebuild its defensive corps. Including Staal, the Rangers selected three blueliners with their first picks in the draft years 2005-2008, and then traded for another former first-round young defenseman (Ryan McDonagh) in the summer of 2009. Staal has improved in each of his three years as an NHL player. Not expected to reach hockey maturity for another couple of years, he is already a very good defensive defenseman, with a growing offensive upside. 

Michael Sauer, D, Portland Winterhawks (WHL) – 2nd round, 40th overall
Status:  NHL Prospect
NHL Games Played: 3

Going into the 2005 entry draft, the Rangers had three second-round picks (numbers 40, 41, and 45). The Rangers traded away the 41st and 56th selections, but with the 40th selection, which had been obtained from the Toronto Maple Leafs in the trade that sent Brian Leetch to Toronto, they chose Sauer.

Sauer, whose brother Kurt was already playing NHL hockey at the time of the draft, was considered to have very good size, be a very good puck distributor, very reliable defensively, and a good skater. Had he been healthy the entire year, he might have not been available at this point in the draft, however, he had been suffering from hip problems during the 2004-05 season and was only able to play 32 games for Portland.

After surgery, Sauer was able to play for most of the next two WHL seasons, prior to turning pro in the fall of 2007. Reporting to the AHL Hartford Wolf Pack that fall, Sauer showed promise, but was injured again during the season and then in game two of the Atlantic Division semi-finals.

Although nagging questions about his health began to re-emerge, Sauer had an excellent 2008-09 season. He stayed relatively healthy and posted a team-high +29. As a reward for his excellent play, Sauer was recalled by the Rangers and appeared in three NHL games.

Sauer failed to make the NHL team out of training camp last fall, and was returned to Hartford. However, he suffered a shoulder injury in late January that kept him out the rest of the season. At this point, Sauer’s physical resilience has to be questioned. If he could stay healthy, he is NHL-ready and could be an excellent addition to the Rangers defensive corps. 

Marc-Andre Cliché, C, Lewiston MAINEiacs (QMJHL) – 2nd round, 56th overall
Status: NHL Prospect
NHL Games Played: 1

The Rangers obtained the 56th pick in the 2005 entry draft as the result of trading down with the Montreal Canadiens. New York traded their 45th selection to Montreal for No. 56, with which they selected Cliché, along with a third-round selection, No. 66, with which the Rangers selected Brodie Dupont.

Cliché was another injured player, who at the time of the draft was still recovering from shoulder problems. With good size, excellent agility and balance, Cliché was a more of a defensive forward, who was very good on face-offs.  During the 2005-06 season, Cliché rebounded with excellent offensive numbers for Lewiston. Selected for the 2007 U20 Canadian WJC team, Cliché helped his team win the gold medal in that tournament.

On February 5, 2007, the Rangers traded Cliché to the Los Angeles Kings as part of the deal that brought Sean Avery to New York. Cliché continues to play within the Kings system and appeared in his first NHL game for Los Angeles this past season.

Brodie Dupont, C, Calgary Hitmen (WHL) – 3rd round, 66th overall
Status: NHL Prospect
NHL Games Played: 0

The 56th selection in the draft was obtained as part of a deal that the Rangers made with the Montreal Canadiens for the 45th selection in the draft. Dupont was ranked 77th overall among North American skaters by the NHL’s Central Scouting, however, the Rangers felt that his grit, skating ability, and work ethic made him a excellent selection in the third round.

Following Dupont’s selection, he significantly improved his offensive production in Calgary, becoming more than just a tough, gritty defensive forward. Dupont began his professional career in the fall of 2007, and has become one of the most reliable forwards on the AHL Hartford Wolf Pack. He has steadily grown in his role as a rough and tumble forward, willing to play in the center or on the wing, as asked.

Dupont will probably never become a top-six forward in the NHL, but he should be able to fulfill a fourth-line role on either the Rangers or another NHL team.  

Dalyn Flatt, D, Saskatoon Blades (WHL) – 3rd round, 77th overall
Status: NHL Bust
NHL Games Played: 0

Flatt is a big, tough stay-at-home blueliner, who at the time of the draft was considered very good positionally, as well as a good skater for his size. However, Flatt did not develop as was expected and the Rangers did not sign him prior to their rights running out 2007. Flatt eventually spent five years  in junior hockey, including an overage season with two OHL teams, and has not been signed by an NHL team.

Tom Pyatt, C, Saginaw Spirit (OHL) — 4th round, 107th overall
Status: NHL Player
NHL Games Played: 40

The player with the second most NHL games played in the Rangers class of 2005, Pyatt has not played a single game in the Blueshirts uniform. Traded to the Montreal Canadiens as part of the deal that sent Scott Gomez to the Habs, and brought Chris Higgins and McDonagh to the Rangers, Pyatt was thought to be at least a season away from fourth line NHL duties at the time of the July 1, 2009 trade.

However, the strong skating Pyatt contributed greatly to the Habs playoff run this past season. A defensive forward who is excellent on the penalty kill, he is a high-energy player with good hockey smarts.

After four years playing his junior hockey in Saginaw, Pyatt joined the Hartford Wolf Pack in the fall of 2007. He struggled some in his adjustment to professional play, and spent some time in the ECHL during the 2007-08 season prior to returning to Hartford with a more confident game. Pyatt improved greatly during the 2008-09 season in Hartford, and was slotted for another year in Hartford when he was traded to Montreal.

Trevor Koverko, D, Owen Sound Attack (OHL) – 5th round, 147th overall
Status: NHL Bust
NHL Games Played: 0

A big, solid, mobile skater at the time of the draft, the Rangers took a chance on the north-south aggressive blueliner. Injuries and some issues while a member of the Oshawa Generals followed, and Koverko did not develop as was hoped. He was never signed by the Rangers and their rights to him expired on June 1, 2007.

This past season, Koverko played with the Mustangs of the University of Western Ontario (CIS).

Greg Beller, LW, Lake of the Woods (USHS-Minn) – 6th round, 178th overall
Status: NHL Bust
NHL Games Played: 0

Although still listed on the Rangers reserve list, Beller, the smooth-skating, hard-shooting winger is no longer in their plans. Drafted out of a Minnesota high school, Beller had the size and skill set the Rangers were willing to take a chance on in the sixth round. 

Beller headed for the USHL for the 2005-06 season after being drafted by the Rangers, but was unfortunate enough to suffer a broken left clavicle during a preseason game. Only able to play in three games for the Green Bay Gamblers that season, Beller headed for Yale University the following fall. He did well his freshman year and then the coaching staff of the Bulldogs changed, and he left the school. Intending to transfer to the University of Manitoba, Beller was required to sit out a year. During this time he skated with the Vernon Vipers of the BCHL.

Since his arrival at the University of Manitoba, Beller has played in 37 regular-season games and posted 14 points (5 goals, 9 assists). It is not expected that he will be signed to an entry-level contract by an NHL team when the Rangers rights to Beller expire this summer.

Ryan Russell, C, Kootenay Ice (WHL) – 7th round, 211th overall
Status: N HL Prospect
NHL Games Played: 0

The Rangers selected Russell for his hockey smarts and great skill. Small, but with very good instincts and hands, Russell was a scoring center for Kootenay, where he spent four years as a member of the Ice. In his two post-draft seasons, Russell posted more than a point per game. However, the Rangers were not excited to sign him, so that when, on May 31, 2007, Montreal made New York an offer to exchange its seventh round selection in the upcoming 2007 entry draft for Russell, the Rangers were happy to make the trade.

Since the trade, Russell has played for both the AHL Hamilton Bulldogs and the ECHL Cincinnati Cyclones.