New York Rangers’ 2007 draft class marred by tragedy

By Leslie Treff
Photo: Carl Hagelin is currently the only player drafted by the New York Rangers in 2007 who is currently playing in the NHL. (Photo courtesy of NHL)

There were several entry drafts in the early 2000s that evoke consternation in the hearts of Rangers’ fans, but none in Rangers’ history causes the sadness and disappointment of 2007. The untimely October 2008 death of Alexei Cherepanov, New York’s first round 2007 pick, still haunts the team and its fans.

When he was drafted, Cherepanov was projected to be the Rangers’ first line right winger of the future, and, although he was a high risk, high reward selection for the Rangers, it is very possible the Blueshirts would have a very different look today had Cherepanov lived to develop as expected.

Six players were selected in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, including one pick in the first, second, fifth, and sixth rounds, as well as two players in the seventh round. New York’s third round selection had been traded away several months before the draft as part of a deal with the Atlanta Thrashers that brought Alex Bourret to New York. The team’s fourth round selection had been traded away at the 2006 draft, when the Rangers sent the pick to the Washington Capitals in exchange for the 137th overall selection in 2006 (Tomas Zaborsky).

Five years after the 2007 Entry draft, only one, Carl Hagelin, of the six players selected has appeared in a single NHL game. Other than Hagelin, only University of Massachusetts senior Danny Hobbs remains a New York prospect.

It remains to be seen whether or not Hobbs will ever play a game in a Rangers uniform, however, the 2007 draft eventually yielded another player for the Rangers, defenseman and Montreal 2007 first round pick Ryan McDonagh. At 22 years-old, McDonagh has quickly developed into a stalwart on the Rangers’ blue line.

Alexei Cherepanov, RW, Omsk Avangard (Russia), 1st round, 17th overall
Status: Deceased
NHL Games: 0

Cherepanov was one of the most gifted offensive players in the fairly weak 2007 draft. Rated by all the scouting services as a top-10 talent, NHL teams were hesitant to select the young Russian with a high first round selection, as Cherepanov spoke no English, made a significant amount of money in Russia, and had another year on his Russian Super League contract. So Cherepanov fell to the second half of the first round, and the Rangers selected him at number 17. It was the third year in a row that New York had chosen players that had for some reason had fallen to them in the draft, and the Blueshirts were ecstatic to get him at the 17th selection. Although Cherepanov was clearly upset to have fallen so far in the draft, he was very interested to be a Rangers’ prospect and immediately participated in the NHL team’s 2007 Development Camp. There he showed quite a few flashy, heady plays, particularly during the scrimmage, and left the Rangers’ staff extremely impressed. Following his return to Omsk Avangard of the now KHL and a successful World Junior Championships in 2008, the Rangers’ organization kept in close contact with Cherepanov. According to the Rangers’ front office, they expected Cherepanov to come to North America as early as the Fall of 2009. However, during a KHL game on October 13th, 2008, Cherepanov collapsed on the bench and died shortly thereafter. It was later learned that Cherepanov suffered from a chronic inflammation of the heart and should not have been playing hockey with that condition.

Antoine Lafleur, G, PEI Rocket (QMJHL), 2nd round, 48th overall
Status: Bust
NHL Games: 0

It was somewhat of a surprise that, with their second round selection, the Rangers selected Antoine Lafleur. The largest goaltender available in the draft, Lafleur had put up good, but not spectacular numbers with PEI. However, New York felt the need to add to their stable of goaltending prospects and Lafleur had potential in a very weak draft. With good lateral movement and the ability to challenge skaters, the Rangers wanted to work with Lafleur. Unfortunately, the Gatineau, Quebec native had his best season just prior to the draft and never developed into the netminder the Rangers hoped for. Lafleur spent four seasons in the QMJHL and then retired from hockey.

Max Campbell, C, Strathroy Rockets (WOHL), 5th round, 138th overall
Status: Bust
NHL Games: 0

Max Campbell was the first player ever drafted by an NHL team out of the junior "B" Strathroy Rockets. The 2006-07 Player of the Year in the Western Ontario Hockey League, Campbell is an excellent offensive player, who skated for the Western Michigan University Bronco for four years. In Campbell’s senior season, he led the Broncos in points (35) and goals (17), and helped Western Michigan reach the CCHA finals for the first time since 1986. Always projected to be special teams player, Campbell is a sniper with an excellent release. He did not sufficiently impress the Rangers to be offered an entry-level contract last summer, but was offered and accepted an AHL contract with the Connecticut Whale. Prior to the beginning of the AHL season, Campbell was reassigned to the ECHL Grenville Road Warriors, where he posted two goals and two assists in 17 games until last week, when he was recalled to Connecticut. Campbell was immediately reassigned to the Stockton Thunder, where he has recorded a goal and an assist in five games played.

Carl Hagelin, LW, Sodertalje SK (Sweden), 6th round, 168th overall
Status: NHL Player
NHL Games: 31

The only player drafted by the Rangers in 2007 to see any NHL ice time, Carl Hagelin is a two-way forward, who can see playing time in all situations. A potential second- to third-line player, Hagelin plays a very speedy, smart game, has the hands to be able to finish, and never gives up on the play. After four years at the University of Michigan, in which he was captain of the team as a senior and leading scorer for his last two years, Hagelin began his professional career this fall as a member of the Connecticut Whale. After 17 games with the AHL team (seven goals, six assists), during which he was arguably the Whale’s best player, Hagelin was called up by the Rangers in November of 2011. Recently named to the NHL’s All Star rookie team and winning the fastest skater skills competition in Ottawa, Hagelin has accumulated 18 points (eight goals, 10 assists) in 31 NHL games in New York.

David Skokan, C, Rimouski Oceanic (QMJHL), 7th round, 193rd overall
Status: Bust
NHL Games: 0

Currently, in his third season as a member of the Slovak Extraliga HC Slovan Bratislava, David Skokan was playing in North America at the time he was drafted by the Rangers in 2007. An excellent two-way forward with the Rimouski Oceanic for three seasons, Skokan was a highly touted prospect at the beginning of his draft year. Expected to be selected in the middle rounds of the 2007 draft, Skokan’s stock plummeted during the 2006-07 season. His performance during Rangers development and main camps was not particularly impressive and he was not offered an entry-level contract in 2009. After signing an AHL contract with the Hartford Wolf Pack, Skokan returned to Europe prior to the beginning of the 2009-10 season.

Danny Hobbs, RW, Ohio Junior Blue Jackets (USHL), 7th round, 198th overall
Status: Prospect
NHL Games: 0

Danny Hobbs is the only Rangers’ 2007 Entry Draft selection who remains a prospect in the system. After two years with the now defunct USHL Ohio Junior Blue Jackets, Hobbs joined the University of Massachusetts Minutemen in the fall of 2008. Somewhat stymied by the limited ice time he had during his first two collegiate seasons, Hobbs did not begin to post good numbers until the 2010-11 season. As a senior this season, Hobbs is the hockey team’s co-captain, plays on the team’s top line, and in January was named the UMass Athlete of the Week for a three-goal weekend. Hobbs is scoring at a rate of approximately at almost a point-per-game in his senior season, and developing a very good offensive game to complement good play in his own zone. The Rangers have until August 2012 to decide whether or not they want to sign Hobbs to an entry-level contract, and it is uncertain at this time as to whether or not they will do so.