The Bottom Line

By Michael Theodore

    As the 2001 season comes to an end for the New York Rangers, they must yet again gear up for another draft rather then a return to the post season. This however is not necessarily a bad thing as the Rangers will once again have a top ten pick. But before I get into that I would like to add that while not many rookies have played this year Ron Low and Sather are not to blame for this nor should they be.

First off Ron Low has given ice time to those who earned it. Manny Malhotra is a decent player but even I will admit at this point that he was oversold coming out of junior hockey. He wasn’t putting up great numbers in the AHL and he’ll never be a point producer at the NHL level. He figures to best be used as a third line winger who nets maybe 10 goals, 20 points and 100 PIM. It’s a harsh reality but it is true. Ron Low is giving Kloucek nearly 20 minutes a game, because Kloucek is earning it. Not to say that Malhotra deserves only 4 minutes a game but I don’t know exactly everyone is expecting to see if he does. Why is it possible that two coaches now haven’t been impressed with Malhotra? They are seeing something we don’t and perhaps we should leave it at that. Well, now that I got that out of my system I am ready to get on with the prospect talk.

    Pavel Brendl is slipping folks. His attitude is going south again and so is his game. Regardless of whether he is bored or not he isn’t helping his case this year at all. He’s been offered in the trade talks with Phoenix and don’t be too surprised if he gets traded there soon. His skill level is great but his mental level is not. He will either be a star or nothing, but we already knew that didn’t we?

    Jamie Lundmark is playing the best hockey of his career right now in Seattle. Not only is he averaging 1.6 points per game {the same as offensive machine Brendl} but he is playing great all around hockey. He is a plus two, but he has played a lot better defensively then that number shows. Many times a plus/minus can be misleading and in his case it is. Lundmark is playing at 190 pounds right now and figures to be about 5-10 pounds heavier for next season. He also looks like he might have grown a little and might be about 6’1 right now. So far many teams have asked about him but Sather is more willing to move Brendl then Lundmark. Even if Jamie never becomes a big time NHL center he can play all 3 forward positions and gives quality leadership and hard work. In the eyes of many in the Rangers organization Lundmark has actually passed Brendl on the depth chart.

   Filip Novak continues to play great hockey. He plays both ends of the rink and has flashed a mean streak as well. He figures to still be a year away but could be a solid number two or three defenseman when he arrives.

Garrett Bembridge is playing for a contract right now. He has gone unsigned so far by the Rangers but with money to throw around Sather might be willing to take a chance on the fifth round choice.

The Draft

    While it is still too early to tell the Rangers are at least getting their wish list together for their first pick in the upcoming draft. However the Rangers must wonder where they are gonna draft since a winning streak could push them back to 10th while a losing streak could have them drafting as high as third. The higher the pick {or worse the finish} the greater the odds of winning the lottery. Both the NHL and Rangers would love to see Jason Spezza in a Rangers uniform on draft day. Spezza is the Franchise player/marketing ploy/savior the Rangers are desperate for. At 6’3, and 200 pounds he has the size Rangers crave as well. He is obviously number one on the list.

    Ilya Kovalchuk is the Rangers second choice, as he fills a much needed hole at LW for them. The Rangers wouldn’t mind the theory of Kovalchuk, Lundmark and Brendl on a line together. Kovalchuk has size and tremendous skill that the Rangers like.

    The Rangers aren’t as high on Stephen Weiss but like center Alexander Svitov a 6’3, 200 pound center with great hands.  Tuomo Ruutu and Mikko Koivu are also both ranked highly on the Rangers list, with Ruutu the favorite because he can play the wing and is a little bigger then Koivu.

    Outside of Europe the Rangers North American favorites include goaltender Dan Blackburn, defensemen Ryan Whitney, Tim Gleason and Dan Hamhuis. Though only Blackburn is a likely candidate to be drafted since the Rangers have Mottau, Kloucek, Aufiero, Dessner and Novak all coming through the system to go along with Brian Leetch {who isn’t going anywhere} and Kim Johnnson. An emerging dark horse in all this is Colby Armstrong. The power winger has had a solid season for Red Dear and has showed a lot of heart. If Sather liked the power winger enough he might just take a flyer on him.

    It’s difficult right now to determine who the Rangers could get considering there is a range of 7 picks from where they might draft. It is also possible and likely that Sather will be looking to add another first round pick, possibly from a trade. However if the pick is high enough and the Lightning end up keeping their pick then you can bet Sather might attempt to swap picks to get Spezza or Kovalchuk. If Spezza is there expect an all out attempt including dangling Malhotra, Brendl and a first round pick next season amongst other things. This however is the best report that can be add at the time, if your a Rangers fan you should cross your finger to lose and pray the lottery works for the Rangers because this might be the Rangers best chance to get that Franchise player they seek.