Kyle Wanvig and Barrett Heisten: Future Rangers?

By Brandon LeBourveau

I’m sure the Rangers were excited to see two blue-chip prospects unable to come to terms with their respective teams before Friday’s 5:00 PM deadline for 1999 draftees to be signed who were drafted out of major junior (OHL, WHL or QMJHL). Those two players are Kyle Wanvig, a 6’2 220 pound winger who was drafted in the 3rd round (89th overall) of the ’99 draft by the Boston Bruins, and Barrett Heisten, a 6’1 195 pound winger who was drafted in the 1st round (20th overall) in ’99 by the Buffalo Sabres. Kyle Wanvig will re-enter this month’s draft while Barrett Heisten will become an unrestriced free agent.

Kyle Wanvig is a dominating power forward who had an outstanding season this year in the WHL with the Memorial Cup winning Red Deer Rebels, notching 55 goals, 101 points and 202 penalty minutes in 69 games during the regular season. He was awarded as the Memorial Cup MVP after he totaled 2 goals and 6 points in 4 games during the tournament. It appeared as if he was going to be Toronto Maple Leafs’ property after they supposedly acquired the rights to Wanvig for Jonas Hoglund and a 6th round pick, however the NHL nixed the deal at the last minute as they didn’t receive a fax of Wanvig’s signing with the Leafs until 5 minutes after the deadline. Wanvig will now re-enter the draft, and it is anyone’s guess where he could be picked. It is unlikely he will go in the 1st round, but the 2nd round is a definite possibility. Some scouts question whether Wanvig’s skating is NHL-calibre, and many feel that could hold him back from developing into a dominate power forward. However, some teams have already started to express interest in Wanvig, including the Vancouver Canucks and of course the Toronto Maple Leafs. I have not heard word about whether the Rangers’ have an interest in Wanvig, but it would certainly make sense if they do. The Rangers will likely look to draft a big, skilled forward in the second round, such as Tim Jackman or Colt King, but taking Kyle Wanvig at 40th overall if he’s still there would certainly be a great move. He has the potential to be a 2nd line winger in the NHL and he could bring some immediate help to the team, as he has played his 3 years of junior hockey and will either see time in the minors or the NHL next season. I would love to get him in the second round, but it appears he could be long gone before then.

As for Barrett Heisten, the trouble between him and the Buffalo Sabres started back in September when Heisten turned down a very good offer from the Buffalo Sabres. To gain the upperhand in negotiations, Heisten followed in the footsteps of the Mike Van Ryan saga by leaving the University of Maine for the WHL to play with the Seattle Thunderbirds where he was linemates with Rangers star prospect Jamie Lundmark for much of the season. The two players developed great chemistry, and if the Rangers lay out the money to sign Heisten, that chemistry could possibly continue into the NHL. Heisten accumulated 77 points (20 goals and 57 assists) in 58 games with the Thunderbirds, along with 61 penalty minutes. The knock on Heisten seems to be that scouts aren’t impressed with his ability to score goals, and don’t see him becoming a big time goal scorer in the NHL. However, they can’t deny his deft passing ability as he was one of the best playmakers in all of junior hockey this past season. He will likely be a 3rd line winger in the NHL at even strength, but will see a lot of time on the power play because of his ability to pass the puck tape-to-tape through crowds of players. He’s also a gritty player who likes to bang around in the corners and fight for the puck. He becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1st and for just cash (which the Rangers have a lot of) they have the opportunity to add another blue-chip prospect to their system.

Will the Rangers get both these players within the next month or so? It’s a possibility, but the odds are they probably won’t. Heisten is more likely to become a Ranger than Wanvig because Heisten is a free agent and the fact that Jamie Lundmark also plays for the Rangers could lure him to New York. Other unrestriced free agents who didn’t sign with their teams and could be looked at by the Rangers include goaltender Seamus Kotyk, a 5th round pick by the Bruins in ’99, who led the Ottawa 67’s of the OHL to the Memorial Cup this past season and defenseman Christian Chartier, a 7th round pick by the Oilers in ’99, who won the WHL’s award for the best defenseman in the league this season with the Prince George Cougars after scoring 12 goals and 68 points.

News and Notes: I haven’t heard officially whether Garrett Bembridge was signed by the Rangers or not, as sometimes the signings are not announced until a couple of days past the deadline. As soon as I find out the official word I will let all of you know if they signed him or if he re-entered.