The Broadway Blue Line

By Brandon LeBourveau

The Rangers’ defensive depth can not be overlooked. Although the Rangers’ defense was horrible last season (they gave up the most goals against in the NHL), the future blue line does look bright on Broadway. I fully expect at least one rookie defenseman to stick with the team this year for the entire season. Glen Sather added veteran defenseman Igor Ulanov and Dave Karpa to the club, therefore taking away the opportunity for more youngsters to make the team on defense. Last year’s rookie defensemen, Tomas Kloucek and Dale Purinton, were bright spots on a bad team, while others such as Mike Mottau and Peter Smrek impressed in a few games towards the end of the season. Tomas Kloucek will be out until around December, as he is still recovering from a torn ACL suffered in a game late last season against the Atlanta Thrashers when his leg slammed awkwardly into the boards, but, it will take him longer than that to get back to the level where he was last season.

Unless a trade is made, there is a log jam at defense for the Rangers. Brian Leetch, a fully recovered Vladimir Malakhov, Kim Johnsson, Igor Ulanov and Dale Purinton appear to have spots locked up to start the season, while Dave Karpa will likely stay on as a 7th defenseman. Kloucek will still be recovering, as will Sylvain Lefebvre who had shoulder surgery this off-season. The 6th spot is up for grabs during training camp, and whoever plays the best will likely wind up being the one who stays with the big club. Mike Mottau and Peter Smrek seem to be the front runners for the job, as they both have played 18 and 20 games in the NHL, respectively. However, other darkhorses such as Filip Novak could put up a strong fight.

The following is an in-depth look at most of the defensive prospects in the organization with their height, weight, age, statistics and how they were acquired included in the summary.

Mike Mottau, 23 yrs old, 6’0 190 lbs, Drafted 182nd Overall in ’97

Year    Team             League    GP    G   A  Pts  PIM
2000-01 Hartford         AHL       61   10  33   44   45
        Hartford*        AHL        5    0   1    1   18
        New York         NHL       18    0   3    3   13
1999-00 Boston College   NCAA      42    6  37   43   57
1998-99 Boston College   NCAA      43    3  39   42   44
1997-98 Boston College   NCAA      40   13  36   49   50
1996-97 Boston College   NCAA      38    5  18   23   77

Mike Mottau made a smooth transition from college hockey to professional hockey this past season. He spent most of the season with the Hartford Wolf Pack of the American Hockey League where he played great. He was awarded with a spot on the Planet USA team in the AHL All-Star game and was also awarded with a spot on the AHL All-Rookie team. He played in a lot of games with the Rangers at the end of the season and he handled it pretty well. He saw time on the power play, and was very effective in moving the puck around the offensive zone and setting up teammates for some pretty good shots. He made an excellent play in one game (I believe against Washington), where he made a no-look pass from the blue line to the side of the net where a teammate easily tapped in an open-net goal. He showed some pretty good flashes of his ability on that play, and although he still needs to work on his play in the defensive zone, he has a really good chance of making the team this season. He is ready to take his game to the next level, although if he is sent back down to Hartford, he will benefit from gaining more experience.

Filip Novak, 19 yrs old, 6’1 180 lbs, Drafted 64th Overall in ’00.

Year    Team            League     GP    G   A  Pts  PIM
2000-01 Regina          WHL        64   17  50   67   75
        Regina*         WHL         6    1   4    5    6
1999-00 Regina          WHL        47    7  32   39   70
        Regina*         WHL         7    1   4    5    5
1998-99 Budejovice      Czech Jr   68    8  10   18   34

Filip Novak is a defenseman who the Rangers are very glad that he fell into their laps at 64th overall in the 2000 Entry Draft. Novak had a great season this year for Regina of the Western Hockey League, improving his all-around game, while also scoring 1.05 Points per game, compared to .83 Points per game the season before. Novak was paired with Barret Jackman on the blue-line, a first round pick by the St. Louis Blues in 1999, and the two played excellent right from the start of the season. Filip plays a two-way game in which he relies on his excellent skating and puckhandling ability. He has one of those low, hard shots from the point that are perfect for forwards in front to deflect the puck. Heading into the 2000 Draft, most people saw Filip Novak as a future top 4 defenseman in the NHL. But after drastically improving this season in juniors, most people believe Filip now showed that he has the ability to be a number 2 defenseman in the NHL. Some also believe that if he continues to improve, he can be a number 1, but right now he definitely looks like a number 2. He shocked the entire Rangers staff last season at training camp, as he was one of the best players on the ice. He won the award for being the best rookie during training camp with the Rangers, but the Rangers felt it was better for his development to send him back to juniors and let him bulk up and improve his game. Boy, that was a great decision. If Novak comes into camp this year and again puts on a show, it’s going to be a lot tougher for Ron Low and Glen Sather to send this kid back to juniors. It’s all up to Filip whether he can prove that he can handle the NHL or not. He is not eligible for the AHL yet, so if he fails to make the Rangers, he’ll be sent back to Regina for another season of junior hockey.

Peter Smrek, 22 yrs old, 6’1 215 lbs, Acquired from St. Louis

Year     Team       League     GP   G    A   PTS   PIM
2000-01  Worcester    AHL      50   2    7     9    71
2000-01  Hartford*    AHL       5   0    2     2     2
2000-01  St.-Louis    NHL       6   2    0     2     2
2000-01  New York     NHL      14   0    3     3    12
1999-00  Peoria      ECHL       4   1    1     2     2
1999-00  Worcester    AHL      64   5   19    24    26
1998-99  Des-Moines  USHL      52   6   26    32    59

Peter Smrek was a pleasant surprise for the Rangers this season after he was acquired from the St. Louis Blues for 36 year old defenseman Alexei Gusarov on March 5th. The Rangers originally gave up a 5th round pick for Gusarov in December, so it all ends up to be a 5th round pick for Smrek, which is a great trade in my opinion. Smrek is a great skating, two-way defenseman who plays well at both ends of the ice. At 6’1 and 215 lbs, he doesn’t back down from the physical play. Some people say he would be a lot better if he played physical more often, but he does it when he needs to. One of those defenseman who won’t score 50 points and won’t dominate a game physically, but he gets the job done effictively. He did play well in the 14 games he played with the Rangers, and has a chance to stick with the team for the entire 2001/2002 season.

Fedor Tyutin, 18 yrs old, 6’3 202 lbs, Drafted 40th Overall in ’01

Year     Team              League    GP   G   A   P  PIM
2000-01  St. Petersburg    Russia    34   2   4   6   20
         Russia            U18 WJC    6   1   4   5   18
1999-00  Izhstal Izhevsk   Russia    12   0   1   1   12
1999-00  Izhstal 2 Izhevsk Russia    38  11   8  19   68
1998-99  Metallurg 2       Russia     7   0   1   1    2

Fedor Tyutin was drafted this year in the 2nd round of the 2001 Draft, 40th overall. Many people believe the Rangers got a huge steal with this selection, as teams went for the “home run” picks early in the draft and passed on the safe-bet prospects, such as Fedor Tyutin. He plays a stay-at-home defensive game, but also has some untapped offensive potential. Eugene Belashchenko, the owner and moderator of, compares Tyutin to Teppo Numminen. The Rangers signed Tyutin on July 15th, and he will be in training camp this September. The Rangers will likely see how he does in training camp, but it is basically set in stone that Tyutin will be sent to juniors to play for the Guelph Storm of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) this season, as they selected him in the 1st round of the CHL Import Draft back on June 27th. He’s definitely a prospect to keep an eye on in the future, and I for sure will be watching him closely this season.

Patrick Aufiero 21 yrs old, 6’2 191 lbs, Drafted 90th Overall in ’99

Season   Team          League   GP    G    A  Pts  PIM
2000-01  Boston U.     NCAA     34    5    8   13   30
1999-00  Boston U.     NCAA     38    3   20   23   37
1998-99  Boston U.     NCAA     22    3    4    7   14

Patrick Aufiero had an off year this season, although the Rangers are talking about signing him this summer so he can develop his game in Hartford, rather than go back to Boston University for his senior season. He’s a potential 4th or 5th defenseman in the NHL, and just like most Rangers’ defensive prospects, plays a two-way game. He has above average offensive skills, and could score 20-25 points in the NHL consistently. Is a few years away from making an impact in the NHL, although skipping his senior year of college and moving right into the AHL this season could speed up his development.

Matt Kinch, 21 yrs old, 5’11 185 lbs, Signed as a Free Agent

Year     Team          League     GP    G   A  Pts  PIM
2000-01  Calgary       WHL        70   18  66   84   52
         Calgary*      WHL        12    3   6    9    6
1999-00  Calgary       WHL        62   14  61   75   24
         Calgary*      WHL        13    2  12   14    8
         Canada        WJC         7    0   0    0    0
1998-99  Calgary       WHL        68   14  69   83   16
1997-98  Calgary       WHL        55    7  24   31   13
1996-97  Calgary       WHL        64   10  22   32   31
1995-96  Calgary       WHL         1    0   1    1    2

Matt Kinch was signed as an unrestricted free agent in June after he failed to come to terms with the Buffalo Sabres, who selected him in the 5th round of the 1999 Entry Draft. Although he is considered too small for the NHL at 5’11 and 185 pounds, Kinch will most likely play in Hartford this season and will work on developing his game both offensively and defensively, while also trying to bulk up and add on 10-15 pounds of muscle. Kinch will need to get stronger to make the NHL, as right now he is mainly an offensive defenseman. A few years in Hartford will help Kinch tremendously, and if he succeeds in the AHL, he will be given a long look by the Rangers.

Marek Zidlicky, 23 yrs old, 6’0 180 lbs, Drafted 176th Overall in ’01

Year      Team     League     GP   G   A   P  PIM
2000-01   HIFK     Finland    51  12  25  37  146
1999-00   HIFK     Finland    47   4  16  20   66

Marek Zidlicky was drafted this year in the 6th round of the 2001 Entry Draft. Word leaked out earlier in the season that the Rangers had a great deal of interest in the 23 year old Czech defenseman, so many people strongly believed the Rangers would use a pick on this kid, in which they ended up doing. A two-way defenseman who has excellent offensive skills to go along with a mean streak, Zidlicky played the past two years with HIFK Helsinki in the elite league in Finland. Marek did not come to terms on a contract, and it is likely he will spend another year in Finland. Some compare Zidlicky to Rafalski, although Zidlicky is bigger and has a much better shot. We’ll see if the Rangers get a steal out of this pick, but it was believed that if Marek signed a contract this summer, he’d have a good shot at a spot on the team during camp.

Bryce Lampman, 18 yrs old, 6’1 200 lbs, Drafted 113th Overall in ’01

Year      Team    League    GP   G   A   P   PIM
2000-01   Omaha    USHL     55  10  11  21    77
1999-00   Omaha    USHL     21   1   2   3    22

Bryce Lampman was drafted this past year in the 4th round after he captained the Omaha Lancers of the USHL to the league championship. A player who gives 110% effort every night, Lampman has excellent leadership qualities and could be a future captain in the NHL. He will likely go to the University of Nebraska at Omaha this year, unless he changes his mind and heads to the WHL, where the Kamloops Blazers hold his junior rights. Lampman is a 3-4 years away from making an impact in the NHL, but with proper development he could become a solid number 4 defenseman one day.

Martin Richter, 23 yrs old, 6’3 187 lbs, Drafted 269th Overall in ’00

Year      Team             League    GP   G   A  Pts  PIM
2000-01   SaiPa            Finland   41   4   5    9   80
1999-00   SaiPa            Finland   26   1   3    4   54
          HC Karlovy Vary  Czech     24   0   5    5   18
1998-99   HC Karlovy Vary  Czech     51   3   6    9   44
1997-98   HC Olomouc       Czech     17   1   0    1   26

A 23 year old defenseman from the Czech Republic, Martin Richter (no relation to Mike) is an swift skating defenseman who plays a two-way physical game to go along with a mean streak. He loves to play physical and crunch opponents against the boards. Richter played for the Czech Republic in the 2001 World Championships, and saw A LOT of ice time. He was one the ice more than some NHL defenseman were for the Czech team. Martin signed a contract last summer, but returned to Finland after playing a few games with the Hartford Wolf Pack. He should return to North America this year and participate in training camp.

Ilja Gorokhov, 23 years old, 6’0 190 lbs, Drafted 195th Overall in ’95

Year      Team                  League   GP   G   A   P  PIM
2000-01   Lokomotiv Yaroslavl   Russia   44   5   6  11   40

Ilya Gorokhov is a Russian defenseman who was drafted 6 years ago, 195th overall in the 1995 Entry Draft. Ilya plays a sound two-way game, and tries to play the same style as Raymond Bourque (Ilya wears number 77). Gorokhov will spend another season in Russia, and maybe in a few years he will try to make the NHL by coming over to North America.

Chris St. Croix, 22 yrs old, 6’1 186 lbs, Acquired from Calgary Flames

Year     Team               League    GP   G   A  Pts  PIM
2000-01  Saint-John         AHL       69   0   4    4   66
1999-00  Saint John         AHL       75   5  16   21   51
1998-99  Kamloops           WHL       64   8  27   35  123
1997-98  Kamloops           WHL       46   3  13   16   51
1996-97  Kamloops           WHL       67  11  39   50   67
1995-96  Kamloops           WHL       61   4   5    9   29

Chris St. Croix was acquired from the Calgary Flames on draft day for young defenseman Burke Henry. Henry never got a chance to play for the Rangers, and I guess they felt it was time to give up on him. St. Croix is not going to be anywhere near a top NHL defenseman, but in a few years he could crack the top 6. He’s a stay-at-home defenseman with good puck skills, but for the time being he’ll remain in the minors, but might see a game or two in New York because of injuries on the Rangers’ blue line.

Tomi Kallarsson, 22 years old, 6’3 206 lbs, Drafted 93rd overall in ’97

Year     Team             League      GP   G   A Pts  PIM
2000-01  Timrå IK         Sweden      37   0   0   0   54
1999-00  HPK Hameenlinna  Finland     50   0   5   5   58
1998-99  HPK Hameenlinna  Finland     25   0   0   0   22
         Ahmat Hyvinkaa   Finland 2   21   2   7   9   52
         HPK Hameenlinna  Finland Jr   2   0   1   1    6
1997-98  HPK Hameenlinna  Finland     12   0   0   0    2
1996-97  HPK Hameenlinna  Finland Jr  31   1   3   4   26

Tomi Kallarson was drafted by the Rangers in the 4th round of the 1997 Draft. Originally from Finland, Kallarsson played in the Swedish Elite League this past season with Timr√• IK, registering no points and 54 penalty minutes in 37 games. Kallarsson is a big, stay-at-home defenseman who plays a simple game. He doesn’t have much offensive potential, and kind of reminds me of Rich Pilon. A tough, stay-at-home defenseman with little offense to his game. Kallarsson will be back in Europe playing this season, and could make the jump over to North America in a few years. Some Rangers’ scouts feel Kallarsson could be another Tomas Kloucek.

Wes Jarvis, 22 years old, 6’4 215, Drafted 46th Overall in ’97

Year     Team            League    GP    G   A  Pts  PIM
2000-01  Charlotte       ECHL      39    4   8   12  185
         Charlotte*      ECHL       3    0   1    1   10
         Hartford        AHL       20    1   2    3   24
1999-00  Canada          Intl      43    2   5    7   50
1998-99  Kitchener       OHL       52    5  18   23   80
         Canada          Intl       7    1   0    1    4
1997-98  Kitchener       OHL       47   10  18   28  112
1996-97  Kitchener       OHL       56    4   8   12  108
         Kitchener*      OHL       13    0   4    4   25
1995-96  Gloucester      Jr A      43    3   6    9   73

Wes Jarvis was drafted in the 2nd round of the 1997 Entry Draft, 46th overall. At 22 years old, time is running out for Jarvis to step up and bring his game to the next level. He spent this past season splitting time between the ECHL and the AHL. He’s a big, tough defenseman, be he is extremely slow on skates and right now if you asked me to look into my crystal ball, I’d tell you I believe he is going to be a career minor league. A few years ago he was on track to become an Eric Cairns type player, but Jarvis has taken a few steps back. In hindsight I’m sure all Ranger fans can re-do this selection, as unfortunately young Swedish star Kristian Huselius went one selection later to the Florida Panthers. We’ll see what happens this year in camp, but if I had to, I’d bet my money on Jarvis spending another year in the minors.

Christian Gosselin, 24 years old, 6’6 235 lbs, Acquired from San Jose

Year     Team         League   GP   G   A  Pts  PIM
2000-01  Kentucky     AHL      42   2   3    5  145
1999-00  Kentucky     AHL      68   0   4    4  266

Christian Gosselin was one of the players acquired from the San Jose Sharks in the deal that saw Adam Graves head out west. Gosselin is 24 years old and is a tough-as-nails stay at home defenseman. He doesn’t have much offense to his game, which is shown by his lack of production. Right now Christian is nothing more than a career minor leaguer, but could see some time in the NHL because of injuries. A real fan favorite, it won’t take long before the Hartford Wolf Pack fans fall in love with this kid.

Arto Laatikainen, 21 years old, 6’0 183 lbs, Drafted 197th overall in ’99

Season   Team          League     GP    G   A  Pts  PIM
2000-01  Blues         Finland    54    5   9   14   38
1999-00  Blues         Finland    51    6   5   11   12
1998-99  Blues         Finland    48    0   6    6   14

Arto Laatikainen was a 7th rounder in 1999 from Finland. He has played the last three seasons with the Espoo Blues in Finland. Laatikainen will remain with them for the 2001/2002 season, and in a few years hey may give a shot at the NHL.

Leonid Zhvachin, 18 years old, 6’3 185 lbs, Drafted 230th in ’01

Year      Team         League       GP  G  A  P  PIM
2000-01   Podolsk Jr.  Russian Jr.  -   -  -  -   -

Leonid Zhvachin was drafted by the Rangers in the 8th round this past year. Zhvachin is a stay at home defenseman who played for the Podolsk Jr. team in a Russian Jr. league. A big, strong, physical player who has great defensive awareness and gets the job done in his own zone. If he develops his game over the next couple of seasons, he could turn into a good 5th or 6th defenseman in the NHL. Was drafted by the Guelph Storm of the OHL in the CHL Import draft, and most likely will play for them this season in juniors.

Dan Eberly, 20 years old, 6’0 180 lbs, Drafted 238th overall in ’00

Season   Team       League  GP    G    A  Pts  PIM
2000-01  Rensselaer ECAC    28    3    8   11   51
1999-00  Rensselaer ECAC    21    2    5    7    8

Dan Eberly was an 8th round pick in the 2000 Draft from Rensellaer of the ECAC (College). He is another big, stay at home defenseman who plays a physical game with a mean streak. It is too early to say whether he has a future in the NHL. Most 8th rounders do not make it far, so the odds are against him. We’ll see what happens in his 2 remaining years of college.

Premsyl Duben, 19 years old, 6’4 190 lbs, Drafted 112th Overall in ’00

Year     Team            League    GP    G   A  Pts  PIM
2000-01  Baie-Comeau     QMJHL     32    0   8    8   36

Premsyl Duben was drafted in the 4th round in 2000 from the Czech Republic. He came over to North America last season and played with the Baie-Comeau Drakkar of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, registering 8 assists in 32 games, along with 36 penalty minutes. He missed about a month during the season because of an ankle injury, and really was never given a lot of ice time. He is eligble to play in the AHL this year since he was drafted from Europe, so possibly he could join the Wolf Pack, or head back to the Drakkar for another season. The odds of Duben making the Rangers is about 1 million to 1, so it’s either juniors, minors or back to Europe for him in 2001/2002.

There it is, my in-depth look at all the defensive prospects in the Rangers organization. Check back in about a week for part two of this series, in which I will analyze the forward prospects for the New York Rangers!