Rangers 2002 Draft Review

By Brandon LeBourveau

The overall pool of talent available in this draft was not what it has been in recent years, but the draft still went along with the excitment, surprises and trades that we have come to know and love over the years.

In a blockbuster trade that was completed a few days before the NHL’s trade-deadline last March, the Rangers shipped their 1st round pick in this 2002 Draft, along with a few other assets, to the Florida Panthers in return for superstar Pavel Bure. In that same deal with Florida, the Rangers also managed to swap 2nd rounders with the Panthers, moving up seven spots in the order from 40th to 33rd overall.

Here are just the facts and future projections. To further enhance the review, I have brought in Kirk Pedersen, the Canucks writer at Hockey’s Future, to provide us with his perspective from the other side of the continent.

2nd Round (33rd Overall):
Name: Lee Falardeau
Position: Center
Shoots: Left
Born: July 22, 1983
Height/Weight: 6’4 203 lbs.
Team: Michigan State University (CCHA)
CSS Rank: #31 N.A.

The Rangers and their scouts seem to be very high on Falardeau. It’s still clear to me though that the Rangers went for need on this pick. The Rangers have a couple of players like Garth Murray and Ryan Hollweg who are future third line muckers and grinders, but neither of them possess the size of Falardeau, that being 6’4 and 203 lbs. It has been evident during Glen Sather’s tenure as GM that it has been a priority to add more size to the lineup. Since his arrival, we have added the likes of Sandy McCarthy, Eric Lindros, Vladimir Malakhov, Steve McKenna, Krzysztof Oliwa and Tom Poti, who all stand over 6’3. However, we do lack that true big, physical 3rd line center who thrives on intensity and shuts down the opposition’s best line. That’s where the selection of Falardeau comes in. Although it is a possibility the Rangers may bring in a player he has been compared to, Bobby Holik, through free-agency, it’s still good to be secure in this position for the future. For such a big man, Falardeau is surprisingly quick and mobile. He’s big, tough, physical and can always be found around the crease in the offensive zone. He’s very good on face-offs and is a coach’s dream. He has a wonderful attitude and always comes to play. With the puck, Falardeau actually has some pretty good offensive skills. He didn’t light the world on fire this past season in the CCHA but there are two simple reasons for that, in my opinion. First, he was a freshman. Unless you’re Paul Kariya, freshman don’t normally receive a ton of ice time. Second, the Spartans used Falardeau as their third line checking center. His primary job was to shut down the opposition. Any offensive production was considered a bonus. As he gets older and matures more, he should produce more in College. All he needs is the ice-time and the opportunity. Now, whether the offense will follow him to the NHL is another story. We’ll have to wait and see on that, as will the Rangers. The team is in no rush for Falardeau to leave school and turn pro. They will likely allow him to finish out school while developing and maturing under the tutelage of a great program at Michigan State. The Rangers would like to see him bulk up and fill out his frame, while also becoming stronger. If Falardeau does exactly that, we could have a 6’5 225 lbs. player on our hands in three years.

NHL Potential: High-end 3rd line center, a la Joel Otto.

Pedersen: Ugh. Considering all of the talent that was available here, Falardeau isn’t a very good pick. However, in my opinion, Falardeau is a very safe pick; but do you really want a safe pick? In a draft full of gambles and question marks, I’m surprised the Rangers didn’t take one here. Falardeau will probably make a solid third-or-fourth-liner someday; but this isn’t a very exciting pick for the Rangers. Great size, and does many of the little things well.

3rd Round (81st Overall):
Name: Marcus Jonasen
Position: Left/Right Wing
Shoots: Left
Born: April 23, 1984
Height/Weight: 6’4 220 lbs.
Team: Vasteras Jr. (SWE Jrs.)
CSS Rank: #131 Euro

There was the possibility that Marcus Jonasen could have ended up not even getting draft, as his Central Scouting final ranking of 131st among European skaters would indicate. The Rangers wind up selecting him in the 3rd round, 81st overall. I can easily say that this was a Christer Rockstrom pick. Rockstrom, the head European Scout for the New York Rangers, has an impressive track record of unearthing Europeans in the late rounds who have gone on to play in the NHL. He was the one who persuaded Neil Smith, the head scout of the Detroit Red Wings, to take a little known defenseman from Sweden by the name of Nicklas Lidstrom in the 3rd round of the 1989 Draft. Lidstrom was ranked extremely low by Central Scouting but Rockstrom saw something in him that he liked and urged Smith to take him for the Red Wings. Lidstrom has become one of the NHL’s best defensemen and has won the Norris Trophy the past two years. If there is a scout on the Rangers that I would trust the most when it comes to Europeans, without a doubt it would be Rockstrom. That is why I believe Jonasen could become a solid player down the road. He’s still extremely raw but the potential is there to become a power forward in the NHL. He’s got excellent size at 6’4 220 lbs and uses it to his advantage. He drives to the net hard and plays a powerful style of game. Like Falardeau, Jonasen is a good skater for a player that big. Jonasen is a very physical and determined player who played on both the power play and penalty killing units for Vasteras Jr. this past season. It is expected that Jonasen will continue to play in Sweden for a couple of more years before making his way to the NHL. This kid is a real sleeper.

NHL Potential: 2nd or 3rd line power forward

Pedersen: Seeing as I’ve heard very little about him going into the draft, I am inclined to think Jonasen is a reach. He’s a big, bruising forward who will either boom or bust. I like how Sather/Renney went off the board to grab him; it’s a good calculated risk in a draft like this.

4th Round (127th Overall):
Name: Nathan Guenin
Position: Defense
Shoots: Right
Born: December 10, 1982
Height/Weight: 6’1 191 lbs.
Team: Green Bay Gamblers (USHL)
CSS Rank: #73 N.A.

Nathan Guenin is another player who was ranked fairly low by Central Scouting and was taken earlier than expected. The Rangers’ scouts saw a lot of good qualities in Guenin and I think he’s a safe bet to be an NHL defenseman some day. He’s a stay-at-home defenseman who brings a physical presence on the ice and is defensively responsible. He’s a leader and is well respected among his teammates. At 6’1 and 191 lbs, Guenin has good size but could use a few extra pounds by the time he reaches the NHL. An average skater with good vision and hockey sense, Guenin effectively reads the play and rarely is caught out of position. A trait that the Rangers definitely like is that he is an excellent shot blocker, a category the Rangers have led the league in over the last few seasons. In 56 games for Green Bay of the USHL this past season, Nathan recorded 4 goals, 11 assists, 15 points and 150 minutes in penalties. He has committed to Ohio State University where he will be a freshman on their blue line for this upcoming season. The Rangers will be patient with him and allow him to mature and develop over his college career. I would expect him to complete his four years at Ohio State before turning pro.

NHL Potential: Top 6, Stay-at-home Defenseman

Pedersen: Grabbing a physical defenseman with good size; nothing to complain about here. His skating could stand to improve a little.

5th Round (143rd Overall):
Name: Mike Walsh
Position: Left Wing
Shoots: Left
Born: January 12, 1983
Height/Weight: 6’2 194 lbs.
Team: Compuware Ambassadors (NAHL)
CSS Rank: #82 N.A.

With their 5th round selection (143rd overall), the Rangers chose left winger Mike Walsh from the Compuware Ambassadors of the NAHL. Walsh was ranked 82nd overall among North American skaters by Central Scouting and was the only NAHL player to be ranked. In 53 games for Compuware, Mike recorded 25 goals and 24 assists for a total of 49 points, along with 69 penalty minutes. Walsh has good size (6’2 194 lbs.) and is a potential power forward. He’s a good skater who is hard to knock off balance and a natural scorer. He has a powerful slapshot and is an accurate shooter. An intense and competitive player, Walsh plays physical and will mix it up with anyone who crosses his path. He has a great attitude and a solid work-ethic. He gives it his best effort each game and always makes his presence felt on the ice. He will attend the University of Notre Dame this upcoming season where he will look to continue his success against stiffer competition. Walsh will be given a solid opportunity to hone his skills with the help of a solid Notre Dame program. After he completes his college career, Walsh could be an impact for the New York Rangers. He’s still raw and needs to improve on all areas of his game, but the potential is there to be a good NHL player.

NHL Potential: High-end 3rd line physical forward

Pedersen: I’m not really sure what to make of this pick. Rangers take another guy with decent size. He’s a Notre Dame recruit, so he’ll be going there next year. I know next-to-nothing about this kid; but I like the size. His offensive stats weren’t too impressive, especially for a 19-year-old playing in the NAHL. We’ll see.

6th Round (177th Overall):
Name: Jake Taylor
Position: Defense
Shoots: Left
Born: August 1, 1983
Height/Weight: 6’3 203 lbs.
Team: Green Bay Gamblers (USHL)
CSS Rank: # 71 N.A.

A teammate of the Rangers’ 4th round pick, Nathan Guenin, with the Green Bay Gamblers of the USHL. In 56 games for Green Bay this past year, Taylor scored 1 goal and added 2 assists and totaled 147 penalty minutes. He is a stay-at-home defenseman but has shown some good offensive qualities. Taylor is an average skater but is strong on his skates and is hard to knock off the puck. He makes good outlet passes to his forwards and has a nice shot from the point. He plays a simple game and doesn’t stand out too much, but that is good for a defenseman. Jake is a physical player with a mean streak, although he is able to keep his emotions under control. He’s determined, competitive and works very hard to become the best player that he can be. He has a solid attitude and gives you nothing less than his best effort each game. Taylor has some potential but is going to need a few more years to develop. The Rangers will allow him to come along slowly and develop at his own pace. He is going to return to the Green Bay Gamblers for one more season before heading off to the University of Minnesota to begin his collegiate career. If he sticks to his plan and stays in school, it will be five years before Taylor turns pro. In that time, he could develop into a solid defenseman with the ability to step in and immediately help the Rangers. His progress will be interesting to watch.

NHL Potential: Top 6, Stay-at-home Defenseman

Pedersen: Rangers go back to Green Bay and select mean defenseman Jake Taylor. He’s not the kind of guy you’d want to run into in a dark alley. (or along the boards, for that matter.) He’s a decent skater, but doesn’t have good puck-skills yet.

6th Round (194th Overall):
Name: Kim Hirschovits
Position: Center
Shoots: Left
Born: May 9, 1982
Height/Weight: 6’1 183 lbs.
Team: HIFK Helsinki
CSS Rank: #108 Euro

The Rangers acquired this next pick on draft day from the San Jose Sharks. In return, the Rangers sent the Sharks their 6th round pick in 2003 and the rights to Theo Fleury. Fleury, a free agent come July 1, was not going to be re-signed by the Rangers. Since the Blueshirts have a high payroll, they would not be eligible for compensatory picks given to teams who lose unrestricted free agents. The Sharks are supposedly going to talk to Fleury’s agent and see what his asking price is, but it is likely the feisty forward will sign elsewhere, thus giving San Jose a compensatory pick in 2003. With this selection, 194th overall, the Rangers selected overage forward Kim Hirschovits from HIFK Helsinki. In 45 games for HIFK this past year, where Kim was a teammate with fellow Rangers’ prospect Marek Zidlicky, he totaled 6 goals and 16 points, along with 24 penalty minutes and a +/- rating of a +12. Hirschovits came over to North America after his season in Finland was complete, playing in 6 games for the Chicago Steel of the USHL and scoring 2 goals and 2 assists during that span. He’s a good skater with some offensive abilities, and could be a 3rd line player in the future. He could play in Hartford of the AHL next season, provided that he is signed to a contract. Needs some more minor seasoning but could be ready to step in in two to three years.

NHL Potential: 3rd line Forward

Pedersen: Hirschovits put up good numbers for a 20-year-old in the Finnish Elite League. He’s got good size, good skating ability, and isn’t afraid to get his nose dirty.

7th Round (226th Overall):
Name: Joey Crabb
Position: Right Wing
Shoots: Right
Born: April 3, 1983
Height/Weight: 6’1 179 lbs.
Team: Green Bay Gamblers (USHL)
CSS Rank: #125 N.A.

The Rangers went back again to the Green Bay Gamblers of the USHL, selecting Right Wing Joey Crabb with the 226th overall pick. They must have really liked something they saw from this program at Green Bay, having selected three players in the first seven rounds from this organization. In 61 games for the Gamblers, Crabb recorded 15 goals, 27 assists, 42 points and 94 penalty minutes. According to the NHL’s Central Scouting Service, Crabb is “A good skater who often takes advantage of his speed to beat defenders to create scoring opportunities, is an intelligent and effective player, works hard for the puck and creates good offensive opportunities with his ability to get the puck to the net. Good positional player, posesses good hands and puck skills and is sound defensively.” Crabb will attend Colorado College in the fall where he will begin his collegiate career. Has some potential, but we’ll have to wait and see how things go for him in college.

NHL Potential: 3rd/4th line forward

Pedersen: Back to Green Bay of the USHL again? Does their GM have pictures of Sather? This is another solid pick considering the round. Good skater, nice offensive instincts and a good scorer at his level. Could be a sleeper.

8th Round (240th Overall):
Name: Petr Prucha
Position: Center
Shoots: Right
Born: September 14, 1982
Height/Weight: 5’10 161 lbs.
Team: Pardubice Jr. (Czech Jrs.)
CSS Rank: #89 Euro

According to Robert Neuhauser, Hockey Future’s Czech Republic correspondent, “Czech junior Extraleague goaltenders will breathe a sigh of relief when hearing about the fact that the ultimate sniper Petr Prucha is going to graduate to the senior team or the Div I league full-time. Prucha was the top goalscrorer of the Czech junior Extraleague this past season and he ripped off also the Div I league during his short stint. The New York Rangers fell in love with this diminutive waterbug, who also showed up at the 2002 WJC. Prucha is a typical finesse forward with great skating and stickhandling ability and the only thing he lacks is size. He has a great acceleration and is regularly terrorising the opposition with his nifty moves and an ability to succeed in one-on-one situations. The jury is out on the fact if he can translate his sniper instincts and elusive skating also to the tougher North American game. Almost a non-factor defensively, Petr will have to get rid of his one-dimensional label. Probably won’t be willing to play in the minors and will return to Europe if he can’t crack the Rangers lineup. If he repeats this year’s success, then the Rangers have found a gem.”

NHL Potential: 2nd or 3rd line center with the ability to score

Pedersen: Rangers dip into the Czech Republic and take this pint-sized sniper. He’s still very small, and needs to bulk up a great deal before he’ll be a factor in North America. He’s a great skater with nifty moves that always keep the defense guessing. However, he’s only a one-way player who has no idea what defense is. Rangers should be fine as long as they don’t find him on a line with Pavel Bure any time soon.

9th Round (270th Overall):
Name: Rob Flynn
Position: Right Wing
Shoots: Right
Born: January 8, 1983
Height/Weight: 6’2 210 lbs.
Team: Harvard University Crimson (ECAC)
CSS Rank: #150 N.A.

In the 9th Round, the Rangers went back to college to select Harvard right winger Rob Flynn with the 270th overall pick. Flynn, a teammate with Rangers’ prospect Dominic Moore at Harvard, is a hard-working winger with good size and a solid work-ethic. He’s a very physical, intense player with the ability to play a sound two-way game. He has displayed the willingness to take a hit to make a player and was one of the more physical players in the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference this past year. Offensively, he doesn’t have the skills to produce much but managed a goal and three assists in 30 games for Harvard. Will continue to stay in school and work on improving all aspects of his game.

NHL Potential: 4th line grinder/physical presence

Pedersen: Rob Flynn is a good checking centre who seemed to forget where the puck and the net were in his freshman season at Harvard. He’s got good size, and will definitely benefit from some increased teaching and ice-time in his sophomore season.

Overall, the Rangers selected seven forwards and two defenseman, which included three Europeans and six Americans. Two of the Europeans are overagers and could find themselves playing in North America this upcoming season. The six Americans are going to be remaining in their collegiate programs for another season at the very least. Eight out of the nine players are over 6 feet tall, while only three out of the nine are more than 200 lbs. There were a lot of surprising picks and a couple of questions marks, but we’ll have to wait at least five years before we can really judge this draft. Many of the players will be heading off to college hockey and are expected to stay in school for the full four years. A lot can happen from now until then, so we’ll have to be patient while these youngsters develop and improve their games.