New York Rangers 2013 draft preview

By Leslie Treff

JT Miller - New York Rangers

Photo: Selected 15th overall in the 2011 draft, forward J.T. Miller has quickly developed into a promising NHL player. (courtesy of Will Schneekloth/Icon SMI)

The New York Rangers have been through a lot of changes since the 2012 draft, most notably obtaining elite forward Rick Nash, which cost the team this year's first round selection, and gritty forward Ryan Clowe at the trade deadline, which cost New York's second round pick. So, unless there are more trades over the next few days, the Rangers will be very quiet in the early rounds on Sunday. But do not put it past General Manager and President Glen Sather to make some noise, as there are valuable players, including prospects, who can be traded to either move up in the draft or obtain an extra selection.

Top 10 Prospects:

1. Chris Kreider, LW
2. J.T. Miller, RW
3. Dylan McIlrath, D
4. Jesper Fasth, RW
5. Christian Thomas, RW
6. Brady Skjei, D
7. Cristoval "Boo" Nieves, C
8. Oscar Lindberg, C
9. Michael St. Croix, C
10. Cam Talbot, G

Team Needs

Right now the Rangers are in a state of flux, as head coach John Tortorella, was let go after the 2012-13 campaign ended prematurely. Tortorella's game, requiring everyone to block shots and play aggressively, did not always suit the players that the team has been drafting or trading for. Last week the Rangers named former Vancouver head coach Alain Vigneault to replace Tortorella, which should help change the style of play in New York. This change will affect all areas of the teams' play as new assistant coaches are expected to be named shortly. In addition to the departure of Tortorella, Mark Messier has decided to leave the organization (at least for a while), which adds to the clean slate, flux state of the team.

The Rangers are particularly in need of an effective power play, as well as steady lines that can develop chemistry. The team's play in the post-season did not show an effective offensive or defensive system. There is sufficient talent within the system to develop two lines of offensive players and at least two superior defensive pairings, but it remains to be seen how long it will take Vigneault to put all this together, as well as how much time will be required for some of the key prospects to develop to full capacity.  

Of particular need is at least one big, tough defensive defenseman. The Rangers are hoping that will be prospect Dylan McIlrath, although he is unlikely to be fully ready to start this season with the NHL team. Additionally, if Marc Staal is unable to return to pre-injury form, that will leave a significant hole in the Rangers' roster.

Organizational Strengths

The Rangers have four possible top six skilled NHL players on the wing and one at center. Chris Kreider is the organization's top prospect, and he has already appeared in 23 regular season and 30 post-season games. Kreider's game is more suited to Vigneault's style of play than that of Tortorella, so expect much greater production out of the young forward next season.

The addition of Jesper Fasth and Oscar Lindberg to North American hockey should also give the Rangers a boost next season. Although each of the two may begin next season in Hartford with New York's AHL affiliate, they are strong contenders for an NHL roster spot, and each could add offensive punch to their team.

Dylan McIlrath, Brady Skjei, and Samuel Noreau form the core of future defensive defensemen in the Rangers organization. Although none of them may be ready for NHL play this fall, all of them have good size and potentially can be very effective on the blue line.

Organizational Weaknesses

The need to re-sign top goaltender Henrik Lundqvist is a top priority for the Rangers. After "The King," there is very little high end goalie talent in the system. Cameron Talbot, is the best netminding prospect in the system, should be ready for backup duties within a year, but he is already 26 and does not look like the heir apparent to Lundqvist.

The Rangers are also weak in offensive defensemen within their system. After years when New York selected both Bobby Sanguinetti and Michael Del Zotto in the first round of the 2006 and 2008 drafts, no true offensive defenseman have been in the system until 2012 fourth round pick Calle Andersson. A longshot from making the NHL and expected to play in Europe for at least one more season, the Rangers need to find other potential offensive blueliners either by draft or free agent signing.  

Draft Tendencies

New York has three picks in the third round (numbers 65, 75, and 80), a fourth rounder (number 110) and a sixth round selection (number 170) in the 2013 draft. Recently, the Rangers have focused on players who are either college-bound or playing in Europe. The team is not averse to selecting CHL players however, especially when the prospect is seen to have dropped in the draft or have off-ice issues.

The team has not drafted a netminder since Scott Stajcer, in the fifth round of 2009. Expect to see a goalie selected in the 2013 draft. The time is right for grooming a successor to Henrik Lundqvist, and although that successor may be traded for at a later date, taking a risk on at least one mid-to-late round selection would be a good idea.

Finally, the Rangers might look to obtain a high risk/high reward offensive defenseman in this draft. One or more may be available in the third round of the draft.