Rangers 2007 draft preview

By Leslie Treff

Rangers Top 10 Prospects

  1. Al Montoya, G
  2. Marc Staal, D
  3. Alex Bourret, RW
  4. Jarkko Immonen, C
  5. Nigel Dawes, LW
  6. Brandon Dubinsky, C
  7. Ryan Callahan, RW
  8. Bobby Sanguinetti, D
  9. Dane Byers, LW
  10. Lauri Korpikoski, LW

Team Needs

With the aging of the Rangers’ top forward lines, the team needs emerging high-end skilled forwards. The deadline trades that brought prospect Alex Bourret and second liner Sean Avery to the organization were encouraging moves in this direction, but more drafting of and trading for potential first- and second-line players is necessary for the team to be a consistent contender.

Very few of the blueliners on the Blueshirts’ roster during the 2006-07 season will be in the team’s long-term plans. However, three strong defensemen (Marc Staal, Bobby Sanguinetti, and Michael Sauer) are developing in the system, and Fedor Tyutin and Daniel Girardi are already on the NHL roster. A team can never have enough blueliners in the organization, but what the Rangers’ need for the 2007-08 season is NHL-ready defensemen who can skate along the blue line until Sanguinetti and Sauer (and perhaps Staal) develop sufficiently to be at home on the Madison Square Garden ice. That will come either from a free agency signing or trade.

As far as goaltending is concerned, the Rangers settled any near-term goaltending issues during the last half of the 2006-07 season, when netminder Henrik Lundqvist proved that his rookie year was no fluke. The Rangers have a journeyman (Steve Valiquette) as a backup and a potential superstar, Al Montoya, waiting in the wings. That said, the Rangers have only one other netminding prospect (Chris Holt) in the organization. Holt got regular playing time this season and showed that he needs quite a bit more development time prior to any NHL-readiness. The Rangers should be thinking about adding another goaltending prospect this year. There are several second-, third- or fourth round possibilities that might fit that need.

Organizational Strengths

In the past two years, the Rangers have shored up their stable of defensive prospects and now are one of the strongest organizations in that area in the NHL. Between the defensive abilities of Staal and Sauer, and the offensive skills of Sanguinetti, the Blueshirts look to be strong along the blueline in the coming years.

New York also has a bevy of potential third- and fourth-line forwards among its prospects. Quite a few of the Rangers’ recent draft selections are character players, with grit and an excellent two-way game.

Montoya, for as long as he is a Rangers’ prospect, is also an organizational strength. An excellent AHL goaltender in his second professional season, he is expected to be ready for NHL play sometime next season.

Organizational Weaknesses

The most glaring weakness in the organization is the lack of potential first-line forwards among the prospects. What almost all of the young Rangers’ prospects lack, with the exception of the aforementioned Bourret, is the playmaking ability and scoring touch required to populate an NHL first line.

Further, the Rangers need to focus on possible future goaltending issues. Although at 25, Lundqvist may be between the pipes for the Blueshirts for another 10 years, there is still the chance that he may not be. Given that Montoya will be NHL-ready shortly (maybe as soon as this fall), the Rangers have to be thinking about selecting and developing another high-caliber netminder.

Draft Tendencies

For the last two draft years, the Rangers have selected defensemen in the first round of the draft. With the exception of one late-round prospect (Greg Beller), none of the team’s 2005 or 2006 NHL draft selections was NCAA-bound. In 2005, the Rangers had nine draft selections, and all but Beller were from the CHL. Last year, four of the seven players selected last year were from Europe (the rest were CHLers). However, all but one of the Europeans came to North America within three months and played in the CHL during the 2006-07 season.

Although the Rangers are not likely to completely depart from this recent draft trend, there are a large number of highly-ranked American players in this week’s NHL draft, which might tempt the Blueshirts’ management to go another route.

That management has changed somewhat with the departure of Assistant General Manager and Director of Player Personnel, Don Maloney. However, Rangers Head Amateur Scout Gordie Clark, who ran the team’s draft table for the first time last year, is expected to return to those duties in Columbus, and it is generally believed that the type of prospect sought by the organization has not changed as the result of Maloney’s departure.

Hockey’s Future Staff Mock Result: Maxim Mayorov

The Rangers are expected to keep the 17th position in the first round of this week’s draft. At that position, there will be several solid potential third- or fourth-line forwards available, as well as almost all (if not all) the netminding prospects. As there are goaltenders who are expected to be available in the second through seventh rounds, there is no rush to choose one here. Additionally, the Rangers have a number of potential third- and fourth-liners already in their system. In the HF Staff Mock Draft, Mayorov was available at No. 17. A winger who has the potential to play on the first line, Mayorov can be inconsistent at times, and is currently locked into a contract in Russia. However, he has tremendous speed and skill, combined with a likable and low-key personality. A high-risk/high-reward prospect, Mayorov could turn out to be a stud with a very long NHL career. When that fact is combined with his desire to come to North America to play hockey (perhaps sooner than expected), he is a natural choice at this draft position for the Rangers organization.

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