The Rangers were very active in the NHL Entry Draft and ended up making seven selections and acquiring two players via trade.
As expected, the team focused largely on offense spending their first four picks on forwards. The Rangers then drafted a goaltender in the fifth round followed by two defensemen. With the 19th selection in the first round, the Rangers chose 6-2, 205-pound center Chris Kreider, widely considered the best skater in the draft. Kreider is a project and will attend Boston College in the fall. Next ,with the 47th selection in the second round, the Rangers took center Ethan Werek who likens himself to Corey Perry. The Rangers were reportedly thrilled that Werek dropped to them, as he was projected to be a high second round choice.
In the third round, with pick #80, the Rangers made an impossible-to-dislike pick, center Ryan Bourque, son of the NHL great. Bourque is a bit undersized but apparently has great hockey sense. Can't see how he wouldn't based on the bloodlines. Bourque also happens to be from the same hometown as Kreider; Boxford, Massachusetts.
The Rangers did not have a fourth round choice but used the first of their fifth round picks, #127, on center Roman Horak from the Czech Republic. The Rangers seem to take a Czech project every year, and they've had success at the NHL level recently with players of that heritage.
At #140, the Rangers took goalie Scott Stajcer who plays for Owen Sound of the OHL. Stajcer has awful stats that suggest he shouldn't have been drafted, but the Rangers took a goalie a few years back in the sixth round by the name of Henrik Lundqvist, so who knows.
After dealing their final fifth round choice, the Rangers took defenseman Daniel Maggio with the 170th pick in the sixth round. Maggio has been described as a stay-at-home defenseman and plays for Sudbury of the OHL.
With their final choice of the draft, the Rangers used the 200th pick on Russian defenseman Mihail Pashnin.
General manager Glen Sather was also active on the trade market, albeit not quite as expected. There was no acquisition of Dany Heatley or shed of salary. Instead the Rangers traded one of their three fifth round choices, #151 overall, to the Pittsburgh Penguins for goalie Chad Johnson. The Rangers also traded their third round choice in next year's draft to the Los Angeles Kings for former first round pick, Brian Boyle. Ironically, the Penguins used the fifth round choice they received from the Rangers to select Andy Bathgate, the grandson of the former Ranger great.
I can't pretend to know much of anything about any of the new Rangers. But despite an extremely rocky start to his drafting tenure, Glen Sather and company have done an impressive job over the last few years. Sather addressed the team's pressing need sufficiently by taking offensive-minded players with the team's first four picks. He also acquired a giant, literally, in Boyle, 24, a restricted free agent. Sather seems intent on getting former first round picks that haven't yet reached bust status but are very close. Still, Boyle is a huge specimen and may yet bring something to the table.
While most pundits seemed to agree that the Rangers were in need of a young goaltender in the draft, I didn't understand the reasoning. Henrik Lundqvist isn't going anywhere anytime soon and if god forbid something did happen to him, marginal prospects won't do much to help the Rangers anyway. Still the team ended up with two new netminders, though neither seems like a great bet to succeed.
As Sather himself said today, the Rangers have a wealth of NHL-ready defensive prospects, but they added two more Saturday. One or more of Corey Potter, Michael Sauer, Bobby Sanguinetti, Michael Del Zotto, and Matt Gilroy will likely be traded this summer, so acquiring a couple more blueliners was a good plan.
The draft is a crapshoot and can't justly be evaluated for several years. But Sather must be commended for swiftly addressing the organization's shortage of offensive talent. While it would have been nice to see the Rangers dump Scott Gomez, Michal Roszival, or Chris Drury this weekend, that task seems to be as impossible as previously thought.
Many, myself included, were also extremely optimistic that Dany Heatley might be acquired last night for the Rangers first round choice and some combination of players, but the Senators have overpriced their winger. It seems that a high draft choice is not what the Senators wanted in return for Heatley, so it is possible that Heatley may yet be a Ranger.
Still, today's news that Sather extended a qualifying offer to restricted free agent Nik Zherdev doesn't bode well. While we won't see results from many of these picks for at least a couple years, perhaps Brian Boyle will end up with the big club this season. While he clearly has yet to put his game together, the idea of his hulking frame planted in front on the power play may have been too tantalizing for Sather to pass up.
Now, the Rangers must decide what restricted free agents to qualify (if they haven't already) and begin preparations for the free agent frenzy on July 1st.
Kevin Baumer writes about college and pro sports. He lives in New Providence, NJ.
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