June 2007


The opening shots in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft have been fired as teams jockey for position in the Great Goaltending Hunt of 2007.

The San Jose Sharks started the puck rolling when they traded goalie Vesa Toskala and C/LW Mark Bell to the Toronto Maple Leafs for either a 2007 or 2008 first round draft pick (San Jose’s choice), the Leafs 2007 second round pick (#44) and a fourth round pick in 2009.  Unlike Isiah Thomas’s debacle in the Eddy Curry trade with the Chicago Bulls, Toronto built in protection of the Sharks opt for the 2008 first rounder.  If that pick is in the top 10 in 2008, then the pick becomes a 2009 first rounder.

The next volley came as the Nashville Predators continue to dismantle in the wake of their uncertain ownership/location situation.  The Predators traded goalie Tomas Vokoun to the Florida Panthers for their 2008 first round draft pick, their 2007 second round draft pick (#58) and a conditional 2007 or 2008 second draft pick.  Nashville still has Chris Mason and top prospect Pekka Rinne in goal. 


In a smaller trade, the Chicago Blackhawks managed to move one of their “unmovable” contract when they sent defenseman Adrian Aucoin and a 2007 seventh round draft pick to the Calgary Flames in exchange for a pair of defenseman – Andrei Zyuzin and Steve Marr (who played in the AHL with Omaha last season).

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As if trying to produce a Mock Draft the First Round of the 2007 NHL Draft wasn’t hard enough, here is my longest of shots attempt at a Second Round Mock Draft – an exclusive for Ranger Ramblings readers.
 
Each player has his Hockey News rating (THN), his Central Scouting rating (CSS) and his International Scouting Service rating (ISS), as well as his ISS player comparison – if available.  CSS divides their ratings between North Americans (NA) and Europeans (Euro).  The draft positions used are as of June 20, 2007.  Please note that Chicago holds an option on Vancouver’s pick at #56 and Los Angeles holds the option to Vancouver’s pick at #61.  Minnesota’s selection at #42 is a compensatory pick from the NHL because they did not sign former first rounder A.J. Thelen.  Given the potential for trades come the draft, it is very possible that the Second Round will change dramatically.  Another point to consider is that there are as many as 10 second round players could very well find their way into the end of the first round – which will make for an interesting second round due to the slippage factor.

  1. Buffalo Sabres – Logan MacMillan (C)

THN: #38 – CSS: 42 NA skater – ISS: #24 (Rod Brind’Amour)

With Sabres possibly facing the loss of Daniel Briere and Chris Drury, the son of former NHLer Bob MacMillan is a solid two-way forward who can play in all situations.  Logan could better as the season progressed and into the playoffs.

  1. Phoenix Coyotes – Nick Ross (D)

THN: #58 – CSS: #18 NA skater – ISS: #42 (Sheldon Souray)

While there are issues about Ross and conditioning/fitness level, he is a d-man who likes to hit and has the ability to move the puck and owns a great shot from the point – hence the Souray comparison by ISS. 
 

  1. Vancouver Canucks – Riley Nash (C)

THN: #95 – CSS: #64 NA skater – ISS: #37 (Patrick Eaves)

Nash has been a late riser in draft circles; in fact he wasn’t even rated by ISS in their October 2006 ratings.  He played for the same BCHL team (Salmon Arm) as Devils first rounder Travis Zajac.  Nash is a solid player who does a little bit of everything and comes to play every night.  
 

  1. Washington Capitals – Colby Cohen (D)

THN: #54 – CSS: #25 NA skater – ISS: #43 (Bryan McCabe)

The 6-2/200 rearguard is an offensive d-man who has the potential to QB the power play in the NHL.  His puck moving skills and hockey sense are the keys to his game.  While ISS mentioned possible attitude problems, they see improving his defensive play as the only concern in his development.
 

  1. Chicago Blackhawks – Michal Repik (RW)

THN: #33 – CSS: #58 NA skater – ISS: #26 (Henrik Zetterberg)

Repik is too good of an offensive player for the Blackhawks to pass up at this point in the draft.  THN compared him to Milan Hejduk.  Repik’s game is keyed by his strong skater, puck skills and outstanding scoring ability.  Because of his size (5-10/180), he tends to be more of a finesse player.  If he can bulk up a bit, he make some teams regret passing him up in the first round.
 

  1. Edmonton Oilers – Brendan Smith (D)

THN: #46 – CSS: #68 NA skater – ISS: #54 (No player comparison)

Smith has good size (6-2/170) and tremendous offensive ability and strong skating ability.  The one downside is he hasn’t mastered the defensive side and he needs to become stronger – two facets of his game that are sure to improve as he joins the University of Wisconsin in the fall.
 

  1. Columbus Blue Jackets – Jim O’Brien (C)

THN: #25 – CSS: #38 NA skater – ISS: #22 (Patrick Marleau)

O’Brien started last year as a 17-year-old freshman at the University of Minnesota and was used a fourth-liner.  As a result, his numbers might not impress (43-7-8-15), but they should get better as he gets more ice time and responsibility.  However, he has good hands and hockey sense to match.  His game will continue to grow as he matures and fills out his 6-2/185 frame.
 

  1. Boston Bruins – Mike Hoeffel (LW)

THN: #27 – CSS: #22 NA skater- ISS: #31 (Cory Stillman)

Hoeffel lost valuable development time last year due at an ACL injury.  At 6-2/186, he projects out as a power forward with solid skating ability.  Of all the second rounders, he might be the one most likely to be a first round pick because of the potential he has.  He will attend the University of Minnesota in the fall.
 

  1. St. Louis Blues – John Negrin (D)

THN: #29 – CSS: #85 NA skater – ISS: #44 (Bret Hedican)

Negrin suffered a concussion early in the season and then followed that up with an ankle injury that limited him 50 games in Juniors and the Canadian Under-18 team.  He is one of the better skaters in the draft and has the ability to make smart first passes out of the zone.  His numbers will improve as he gets more ice time and responsibility.  While he has good size (6-2/195), he needs to learn to play a more physical and tougher game.
 

  1. Florida Panthers – Jeremy Smith (G)

THN: #42 – CSS: #1 NA goalie – ISS: #49 (Cam Ward)

While the 2007 Draft does not feature an elite goaltender, Smith is a solid NHL prospect who fills a definite need for the Panthers.  While he put up good numbers splitting time in the regular season, Smith ended up watching Michal Neuvirth excel in the playoffs for Plymouth.  Smith’s butterfly style allows him to make the first save and control rebounds – especially on low shots.

  1. San Jose Sharks – Ruslan Bashkirov (LW)

THN: #43 – CSS: #35 NA skater – ISS: #45 (Mike Grier)

Bashkirov is another in a long line of European prospects who have come to North America to continue their development.  A teammate of Angelo Esposito, Bashkirov uses his size well (5-11/186).  He gives a consistent effort every night and only his skating holds him back from being a higher draft pick.
 

  1. Minnesota Wild – Pat White (C)

THN: #60 – CSS: #23 NA skater – ISS: #23 (Craig Conroy)

White is the solid type of two-player that coach Jacques Lemaire loves.  He can play in all situations (Even, PP and SH).  White was one of 10 finalists for the MR. Hockey Award as the best high school senior in Minnesota.  He is staying close to home, as he will head to the University of Minnesota in the fall.
 

  1. Montreal Canadiens – Simon Hjalmarsson (LW)

THN: Not Rated in Top 100 – CSS: #6 Euro skater – ISS: #38 (Mike Cammalleri)

Hjalmarsson is another player not rated by ISS in October 2006, but improved as the season progressed.  He is a strong skater who works hard shift-in and shift-out.  While he is not all that big (5-11/169), Simon is not afraid of physical play.
 

  1. Toronto Maple Leafs – Stefan Legein (RW)

THN: #57 – CSS: #13 NA skater – ISS: #142 (No player comparison)

Despite his size (5-9/170), Legein is a feisty player in the mold of a Sean Avery or Darcy Tucker – except with better skating ability and scoring skills (43 goals in 64 OHL games).
 

  1. Colorado Avalanche – Bill Sweatt (LW)

THN: #28 – CSS: #27 NA skater – ISS: #32 (Mike Fisher)

Sweatt is a two-way player whose speed and defensive abilities are ahead of his offensive game.  He might be the best and fastest skater in the draft.  He will be a good speed/defensive member of a second line and will be a valuable contributor as a penalty killer.

  1. Washington Capitals – T.J. Brennan (D)

THN: #69 – CSS: #29 NA skater – ISS: #51 (Tom Pressing)

Brennan is an offensive defenseman with good skating skills and puck handling ability.  At 6-1/204, he has good size but still need to learn to be more a physical presence.  He won’t be a star blueliner, but he will be a steady defenseman who will contribute offensively and be a good addition to the firepower at forward. 
 

  1. Tampa Bay Lightning – Dana Tyrell (C)

THN: # 34 – CSS: #15 NA skater – ISS: #35 (Martin Gelinas)

At some point salary cap restrictions will force Tampa Bay to move one of their top forwards.  Tyrell will be a nice player to have in reserve.  He has big-time skating skills and, despite his size (5-10/185), plays a physical game and does not shy away from the gritty job, and displays solid leadership skills.
 

  1. New York Rangers – Max Gratchev (LW)

THN: #39 – CSS: #46 NA skater – ISS: #39 (Ales Kotalik)

Gratchev is an offensive player who needs work with this defensive play and must get stronger to compensate for his smallish stature (5-10/196).  Since he just missed being eligible for the 1006 Draft, Gratchev is more mature than most of the 2007 prospects and has shown steady improvement in his three years in the QMJHL.  If Gratchev is gone, and I was running the Rangers, I would look to Zach Torquato or Joel Gistedt.
 

  1. Colorado Avalanche – Joel Gistedt (G)

THN: #44 – CSS: #1 Euro goalie – CSS: #72 (No player comparison)

With the Avalanche’s goaltending depth in questions, Gistedt definitely fills a need.  Another possibility for the Caps is Kent Patterson, but Gistedt is closer to being NHL ready.  He was passed over in last year’s draft and responded with a solid 2006/2007 as he replaced former NHLer Tommy Sale as the number one netminder with Frolunda in Sweden.   
 

  1. Dallas Stars – Zach Torquato (C)

THN: #56 – CSS: #61 NA skater – ISS: #48 (Jason Allison)

Since Mike Modano can’t play forever, or at least for as long as Chris Chelios, Torquato is a solid pick for the Stars.  He plays PP and SH in addition to even strength and uses his soft hands and puck handling skills well.  Torquato has good size (6-0/195), but he needs to use it more often.  He also needs to strengthen his skating game – something that keeps out of the first round.

  1. Pittsburgh Penguins – David Stich (D)

THN: #67 – CSS: #73 NA skater – ISS: #66
Stich is strong two-way defenseman who has the skill set and hockey sense to play in all situations in Junior hockey.  He was the assistant captain of the Czech team in the Under-18 Tournament.  At 6-2/209, Stich has the size and desire to play a physical game and he is ready, willing and able to hit anything in an opposing jersey.
 

  1. Los Angeles Kings – Keven Veilleux (C)

THN: #20 – CSS: #33 NA skater – ISS: #47 (Sergei Samsonov)

At 6-5/202, Veilleux combines NHL size with NHL skill as a potential power forward on the first or second line.  However, and you knew that was coming, his play is consistently inconsistent.  He followed up a solid Under-18 Tournament for Canada with a poor second half and virtually non-existent playoff.  He might even be able to get away with his inconsistency except his skating is average.  Despite all of that, the potential is there for a special player with the right coach and situation.
 

  1. Columbus Blue Jackets – Olivier Fortier (C)

THN: #51 – CSS: #44 NA skater – ISS: #55 (No player comparison)

New GM Scott Howson needs to add some depth to his forward corps and Fortier gives him a solid two-way player.  He was used as a checking center on Canada’s Under-18 team (along with Brendon Sutter).  While his offensive game is under development, he is a good defensive player who utilizes his speed.  Because of this, he has the potential to be a third line center who can be more if his offensive game equals his work ethic.
 

  1. Nashville Predators – Kevin Marshall (D)

THN: #59 – CSS: #47 NA skater – ISS: #56 (No player comparison)

After losing Ryan Parent and Kimmo Timonen in two separate trades with the Flyers, David Poile needs to replenish his defense.  While the 6-1/191 Marshall might be classified as a two-way d-man, his defensive game is better than his offensive game.  He plays a steady defense and will play aggressively, and has the ability to block shots and disrupt passes.  Offensively, he is a good skater whose hockey smarts allow him to make the right play.

  1. Colorado Avalanche – Teddy Ruth (D)

THN: # 64 – CSS: #32 NA – ISS: #70 (No player comparison)

If Colorado doesn’t draft Ruth, they could tab his Under-18 defense partner and fellow Notre Dame freshman to be Ian Cole.  Fighting Irish coach Jeff Jackson called Ruth “a blood and guts kind of defenseman … who plays a tough, physical style.”  He plays a simple game and is able to make the first pass.  He could stand to use his 6-1/200 frame better, but that will come as he develops during his collegiate years.

  1. Vancouver Canucks – Juraj Valach (D)

THN: #85 – CSS: #125 NA skater – ISS: #98 (No player comparison)

Every team is on the lookout for the next Zdeno Chara.  The Capitals spent two first round picks on Sasha Pokulok (6-5) and Joe Finley (6-7).  Valach is the next contender as he weighs in at 6-6/216.  As you might imagine, graceful is not one word that would be used to describe Valach.  He does have some issues with his skating, but that is to be expected given his size.  He does own a big shot from the point and is a d-man who is more comfortable leading the rush than joining it.  If this pick ends up transferring to Chicago, Valach would not be a bad addition for the Blackhawks because he would have time to develop and mature.
 

  1. New Jersey Devils – Casey Pierro-Zabotel (C)

THN: #62 – CSS: #75 NA skater – ISS: #59 (No player comparison)

Lou Lamoriello has no problems taking chances come draft day.  He is also known for taking lesser-known players.  Pierro-Zabotel spent three years in the BCHL – the same league as Travis Zajac.  Casey is a solid all-around player who will be playing for Michigan Tech in the fall.  He has the ability to elevate his game to match other skilled players.
 

  1. Florida Panthers – Nicholas Torp (D)

THN: #82 – CSS: #7 Euro skater – ISS: #69 (No player comparison)

The 5-11/196 fireplug does a little bit of everything.    He has the ability to move the puck and find the open man.  At the same time, he doesn’t shy away from physical play – although he could be even more physical.  One thing that can’t be questioned is his leadership.  Torp was an assistant captain of the Swedish Under-18 team.
 

  1. Buffalo Sabres – Dustin Jeffrey (C)

THN: #93 – CSS: #137 NA skater – ISS: #78 (No player comparison)

Jeffrey proved all 30 teams wrong when they passed over him in 2006.  He scored 34 goals and 58 assists with Sault Ste. Marie.  At 6-2/205, Jeffrey is a solid two-way player who is more playmaker than pure goal scorer and plays in all situations.  His skating needs work, or else he would have been a higher draft pick.
 

  1. Ottawa Senators – Spencer Machacek (RW)

THN: #65 – CSS: #52 NA skater – ISS: #33 (Kris Draper)

The Senators have plenty of offensive dazzle the likes of Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley.  What they can use is a forward who plays a solid two-way game – and that is Machacek.  He is a consistent player who can play and contribute on all four lines.  He finishes his checks and brings that type of energy to every facet of his game.  While he is 6-1/182, Machacek would benefit from getting stronger to absorb the physical punishment he will get (and deliver) in the NHL.

  1. Vancouver Canucks – Vitali Karamnov (C)

THN: #63 – CSS: #19 Euro skater – ISS: #52 (Mike Fisher)

Karamnov plays a strong all-around game and feature a solid sense for the game.  He uses his speed and puck handling skills to generate his offense.  He has good leadership qualities and was the captain of Russia’s Under-18 squad.  At 6-1/180, he isn’t overly physical, but he will do what it takes to make the play.  If this pick is transferred to Los Angeles, I am not so sure they would take another center.  The Kings would be better off looking at defenseman like Keith Aulie.  The 6-5/208 Aulie has surprisingly good skating skills for a man his size, but he needs to learn to use it more effectively.  The Kings might also look at a pair of goaltenders: Trevor Cann who was a workhorse playing in 62 of 66 games for Peterborough or Kent Patterson who played in the USHL.


I have one side note in reference to Patterson.  The Rangers should try and acquire a third round pick if Patterson is still available.  He was born September 15, 1989 – which means he is the youngest player in the draft because that is deadline for eligibility in the 2007 Draft.  He is a few years away from even considering turning pro – which will let the Henrik Lundqvist and Al Montoya situation play out its course and leave the Rangers with another solid netminder in the system.


 
 


 


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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The 2007 NHL Draft finds itself in a Catch-22 situation. On one hand, there is intrigue in respect that it is hard to get a handle on exactly which teams will draft which players – and that helps build excitement and anticipation. On the other hand, there is no Sidney Crosby or Alexander Ovechkin presence in the draft. Factor in the ongoing problem between the NHL and Russian Hockey Federation in reference to player transfers, and you have a draft that is ripe for a lot of trades as teams will jockey for position.

While the draft might be considered “weak”, that does not mean that there is not talent out there waiting to be discovered.

“There are good players out there, we just have to look harder to find them,” a scout told Bob McKenzie in a TSN.CA article. “There are a lot more projections in this draft. The good NHL players aren’t as obvious as now, but that doesn’t mean a lot of them won’t develop into good pros.”

So, f you want an impact player this year, the place to be is in the top third of the draft.

“As Red Line has stated before, the 2007 draft class is not a deep one, and if you want to be even mildly certain of getting a true blue chipper, you’ll need to be picking among the top 10 overall,” Kyle Woodlief of Red Line Report wrote in a USA TODAY column.

Teams will be monitoring their draft boards to determine the slippage factor of their favorite players. GMs will be playing a game of chicken to see how low a player will drop before being selected. If a player you like at #11 is going to be available at #33, why not trade down and acquire extra draft picks and/or players because there will come a time where better value can be had by moving down.

“Of the 10 or so scouts we talked to for this project, most said the prospects you see in the 15 to 50 range are interchangeable, meaning a lot of teams will come out happy with their first and second round picks,” Alan Adams wrote in The Hockey News’ 2007 Draft Preview.

While he does have a horse in the race, so to speak, Central Scouting’s Bureau Director E.J. McGuire is quick to defend the 2007 Draft.

“Because there is no consensus No. 1 pick people are predicting it’s a poor draft,” McGuire told Dave Waddell of the Windsor Sun. “If three or four guys could go No. 1 then I don’t think it means it’s a bad draft.”

“There are some good players and I don’t think you’ll see a real drop off in talent level until you get into the late teens,” McGuire added.

Before we head into my 2007 NHL Mock Draft, I am going to give the last word to TSN’s Bob McKenzie.

“In the more than 20 years [that] I have been doing rankings of this nature, there has NEVER been a year like this, where players ranked as low as 50 by some teams are getting serious first round consideration from others. It is a draft of highly interchangeable parts; personal preferences and organizational needs will come into play more than ever this year,” McKenzie wrote on TSN.CA.

“There has never been such a wide divergence of opinion on the prospects, even with the top 10, so whatever this draft may lack in marquee value will be more than offset by the intrigue of unpredictability.”

Each player has his Hockey News rating (THN), his Central Scouting rating (CSS) and his International Scouting Service rating (ISS), as well as his ISS player comparison. CSS divides their ratings between North Americans (NA) and Europeans (Euro). The draft positions used are as of June 20, 2007.


  1. Chicago Blackhawks – Patrick Kane (RW)

THN: #1 – CSS: #2 NA skater – ISS: #1 (Pavel Datsyuk)

What Kane lacks in size he makes up for in offensive ability, hockey sense and the best set of hands in the draft. Kane and Jonathan Toews are a great start to finally rebuilding this Original Six franchise.

  1. Philadelphia Flyers – James vanRiemsdyk (LW)

THN: #2 – CSS: #3 NA skater – ISS: #2 (Rick Nash)

This pick could just as easily be Kyle Turris, but the Flyers would be better off adding the size (6-3/200) and strength that VanRiemsdyk brings to the table.

  1. Phoenix Coyotes – Kyle Turris (C)

THN: #3 – CSS: 1 NA skater – ISS: 3 (Steve Yzerman)

Coach Wayne Gretzky is going to love his playmaking ability and excellent puck-handling skills – as well as his keen sense for the game.

  1. Los Angeles Kings – Karl Alzner (D)

THN: #8 – CSS: #5 NA skater – ISS: #6 (Francois Beauchemin)

While the Kings might be tempted by the offense that is still left on the boards, they learned from watching their California neighbors march to the Stanley Cup with Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer leading the way. Alzner and Jack Johnson will give L.A. a formidable one-two punch on defense.

  1. Washington Capitals – Sam Gagner (C)

THN: #6 – CSS: #6 NA skater – ISS: #7 (Marc Savard)

The biggest need for the Capital is someone to set up Alexander Ovechkin. While they do have Nicklas Backstrom in the fold, Gagner gives them another top center – freeing one of them to center a second line with Alexander Semin.

  1. Edmonton Oilers – Jakub Voracek (RW)

THN: #7 – CSS: #7 NA skater – ISS: #5 (Ales Hemsky)

Voracek might not be the physical player Ryan Smyth is, but he fits in well with their other forward prospects. While he has goal scoring talent, he is even better as a playmaker.

  1. Columbus Blue Jackets – Keaton Ellerby (D)

THN: #11 – CSS: #4 NA skater – ISS: #9 (Jay Bouwmeester)

Much like the Kings, they could very easily draft a scoring forward – especially with Nikolai Zherdev on this ice. However, a 6-4/190 blueliner is hard to pass up – especially when he is a tough, good skating defenseman who can handle/move the puck and play on special team units.

  1. Boston Bruins – Logan Couture (C)

THN: #7 – CSS: #19 NA skater – ISS: #13 (Rod Brind’Amour)

The Bruins could use the explosive power of an Alexei Cherepanov, but owner Jeremy Jacobs is not going to empty his pockets and buck the Russian Hockey Federation. Instead, Boston will select Couture who was one of the top players entering the draft before injuries and mono slowed him down.

  1. St. Louis Blues – Alexei Cherepanov (RW)

THN: #5 – CSS: – #1 Euro skater – ISS: #4 (Alexei Kovalev)

With three first round draft picks, the Blues can afford to be aggressive and take chances – hence the selection of Cherepanov who might be the most talented offensive player in the draft. With that said, it would not surprise me to see the Blues trade out of this spot for immediate help – especially if someone truly fancies Cherepanov.

  1. Florida Panthers – Ryan McDonagh (D)

THN: #30 – CSS: #11 NA skater – ISS: #19 (Dan Boyle)

If Cherepanov drops, the Panthers would have to jump on him. If not, they will draft the reigning Mr. Hockey (i.e. Minnesota’s best high school player). They have some depth among their young forwards and the offensive defenseman is solid in all facets of the game and will be a great addition to Jay Bouwmeester on the blue line.

  1. Carolina Hurricanes –Kevin Shattenkirk (D)

THN: #18 – CSS: #34 NA skater – ISS: #27 (John Michael Liles)

It is possible that Shattenkirk and McDonagh might end up switching draft slots. Shattenkirk is more advanced offensively, but McDonagh is the better defensive player at this point. Even though they acquired Tim Gleason, Carolina could use a big-time prospect on defense.

  1. Montreal Canadiens – Angelo Esposito (C)

THN: #9 – CSS: #8 NA skater – ISS: #11 (Pierre Turgeon)

Another player who has seen his stock drop from this time last year. Esposito was unable to raise his play with a sub par Quebec team. The Habs can address their needs on defense later in the first round because of Esposito’s offensive game. He will need to work on his consistency and he must not be such a finesse player.

  1. Toronto Maple Leafs – Mikael Backlund (C)

THN: #37 – CSS: #2 Euro skater – ISS: #10 (Mike Sillinger)

While the Leafs have a need to add depth on defense, they will go for Backlund who struggled through a tough season due to a knee injury. Also thought of as one of the best players a year ago, Backlund flashed his brilliance in the Under-18 Tournament. After all, Toronto has done pretty well with another Swedish center named Mats Sundin.

  1. Colorado Avalanche – Thomas Hickey (D)

THN: #22 – CSS: #26 NA skater – ISS: #17 (Brian Rafalski)

Joe Sakic is not going to play forever, so Colorado might look to a Lars Eller, Zach Hamill or Backlund if he dropped. If not, they will look to add some help for John-Michael Liles on the blue line and Hickey is an offensive defenseman. He fits the profile of most of the offensive d-men at this point in the draft – about 5-11/180-ish. However, he is earning his stripes playing in the physical WHL so he should be able to handle life in the NHL.

  1. Edmonton Oilers – Alex Plante (D)

THN: #16 – CSS: #72 NA skater – ISS: #28 (Kyle McLaren)

While his father Cam was more offensive (22 goals and 118 assists in his final year in the WHL in 1983/84), Alex towers over his father (6-4/225 as compared to 6-0/185). Alex is a solid two-way d-man whose stock has risen as the year progressed – even though he missed the last three weeks with an ankle injury.

  1. Anaheim Ducks – Nick Petrecki (D)

THN: #15 – CSS: #21 NA skater – ISS: #14 (Ed Jovanovski)

With Scott Niedermayer and Teemu Selanne considering retirement, the Ducks have a choice to make in reference to which player they try and replace. If they need a forward, they could look to Eller or Maxim Mayorov. I have a feeling they will look at a blueliner and Petrecki is a nice fit – pun intended. He combines skill, size and a mean streak and will eventually prove to be a worthy replacement for Niedermayer and Chris Pronger.

  1. New York Rangers – Maxim Mayorov (LW)

THN: #14 – CSS: #4 Euro skater – ISS: #8 (Nikita Alexeev)

If Petrecki drops to the Rangers, they should snatch him up immediately because the organization does have a d-man who plays as physically as he does. If he is not there, Jim Dolan can raise Cablevision’s rates and use that money to secure a transfer release for Mayorov. At 6-2/187, he combines size and skill into an offensive weapon the Rangers don’t have in their system. While some worry about him not playing up to his opponents, he is a potential top-six forward the Rangers need in to replace the age they have among their top forwards.

  1. Calgary Flames – Lars Eller (LW)

THN: #35 – CSS: #3 Euro skater – ISS: #18 (Michael Nylander)

Darryl Sutter will surely feel some pressure to draft his nephew Brendon Sutter, but will settle on Eller who brings a solid offensive game and is a player who might be ready sooner rather than later when it comes to playing in the NHL. Some scouts are concerned about drafting a Danish-born player, but Eller has been playing with Frolunda in Sweden.

  1. Minnesota Wild – Jonathon Blum (D)

THN: #17 – CSS: #17 NA skater – ISS: #20 (Brent Seabrook)

With the Wild passing on signing former 2004 first rounder A.J. Thelen, the team could use an offensive d-man in the organization. If Anaheim decides to draft the California native Blum, look for the Wild to look at Petrecki, if he is available, or Mark Katic. He has all of the offensive tools you want, but he is a bit undersized at 6-0/160.

  1. Pittsburgh Penguins – Colton Gillies (C)

THN: #13 – CSS: #30 NA skater – ISS: #12 (Erik Cole)

The Penguins are loaded with young offensive talent and depth on the blue line. Gillies adds even more speed to a strong skating club and brings a physical presence and solid two-way game to a team that can use both.

  1. Phoenix Coyotes – Zach Hamill (C)

THN: # 12 – CSS: 9 NA skater – ISS: 16 (Ray Whitney)

While the Coyotes can use some help on defense, look for Gretzky to talk new GM Don Maloney to continue to add more offense and address their defensive needs later. While Hamill is small (5-10/180), there is no denying his ability to score as he led the WHL in scoring. Not the fastest of skaters, Hamill simply gets the job done and is not afraid to work in the trenches. He is one of those players who is better than the sum of his parts.

  1. Montreal Canadiens – Mark Katic (D)

THN: #26 – CSS: #59 NA skater – ISS: #50 (Brian Campbell)

With the Habs facing losses on the defense – especially power play specialist Sheldon Souray, Katic fills the bill as the PP QB. While there are concerns about his size (5-9/180) and strength, the NHL’s crackdown has opened up a new avenue for players with Katic’s offensive skills.

  1. Nashville Predators – David Perron (RW)

THN: #31 – CSS: #10 NA skater – ISS: #15 (Ales Hemsky)

No player has seen his stock rise like Perron has in the second half of the season. ISS did not even include him in their October 2006 ratings and he ended up 15th in their final assessment. While he is more playmaker than pure goal scorer, the knock on him is that he is easily knocked off the puck. However, he is a highly skilled player who has proven scouts wrong previously. He was an undrafted high school player who went on to score 39-44-83 in his rookie year.

  1. St. Louis Blues – Brett MacLean (LW)

THN: #32 – CSS: #14 NA skater – ISS: #21 (Jeff O’Neill)

MacLean has proven he knows how to finish by virtue of his 47 goals last year in the OHL. However, naysayers point out that his center was the great John Tavares. He is the prototypical power forward and has a chance to be a special player if he can improve his skating.

  1. Vancouver Canucks – Oscar Moller (RW)

THN: #19 – CSS: #20 NA skater – ISS: #25 (Daniel Alfredsson)

The Canucks might go for a player in their own backyard, Michal Repik who plays for Vancouver in the WHL. Moller is on the smallish side (5-11/180) and is an average skater, but he is the type of player every team wants. Despite playing in the WHL, he captained Sweden’s Under-18 team. In addition to his leadership, Moller’s main assets are his puck handling and hockey sense.

  1. St. Louis Blues – Brandon Sutter (C)

THN: #10 – CSS: #28 NA skater – ISS: #30 (Rob Niedermayer)

There is no way the Blues can pass up a legacy player when they have three first round picks – assuming they don’t move one of them for immediate help. John Davidson will pass on Logan MacMillan (his father Bob was a member of the Blues) to draft Brandon, the nephew of fan favorite Brian Sutter. While Brandon is more of a player in the mold of Uncle Ron as opposed to father Brent, he is sound all-around player with superb hockey sense.

  1. Detroit Red Wings – Joakim Andersson (C)

THN: #21 – CSS: #5 Euro skater – ISS: #36 (Shane Doan)

Andersson is a solid two-way player who projects out to be a power forward in the NHL. He is a hard worker who will battle for the puck and is a physical player who is not afraid about going to the net. The one concern is how much will his offensive game develop. If his offensive game comes close to his physical game, the Red Wings will have one of the steals of the draft.

  1. Washington Capitals – Max Pacioretty (LW)

THN: #24 – CSS: #16 NA skater – ISS: #34 (Taylor Pyatt)

Pacioretty has made steady progress going from high school hockey to the USHL and should continue that progression at the University of Michigan. He has power forward size (6-1/203) and is a good skater and has good hands. He is hard worker, who is not afraid to shoot the puck (238 shots in 60 games) and is not afraid to mix it up (119 PIM).

  1. Ottawa Senators – Tommy Cross (D)

THN: #45 – CSS: #12 NA skater – ISS: #29 (Adam Foote)

With talk circulating that the Senators might move Wade Redden, the 6-3/195 Cross is a solid defensive defenseman who will get a chance to work on offensive game at Boston College. While not a big offensive producer, Cross is a good skater and has the ability to make that first pass out of the zone. Even though he is one of the youngest players in the draft, he displays a nasty streak that belies his youth. However, with Ray Emery out three months with hand surgery, new GM Bryan Murray might be tempted to take a long look at the top goaltender in a weak netminder draft – Jeremy Smith.

  1. Edmonton Oilers – Akim Aliu (RW)

THN: #50 – CSS: 41 NA skater – ISS: #41 (Todd Bertuzzi)

After going offense and defense with their first two picks (assuming GM Kevin Lowe doesn’t move one of them for established player(s), the Oilers have a lot of ways they can go. As a result, they will take a chance on a player who has all the tools of a power forward – now he just needs a box to put them in. He has everything you want in a forward – size (6-2/200), strength and solid skating skills. However, fairly or not, he has received criticism for off-ice incidents. He was involved in a fight with them Windsor teammate Stephen Downie (a Flyers prospect) that stemmed from a hazing incident. Sudbury coach Mike Foligno sent Aliu home for the final two games of the regular season because of Aliu’s undisciplined play. Despite the negatives, he has the natural ability to be one of the best power forwards in the NHL.

First Round Draft Pick Transactions

Pick 15 – EDMONTON traded LW Ryan Smyth to the NY ISLANDERS for C Robert Nilsson, C Ryan O’Marra and the Islanders 2007 1st round draft pick.

Pick 18 – ANAHEIM traded D Shane O’Brien and the Ducks 2007 3rd round draft pick to TAMPA Bay for G Gerald Coleman and the Lightning’s 2007 1st round draft pick.

Pick 21 – DALLAS traded LW Mathias Tjarnqvist and the Stars 2007 1st round draft pick to PHOENIX for LW Ladislav Nagy.

Pick 22 – MONTREAL traded D Craig Rivet and the Canadiens 2007 5th round draft pick to SAN JOSE for D Josh Gorges and the Sharks 2007 1st round draft pick.

Pick 23 – (1) PHILADELPHIA traded C Peter Forsberg to NASHVILLE for D Ryan Parent, LW Scottie Upshall and the Predators 2007 1at and 3rd round draft picks. (2) – NASHVILLE traded the rights to F Scott Hartnell and D Kimmo Timonen to PHILADELPHIA for the Predators 2007 1st round draft pick that was previously traded to the Flyers.

Pick 24 – ST. LOUIS traded LW Keith Tkachuk to ATLANTA for C Glen Metropolit, the Thrashers 2007 1st and 3rd round draft picks, 2008 2nd round draft pick and a 2008 conditional 1st round draft pick if Atlanta re-signs Tkachuk for 2007-08.

Pick 26 – (1) NEW JERSEY traded D Vladimir Malakhov and the Devils 2007 1st round draft pick to SAN JOSE for D Jim Fahey and LW Alexander Korolyuk. (2) SAN JOSE traded LW Jay Barribal, LW Ville Nieminen and the Devils 2007 1st round draft pick to ST. LOUIS for RW Bill Guerin.

Pick 28 – BUFFALO traded C Jiri Novotny and the Sabres 2007 1st round draft pick to WASHINGTON for D Timo Helbling and C Dainius Zubrus.

Pick 30 – EDMONTON traded D Chris Pronger to ANAHEIM for RW Joffrey Lupul, D Ladislav Smid and the Ducks 2007 and 2008 1st round draft picks.

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The New York Rangers face a brave new world as they enter the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. Don Maloney has left the organization to become the GM of the Phoenix Coyotes. As reported by Blueshirt Bulletin (based on an Ottawa Sun article) Rangers scout Tim Murray is set to join his uncle Bryan Murray who replaced John Muckler as GM of the Senators. While Gordie Clark will again run the Rangers draft, one might surmise that Christer Rockstrom will have a bigger voice in the Rangers draft strategy given the loss of Maloney and Murray. However, it is going to be up to Glen Sather to continue the successes the organization experienced in the last two drafts.The one thing that Sather has been able to do come draft day is to make trades. He has shown an ability to trade up and down based on the situation, and more importantly, Sather has been able to make deals to fill in for draft picks that had been traded away. Sather will need to be at his “Let’s Make a Deal” Monty Hall (ironically, a former Rangers announcer) best this year because the Rangers do not own their own third and fourth round draft picks.

The Rangers traded away their third round pick (78th overall) in the deal that sent Pascal Dupuis to Atlanta for Alex Bourret. One could say that the Rangers acquired first round potential for a third round draft pick.

The Blueshirts fourth round pick (108th overall) belongs to the Washington Capitals. The Rangers dealt their 2007 fourth round pick to Washington in exchange for Vancouver’s 2006 fifth round pick (137th overall) – which the Capitals had acquired in a previous trade. The Rangers used that 2006 pick to select Tomas Zaborsky.

Barring any trades, the Rangers will have to wait some 90 picks in between their second round pick (#48) and their next selection (fifth round – #138).  The Rangers own their own sixth round pick (#168) and seventh round picks (#198) as well as Montreal’s seventh round pick (#193) – which was acquired when New York sent the rights to Ryan Russell to the Canadiens.

The key to the Rangers success in 2007 will be based on a couple of factors. The first point is the ongoing saga between the NHL and the Russian Hockey Federation. The lack of a transfer agreement could cause players like Alexei Cherepanov and Maxim Mayorov to drop. If that is the case, it is possible that teams ahead of the Rangers will be more inclined to trade out of their spots. It also means that some teams might want to try and move up to the 17th spot – especially in the case of Mayorov who is more likely to be available at #17 than Cherepanov. The Rangers caught a break last year as Artem Anisimov dropped into the second round. If there had been a transfer agreement in place, it is possible that the Russian center would have been a first round selection.

Another point to consider is the slippage factor. Just ask Brady Quinn and the Cleveland Browns how important this factor is when it comes to drafting. The Rangers prospered from the slippage factor as Bobby Sanguinetti fell to them in the 21st spot in 2006. Not only does the slippage factor allow for a variety of talent to be available with the 17th pick, it also opens up the ability for the Rangers to trade down and add additional draft picks.

Of course, there is always the possibility that the Rangers could look to move up in the draft. In my article for the print version of “Blueshirt Bulletin” I brought up a possible scenario of trading with the Phoenix Coyotes since Maloney is so well versed with the Rangers organization. If Maloney and the Coyotes wanted to solve their goaltending situation without spending millions in signing a J.S. Giguere or trading for a Manny Fernandez, Al Montoya could be a possibility. The ideal trade would be swapping Montoya for the third overall pick, but there is no way Maloney would be that generous to his former team.

In reality, for any trade to work, the Rangers would have to package Montoya, the 17th overall pick and (at least) a couple of prospects. From the Rangers point of view, they would need a goaltender in return. My proposal included the Coyotes sending David LeNeveu back to the Blueshirts.

A more likely scenario would see the Rangers and the Capitals making a deal on draft day. If the slippage factor is working for the Blueshirts, the Rangers could trade the 17th overall pick to the Capitals for the 28th overall pick (Washington’s second first round selection) and one of their second round picks (the Caps’ pick at 34 or the 46th pick which they acquired from the Islanders). The Rangers could then use the extra second pick to maneuver their way back into the third and/or fourth round.

Why even bother with all of these trade possibilities? Most people who are in the know say that this draft is not as strong as past drafts. In that case, teams need to draft for quality or quantity. If the Rangers want quality, then they need to do whatever it takes to get into the top seven or so. If they can’t, or won’t, then they need to move down and add additional picks.

Did Clark offer an insight into the Rangers thinking in an interview he did for the team’s official web site?

“This is not a real deep draft in terms of what most scouting staffs would call impact players,” Clark said during the Internet interview. “You’re going to get some players in the second half of the first round that are going to play good roles on your team, but you might not be able to get that first or second-liner, or a guy that’s going to be a regular top-four defenseman in three or for years from now and then sustain that for the next 10 years. These last two drafts have been pretty much the same. Between Europe and here, it hasn’t bee full of high-skilled players.”

It seems that the Rangers are fully aware of the “quality vs. quantity” draft strategy debate. Depending on how successful Sather is at reading the draft will determine which way the Rangers go.

As for me, if Nick Petrecki or Maxim Mayorov is available, then I keep the pick and draft one of them. If not, I would look to move down to #28 in the above-mentioned deal with the Capitals and draft the best player available (perhaps Logan MacMillan or Michal Repik). I would take the extra second draft pick and look to move it to St. Louis for their third round pick (#70) and one of their fourth round picks (#96 or #100). Those two trades would give the Rangers four picks within the top 100, restore the traded away third and fourth round picks, and put the Rangers in a position to add more draft picks depending on how the run of players progresses on the second day of the draft.

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While the Rangers have had their struggles with their first round draft picks, they have had surprising success in the later rounds.  Barring any trades, this ability to succeed late in the draft is imperative in 2007 because the Rangers do not own third or fourth round draft picks.

If previewing the first two rounds of a draft is an inexact science, then trying to look some 150 plus picks into the draft is truly a daunting task.  However, as a draft aficionado, it is a task that I willingly accept.

Ilya Antonovsky is a 6-foot-0 and 178 pound defenseman who played for Vastom in a Russian Junior league.  In 24 games he scored 20 goals and added 47 assists with 60 PIM.  He was not rated in THN’s Top 100 prospects, was rated the 58th best European skater by CSS and is not rated by ISS in their Top 245 prospects.

His CSS Scouting Report says he is “a heads-up defenseman with good mobility … makes good decisions when joining the rush and is well positioned at both ends of the ice … has a good shot from the point and passes the puck well … needs to be more physical and gain some strength.

Bill Meltzer, in an NHL.com article about Russian prospects called him the “one of the most intriguing dark horses in this year’s draft … [who] could be the best pure offensive defenseman in the draft.”

While comparing his offensive work to that of Sergei Gonchar and Sergei Zubov, Meltzer did offer one important caveat.  “[Antonovsky] has a lot to learn about defensive and physical play before he’s ready to be an RSL regular of Russian junior national team player, much less an NHLer.”

Jamie Benn is a 6-foot-2 and 185 pound LW who played for Victoria in the BCHL.  In 52 games, he scored 42 goals and added 23 assists with 78 PIM.  Benn will join his older brother, Jordie Benn, as members of the University of Alaska-Fairbanks Nanooks.

Benn was not rated among the THN Top 100, is rated the 107th North American skater and is rated #154 by ISS.

While Benn still needs to work on facets of his game like skating and defense and learning to utilize his size better, he does do the one thing that is almost impossible to teach – he knows how to put the puck in the net.

“Offensively he’s very gifted and has a good nose for the net,” Victoria’s head coach Rylan Ferster was quoted in UAF’s official release announcing Benn’s signing.  “As a 17-year-old he’s showing he can score goals at this level.”

“He’s got the one thing you can’t teach; he can score goals,” Ferster stated.

Nanooks head coach Tavis MacMillan agreed with Ferster’s assessment.

“Jamie Benn is a goal scorer,” he said.  “Very few young men have the talent and skill to score goals like he does.”

“He’s been a successful goal scorer at every level he’s played at and there’s no doubt in our minds that he will continue that success at the collegiate level,” MacMillan added.

Ryan Hayes is a 5-foot-9 and 175 pound RW who is a product of the USA National Team Development Program.  Last year, as a member of the Under-18 Team, Hayes scored 19 goals and 28 assists with 84 PIM in 48 games.  The year before that, Hayes played on the Under-17 team and scored 30 goals and 18 assists with 90 PIM in 49 games.  Hayes will be attending Boston College in the fall.

While he was not rated by THN, Hayes is rated at #173 among North American skaters by CSS and is listed at #243 by ISS.

In an online article for HockeysFuture.com, Bob Miller spoke with Under-18 coach Ron Rolston about Hayes.

“Ryan is a pure goal scorer, has a great release and creates a lot of offense,” Rolston told Miller.  “He has a knack for being in the right place at the right time on offense and is good at slipping behind the opposing defense.”

John Lee is a 6-foot-2 and 185 pound defenseman who split his time between Minnesota High School hockey and playing in the USHL.  In 23 games with Moorhead High School, he scored 6 goals and 27 assists with 48 PIM.  In 27 games with Waterloo, he scored 2 goals and 7 assists with 56 PIM.  Lee, the younger brother of 2005 Ottawa first round draft pick Brian Lee, will be attending the University of Denver in the fall.

Lee was not rated by THN, but is listed as the 92nd best North American skater and is rated #161 by ISS.  Lee was one of the 10 finalists of the prestigious Mr. Hockey Award that is given to the best high school senior in the state of Minnesota.

“John has a great presence on the ice,” University of Denver assistant coach/recruiting coordinator Steve Miller said in the university’s official press release.  “He is a very good passer who has a great understanding of how the game is meant to be played.  John has good size and is a physical defenseman.”

John Murray is a 6-foot-0 and 190 goaltender who was named the Kitchener Rangers MVP as an OHL rookie.  He posted a 40-9-1 record with a 2.58 GAA, a .909 SV% and 5 shutouts during the regular season.  In the playoffs, Murray was 5-3 with a 4.04 GAA and .881 SV%.  Murray and was named the ADT CHL Goalie of the Week for of Canadian Junior hockey on December 6, 2006 and was a member of the 2007 OHL Western Conference All-Star Team.

Murray did not make THN list and is rated the 19th best North American goaltender by CSS and is rated #134 by ISS.  The Lancaster, PA native was passed over during last year’s draft.  Despite being passed over in the draft, Murray already has a history with the Rangers because he was a member of the Blueshirts entry in the Traverse City Rookie Tournament in September 2006.

“Former USHL standout John Murray has been an integral part of Kitchener’s solid season.  The undrafted goalie has been overlooked for the past couple of years, but now he’s emerged as arguably the OHL’s most dominant netminder.  The Rangers seem to feed off his play and he’s helped lift the overall confidence level of the team,” Glenn Gawronski wrote on Hockeys Future.com.

Calle Ridderwall is 5-foot-11 and 170 pound center.  The Swedish native spent last season with Tri-City of the USHL after playing one season with the Mid Atlantic Hockey League’s Chicago Chill.  In 60 games, he scored 27 goals (14 on the power play) and 35 assists with 36 PIM.  In 9 playoff games, he added 3 goals and 5 assists with 4 PIM.  Ridderwall, whose brother Stefan is a goaltender and a 2006 sixth round draft pick of the New York Islanders, will be on the first two Swedish players to play for the University of Notre Dame (along with Robin Bergman).

“Calle may be the most skilled player among the seven recruits. He’s got great hands and an excellent shot. He’s a gifted skater with a good mind for the game,” Fighting Irish coach Jeff Jackson said in Notre Dame’s official press release.  ”He makes plays with and without the puck. The thing about him that sticks out to me is that he just loves to play hockey. He’s always got a smile on his face.”

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It is hard enough trying to preview first round selections when you have a draft as volatile as the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. Trying to preview the subsequent rounds is even harder. With that said, I am going to plow through and present four players that the Rangers should keep an eye on in the second round.As I mentioned in my first round previews, if Logan MacMillan or Michael Repik were available in the second round I would not hesitate to draft either of them in the second round. I have often espoused the draft philosophy of going the opposite way in the second round. For example, if I pick a forward in the first round then I am more inclined to look for a defenseman in the second round and vice versa.

Colby Cohen is a 6-foot-2 and 200 pound defenseman played for Lincoln in the USHL. In 53 games, he scored 13 goals and added 47 assists with 110 PIM. The native of Pennsylvania was with the USA National Team Development Program before heading to the USHL. Cohen will be joining first round prospect Kevin Shattenkirk at Boston University in the fall.

Cohen is rated as the 54th best prospect by THN, the 25th best North American skater by CSS and the 43rd best player by ISS who compares him to Bryan McCabe.

As he stands poised to begin his freshman year of collegiate hockey, Cohen is an offensive defenseman who projects out as a leader on the power play and as a player who will generate offense. ISS writes, “He’s got a very good shot, especially the one-timer. His greatest assets are his vision of the ice, passing ability, and his reads. He has a great first pass out of the zone and can “thread the needle” when the opportunity presents itself. His skating has continually improved over the last few years and will be even stronger when he physically matures.”

ISS does cautions against “whispers in the past of attitude problems” and the need for Cohen to work on defensive play in order for him to become an all-around solid blueliner. It will not be a surprise to hear Cohen’s name called in the first round.

Another defenseman who might have his name called in the first round is Nick Ross. The 6-foot-1 and 190 pound Ross played with Regina in the WHL. In 70 games, he scored 7 goals and 24 assists with 87 PIM.

THN rates him as the 58th best player, CSS lists him as the 18th best North American skater and ISS rates him as the 42nd best player and compares him to Sheldon Souray.

“Nick Ross is a two-way, mobile defenseman. He can move the puck, make a play, and give you some time on the power play. He competes hard, and has some bite in his game,” Philadelphia Director of Hockey Operations Chris Pryor said on the Flyers official web site.

ISS offered concerns about Ross’ fitness level and conditioning which were brought out during the CHL’s skills testing. However, those physical concerns aside (after all, he is only 18 and NBA wags are saying the same thing about Kevin Durrant), ISS is very pleased with his overall game.

“Ross loves to step up and lay a hit on the opposing forward,” ISS writes. “His defensive awareness needs work, but his coachability has never been questioned. [He is a] puck moving rearguard that can be used on the PP for his great shot from the point.”

The next two players are the ones that I am most excited about.

First up is LW Max Gratchev. Born in Russia, Gratchev spent his youth hockey playing in the United States before he was drafted by Quebec (QMJHL) and Patrick Roy. The 5-foot-11 and 196 pound Gratchev developed after being traded from Quebec to Rimouski during the 2005-2006 season. He flourished this season scoring 35 goals and 42 assists with 88 PIM in 70 games for Rimouski.

THN rates him as the 39th best prospect, CSS the 46th best North American skater and ISS rates him their 39th best player and compares him to Buffalo’s Ales Kotalik.

“He’s a fireball,” one scout told THN. “He’s not a great skater, but he’s quick from the faceoff circle to the net.”

Another note pointed out by THN is that he is more mature than the average North American prospect. He missed being eligible for last year’s draft by 11 days. With three years of Junior hockey under his belt, he should be ready for professional hockey sooner than the average second round draft pick.

ISS calls him a “highly skilled winger, with extremely good offensive instincts. He seems to be a step ahead with his vision/decision making which gives him a good passing game. [He] has a tremendous nose for the net [and] an accurate shot to along with a very quick release – attributes that are needed to score at the next level.”

ISS does caution that he does need to get stronger and work on his defensive positioning.

The other player that intrigues me is goaltender Joel Gistedt. While goaltending, at first, does not appear to be a concern with Henrik Lundqvist and Al Montoya in the organization, the Rangers still have to be thinking about the future. Whether Ranger fans like it or not, the Blueshirts will have to trade one of them or face the return of the Van Richterbrouck situation. The mishandling of that situation meant the Rangers only received Doug Lidster in exchange for John Vanbiesbrouck.

While the organization did finally sign Miika Wiikman, the Rangers still could use another potential starter in the organizational – albeit a few years down the road, especially when (not if) they trade Montoya.

Gistedt is a 5-foot-11 and 174 pound netminder who played for Frolunda in Sweden last year. The Rangers have had pretty good success with Frolunda goaltenders, namely Lundqvist. In 35 games with Frolunda, Gistedt posted a 17-13-4 record with a 2.58 goals against average and a .897 save percentage. Gistedt eventually replaced NHL veteran Tommy Salo in goal for Frolunda. He also backstopped Sweden in the World Junior Championship going 1-4 with a 1.96 GAA and a .912 SV%. THN rates Gistedt as the 44th best prospect, CSS as the best European goaltender and ISS rates him 72nd overall. Believe it or not, all 30 teams passed on Gistedt last season.

“He’s come out of nowhere,” a scout explained to THN. “He’s a guy teams wish they would have drafted last year.” Remember that quote when Glen Sather either trades or doesn’t sign on of his 2006 draft picks.

Here is Gistedt’s CSS Scouting Report: “A well-positioned butterfly goaltender … has good pad quickness and a very quick glove … moves well and is strong in his crease … works hard and has good anticipation.”

The final word on Gistedt belongs to Flyers pro scout Ilkka Sinisalo.

“Joel Gistedt is not very big, but he’s very quick. He really has all of the tools necessary to be a good professional goaltender.”

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After previewing the European forward market, this portion of the New York Rangers 2007 NHL Draft Preview focuses in on the North American-born prospects that have caught my eye.

In looking at the European-born forwards, I brought up Mikael Backlund and Maxim Mayorov as two higher rated players who might falls to the Blueshirts at #17. Well, there are two North American forwards who might fall to the Rangers as well – for far different reasons. At one point or another, both players were thought to be contenders for the first overall selection – which just goes to prove how volatile the NHL Draft can be.

To say it has been a trying season for Logan Couture would be an understatement. After being anointed as one of best bets to go first overall in 2007, the 6-foot-0 and 190 pound center has had a black cloud lingering over him. In between a bout of mononucleosis, Couture dealt with a pair of leg injuries. Despite the setbacks, he still scored 26 goals and added 50 assists with 24 PIM in 54 games with Ottawa while adding a pair of goals and assists for Canada in the Under-18 Tournament.

THN rates him as the 7th best player, CSS the 10th best North American skater and ISS rates him as 13th best player and compares him to Rod Brind’Amour. Needless to say, if Couture ever dropped to 17 he becomes an absolute no-brainer selection.

Despite my feelings, THN had a pair of opposing views from two scouts.

Scout 1: “You can’t afford tour first-rounder to be a bust, so he’s going to be an attractive pick for teams. He’s a very safe pick.”

Scout 2: “He’s overrated. He’s not a great skater and his development has really flat-lined.”

ISS was much more positive in their write up on Couture.

“He’s a sound two-way player with excellent offensive instincts. He has the kind of talent and tenacity, mixed with off-the-charts natural hockey sense, that makes each guy on his team better and forces everyone to play up to his level. A very intelligent player, Couture is an obvious on-ice leader for his team.”

While injuries keyed the cause for concern in respect to Couture, Angelo Esposito’s downward turn rests squarely on his shoulders. Part of Esposito’s problems stem with his comparison to Sidney Crosby because both players played prep school hockey at Shattuck-St. Mary’s in Minnesota and both had big time debuts in the QMJHL – although Crosby ended up with 37 more points as a rookie. After ringing up 39 goals and 59 assists in 57 games while leading Quebec to a Memorial Cup title, Esposito dropped to just 27 goals and 52 assists in 60 games with a poor Quebec team.

The 6-foot-1 and 180 pound center was rated 9th overall by THN, 11th overall by ISS and was the 8th best North American skater by CSS. ISS compares Esposito to Pierre Turgeon. While Esposito is regarded as one of the best offensive players available, he lacks that something extra that allows a Couture to make those around him better. It could just be a case of Esposito needing to move on in order for his game to take that next step.

One scout told THN, “He’s going to cause a lot of teams drafting in the top five a lot of sleepless nights. But he might be the bargain of the draft if he drops to No. 6 or 7.”

Another scout said, “He’s the biggest risk in the draft along with [Alexei] Cherepanov. His attitude is troubling. When he played with [Alexander] Radulov, he was dominant, but since Radulov left, he has mailed it in.”

While praising his skating ability which keys his offensive abilities, ISS took Esposito to task for his indifferent play at times.

“[He] does not show any urgency in his game,” ISS wrote. “He plays hard when it is easy to play hard. No doubt he has very good skills when he ahs the puck on his stick, but he needs to play with players who will put it on his stick as he will very often not work to get it himself.”

Despite all of this negative talk, the fact that he is still highly rated speaks volumes about the talent potential that lies within Esposito. With the right team at that the right time, there might be more than five GMs losing sleep a couple of years down the road.

A more conventional pick is Brett MacLean. It is amazing that someone who scores 47 goals in the OHL would get such little respect come draft time. While his skating is an issue, that “lack of respect” comes from the fact that his center is wunderkind John Tavares who is a man among boys. Tavares, who won’t turn 17 until September, is ready to play in the NHL right now. As a result, MacLean is penalized for playing with such a world class player

The nearly 6-foot-2 and 196 pound MacLean blossomed last season as scored 47 goals and 53 assist in 68 regular season games with Oshawa and added another 6 goals and 9 assists in 7 playoff games. THN rates him as the 32nd best player while CSS has him rated as the 14 best North American skater. ISS lists him #21 and compares him to Jeff O’Neill.

One scout addressed the Tavares situation in his comments to THN. “The other way you can look it at is he was good enough to play with Tavares. He still had to put the puck in the net.”

ISS offered a positive review of MacLean’s game, but with a couple of caveats.

“He has proven that he that he possesses the offensive talent and has the finishing skills, but it should be noted that he is playing on the top line with two very good players. Skating is an issue – first couple of steps are not very good and need improvement. Has the ability to come out of the corner with the puck and elude defenders while maintaining control of the puck.”

While Michael Repik was my reach first round European forward, Logan MacMillan is my North American reach forward. The 6-foot-2 and 172 pound center scored 20 goals and 35 assists with 82 PIM with Halifax of the QMJHL – bettering his rookie season tally of 9 goals and 9 assists in 62 games.

The MacMillan name should be very familiar to Rangers and NHL fans because Logan’s father, Bob MacMillan, scored 228 goals and 349 assists in a 753 NHL career. Bob MacMillan was the Rangers 1st round draft choice (15th overall) in the 1972 Draft. He appeared in 22 games with the 1974-75 Blueshirts and scored a goal and added a pair of assists. The Rangers traded him to the St. Louis Blues for defenseman Larry Sacharuk.

Like Repik, MacMillan would be a great pick if he ever dropped to the second round. If they are on the Rangers horizon, it might be best to trade down or look for a bigger band for their buck at 17.

THN rates him as the 38th best player, CSS as their 42nd best North American skater and ISS as their 24th best player and compare him to Rod Brind’Amour as well. ISS sees his NHL potential as a “2nd line Centre/winger [who] can play PP & PK. Reliable in d-zone.”

THN wrote, “Scouts like his game and view him as a reasonably skilled player with good speed and size. But there is a concern about consistency.”

“He teases you,” one scout told THN. “I’d like to see him to do it more often.”

While ISS believes he needs to improve his quickness and puck protection, they view him as a “solid 1st round selection.”

“His vision and ability to find the open man make him an offensive threat. This solid two-way forward has proven to scouts that he is the real deal,” ISS explained. “[He] does everything asked of him. He has continued to show growth in many parts of his game over the past season.”

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When Don Maloney left to become the Phoenix Coyotes GM, it created a vacuum in the Rangers’ front office that probably won’t be filled until after the Draft. With Maloney gone, President/GM Glen Sather will have to lean on his two top remaining lieutenants: Head Amateur Scout Gordie Clark and Director, Player Personnel – Europe Christer Rockstrom.

It has long been commonplace for the Rangers to turn to Rockstrom in the middle and especially late in the draft for what I term a “Christer Rockstrom Special” – a European player who is usually off the radar. However, things might be different in 2007.

With Maloney gone, Sather might turn to Rockstrom at the start of the draft. The last time the Rangers drafted a European-born player in the first round was in Neil Smith’s last draft in 1999 when they selected Pavel Brendl. While, the Blueshirts did draft Filip Novak with their first selection in 2000, he was a second round selection (#64).

With NHL teams having only two years to sign European draft picks and with no transfer agreement in place with Russia, some teams are understandably shy when it comes to drafting European players – and this might play into the Rangers’ hands.

One player who is most intriguing is Maxim Mayorov. Playing abilities aside, teams might be reluctant to draft the Russian LW because of the lack of a transfer agreement. With that said, Mayorov is too valuable to pass up – especially with the 17th pick.

THN wrote that scouts compare the 6-foot-2 and 187 pound Mayorov to Nashville’s Alexander Radulov while ISS compares him to Chicago’s Nikita Aleexev. THN rates him as the 14 best player, ISS has him as the 8th best player and CSS rates him as the 4th best European skater. In 33 games with Leningorsk in Russia, he scored 6 goals and 4 assists with 6 PIM.

THN offered a variety of reviews on Mayorov.

Scout 1: “He’s one of those guys who if he doesn’t score for you, I’m not sure what else he can do for your team. From what I’ve seen his best games are against inferior competition where he can really show his flash and dash.”

Scout 2: “He has actually turned out a lot better than I thought. He’s definitely a mid-first-rounder.”

THN: “Mayorov does; however, intrigue scouts with his combination of size, skating ability and offensive acumen. His speed allows him to create chances and he has the hands to make the most of his opportunities.”

Interestingly enough, ISS didn’t take such a harsh stance on his all-around abilities. They wrote, “Also he is far more advanced in his defensive responsibilities than most in this draft.”

ISS raved about his overall game when they said, “…Mayorov will be a player that teams can be assured of playing in the league for a long time. [He] has the combination of size, speed and talent that many scouts argue is a “model” for a National Hockey League Player.”

Another top player who might fall to the Rangers is Mikael Backlund. The 6-foot-0 and 191 pound Swedish center had quite a trying draft year. After a slow start, Backlund’s troubles were further compounded by a knee injury. As a result, in 27 games with Vasteras he scored 8 goals and added 7 assists with 22 PIM. However, Backlund again caught the eyes of scouts when he led Sweden to a third place finish in the Under-18 championships with a tournament best 6 goals in 6 games.

THN rates Backlund the 37th best player, CSS rates him as the 2nd best European skater and ISS rates him 10th overall and compares him to Mike Sillinger.

In their 2007 Draft Preview THN wrote, “Backlund was being touted as one of the top draft-eligible players in Sweden when the season started, but a long-term knee injury moved him down in the rankings. ‘He kind of fell off the map for about four months,’ one scout said. But the smooth skating center had an excellent Under-18 tourney which moved him back up.”

ISS writes, “He possesses innate ability to find seams in the defensive zone and capitalize on the opportunities that he garners from that trait. He can score important goals to lift his team. His competitiveness and his strong leadership are other traits that we love.”

Another European-born player that intrigues me is LW Lars Eller. The 6-foot-0 and 189 pound native of Denmark played with Vastra Frolunda Jr. in Sweden. In 23 games, he scored 13 goals and 23 assists with 28 PIM. In 5 games with Denmark’s World Junior team, he scored 2 goals and 5 assists – albeit against lesser-talented teams.

It was that showing in the WJC that made scouts notice him.

“Eller impressed scouts with his speed and skill,” ISS writes. “[He] doesn’t need much room to operate. Has the kind of speed and moves that force defenders to back off the blueline. Was impressive in the playoffs and helped lead Frolunda to the league championship. He seems to be a step ahead with his vision/decision making which gives him a good passing game.”

THN rates him as the 35th best player and CSS rates him the 3rd best European skater. ISS rates him as the 18th best player and compares him to Michael Nylander.

THN points out he has the skill and size to play in the NHL, but scouts are unsure how he will translate his game to North America. One scout told them, “He seems sleepy at times. You’d like to see him take charge more.”

One final European-born player of interest is Michal Repik. The 5-foor-10 and 193 pound RW has one big advantage over the other players I have profiled – he spent the last two years playing with Vancouver in the WHL and has adjusted his style of play to North America. He came on strong in the second half of the season and during the Junior playoffs and Memorial Cup. In 56 regular season games, he scored 24 goals and 31 assists with 56 PIM. In 22 post-season games, he scored 10 goals and 16 assists.

CSS rates him as the 58th best North American skater. THN rates him as the 33rd best player and “… has drawn comparisons to Milan Hejduk.” ISS rates him the 26th best player and compares him to Henrik Zetterberg.

Repik might be a reach at 17, but he might be worth looking it at if the Rangers can trade down and players and/or draft picks. At the very least, he would be a lock as a second round draft pick.

One scout told THN, “He might be a guy, a few years down the road, where we’re saying, ‘I wish we had taken him sooner.’”

While ISS expressed concerns over his size, strength and penchant for playing on the perimeter, they praised his hockey sense and his ability to elevate his game as the season progressed.

“He had an impressive second half of this season, and added some grit to his game that we felt was lacking earlier in the year. He seems to be a step ahead with his vision/decision making which gives him a good passing game. He has excellent scoring instincts and tremendous puck-handling skills.”

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When one takes a look at the New York Rangers’ organizational depth chart, the team is flushed with young prospects on the blue line. Marc Staal, Bobby Sanguinetti and Michael Sauer continued their development and progression to the NHL. Depending on what happens in New York with the likes of free agent Karel Rachunek, Staal may have already earned a spot in the NHL.

If the Rangers need to dip down their depth chart, Thomas Pock acquitted himself quite well when injuries depleted the defense corps. In addition, Ivan Baranka and David Liffiton await the call in Hartford and I have not included the two rising blueliners who have made their NHL impact already: Daniel Girardi and Fedor Tyutin.

With all that said, the Blueshirts are in a tough position as far as the 2007 NHL Entry Draft is shaping up. Unless the Rangers trade up into the Top 10, odds are they are not going to be in a position to draft one of the elite forwards. Conversely, the 17th spot seems to be surrounded be offensive-type defensemen. This type of player is a commodity that President/GM Glen Sather has always valued – even before the advent of the post-lockout NHL.

The problem is that the Rangers really don’t need any more puck-moving defensemen – especially when you consider that most of them are on the smallish side. Jonathan Blum, Thomas Hickey, Mark Katic, and Kevin Shattenkirk all fit into the same type of mold: about six-feet tall and in the neighborhood of 160-190 pounds.

One player who goes beyond that mold is Alex Plante. The 6-foot-3 and 225 pound is the son of former NHL blueliner Cam Plante. Much like Colton Gillies and Brandon Sutter do not match up to the famous uncle and father in the scoring department, the same can be said of Plante who ISS compares to Kyle McLaren.

As far as the scouting services go, they are all over the map in reference to Plante. ISS rated him as the 28th best prospect, THN as the 16th best prospect and CSS as the 72ns best North American skater. While he is projected as a two-way defenseman, I think there are a couple of other choices better suited to the Rangers.

The one thing the Rangers have lacked since Jeff Beukeboom was in heyday is a physical defensive defenseman who can clear the crease and features a bit of a mean streak to boot. I have a couple of such players in mind.

The first player is Tommy Cross, who is one of the youngest players available in the draft. The 6-foot-3 and 195 pound blueliner will be attending Boston College in the fall after spending playing prep school hockey with Westminster High School in Connecticut. Cross played for the United States in the Under-18 Tournament.

Much like Plante, the scouting services vary in their opinion. ISS rates him 29th and compares him to Adam Foote. THN places him at #45 while CSS lists him as the 12th best North American skater.

“Tommy Cross is a big, mobile defenseman. He makes the simple one-pass plays very well. He’s not overly fancy, but he’s got good feet and good size. He plays a good, solid defensive game,” Philadelphia Director of Hockey Operations Chris Pryor said on the Flyers’ web site.

ISS says, “He keeps things simple with the puck, makes the smart play and has the nasty disposition needed to play [defense] at the pro level.”

While I like what Cross brings to the table, I am not sure I would draft him with the 17th overall pick. If the Rangers like him, they might want to consider moving down and picking up extra picks or players or crossing their fingers that he will be available in the second round.

The physical defensive defenseman that I like is Nick Petrecki. If the Rangers were ever able to draft both Petrecki and Cross they could save money on scouting because the Clifton Park, NY native will be attending Boston College – even though he the Plymouth Whalers first round pick in the OHL Draft.

ISS rates him the 14th best prospect and compares him to Ed Jovanovksi. THN lists him as their 15th best player and CSS rates him as the 21st best North American skater.

The 6-foot-3 and 213 pound blueliner provides an extra incentive for the Blueshirts to draft him – he grew up a New York Rangers fan and lists the 1994 Stanley Cup finals as the most memorable “game” he watched.

Petrecki played last season in the USHL with Omaha (where the Rangers once had a farm team many years ago) and scored 11 goals and 14 assists with 177 PIM.

Putting that aside, there are some serious reasons to like Petrecki. THN offered positive reports from two scouts, as well a telling quote of their own.

Scout 1: “I think if this kid had played in the OHL, we’d be talking about him as a top-five pick. But he played in the USHL and he wasn’t challenged enough this season.”

Scout 2: “He’s a real physical specimen. He has been a man trapped in a kid’s body since he was 14.”

THN: “Petrecki already has NHL size and scouts love the element of meanness in his game. He is a punishing hitter who excels in the trenches and plays a responsible defensive game.”

Kyle Woodlief of Red Line Report was high in his praise for Petrecki who he rated as the 5th best defenseman. In USA Today column Woodlief wrote, “Though his offensive game has been slow to round into form, Petrecki is huge and a physical beast who attacks opposing forwards with gusto and makes them pay a stiff price for real estate in front of the net.”

Petrecki sure sounds like a nice defensive partner for Sanguinetti.

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In past years, I have always produced one major New York Rangers Draft Preview that provided a detailed look at the Blueshirts first round pick supplemented by looks at potential subsequent draft targets. Starting with this year’s Preview, I am trying something different. I am breaking down the Preview into smaller theme-based articles.

Our first theme is rooted in the Rangers 2003 draft when they held the 12th overall selection. The Rangers used that pick on Dartmouth’s Hugh Jessiman – passing up on 18 other players who have already made their NHL debuts. The only player who has not seen action is Brian Boyle. However, the Kings 26th overall pick has an excuse – he played four seasons of collegiate hockey at Boston College.

Of all the players the Rangers passed on, Zach Parise is the one that most Ranger fans regret getting away – even if his father drew first blood in the Rangers-Islander rivalry.

As a result of passing on Parise, there has to be some pressure on the Blueshirts management not to make the same mistake in 2007 because two more first round prospects have Islander pedigrees.

Colton Gillies is the nephew of rugged LW Clark Gillies – the muscle behind the Isles Trio Grande Line of Bryan Trottier, Mike Bossy and Gillies. It doesn’t help that this year marks the 30th anniversary of the Rangers twice passing over the chance to draft Bossy (15th overall to the Islanders) in favor of Lucien DeBlois (8th overall) and Ron Duguay (13th overall).

Gillies the Younger does not project out to be the scorer his uncle was, but then again, Clark never had the skating ability that Colton has. Colton Gillies is 6-foot-3 and 189 pounds and spent last season with Saskatoon of the Western Hockey League. In 65 games, he scored 13 goals and 17 assists with 148 PIM (improving on his 6 goal sand 6 assists during his rookie season). He was the 12th rated player by the International Skating Service (ISS), the 13th rated player by The Hockey News (THN) and was rated the 30th best North American skater by Central Scouting Service (CSS). ISS compares his style of play to Erik Cole. Because of his power forward abilities, ISS thinks he would be best suited to play wing in the NHL.

“He’s one of the best skaters in the draft for his size,” one scout told THN. “This guy can fly, but he never does anything.”

Another scout offered the following observation to THN. “He’ll play, but how good is he going to be. He’s as strong as a horse, but his puck skills are average.”

ISS was impressed with his showing for Canada in the Under-18 Tournament in Finland. It was there that he showed off his physical play. They view him as a “prototypical pro – rough, tough & can chip in offensively. Has attributes to be a power forward.”

The other prospect is Brent Sutter’s son Brandon Sutter. As you might imagine, Brandon plays the same style of hard-nosed hockey that his father and uncles played. At 6-foot-3 and 170 pounds, Sutter still has some filling out to go before he hits the NHL. In 71 games with Red Deer (WHL), Sutter scored 20 goals and added 37 assists with 54 PIM. Interestingly enough, his father Brent is his Junior coach in Red Deer. Brandon was also a member of Canada’s Under-18 team; however, he did not have a chance to display any offense as he was used as a checking center according to ISS. They view him as an “honest two way player with [the] same strong work ethic that [his] father and uncles displayed.”

He was the 30th player in the ISS ratings (after starting the season at #16). ISS compares his style of play to Rob Niedermayer. CSS rates him the 28th best North American skater while THN was far kinder in their ratings placing him 10th among all players.

THN quoted three scouts who were split in their assessment of the NHL’s newest Sutter legacy.

Scout 1: “He’s a big kid who plays a physical game and has decent offensive talent. In other words, he’s a Sutter”.

Scout 2: “He’s really underrated. I think he has a lot more skill than people give him credit for.”

Scout 3: “I was expecting a lot more from him.”

It is very possible that both players could be gone by the time the Rangers step to the podium with the 17th pick in the first round. Of the two, it is more likely that Sutter would still be around as opposed to Gillies.

I am not so sure that I would select either player. I think the Rangers can get a better bang for their buck from other players. However, if I were going to draft one of these two players, it would be Colton Gillies.

While Gillies and Sutter both play a physical game, Gillies speed and skating ability make him the better NHL prospect. While both players could thrive as third line checkers, I believe that Gillies stands the better chance of being of a top-six forward – especially if he moves to the wing. Even if he didn’t measure to Uncle Clark in the scorer column, Gillies’ speed and physical play would be a good fit on a team’s first or second line.

As ISS wrote, “Gillies will be a player that teams can be assured of playing in the league for a long time. The number one attraction for this player is his combination of outstanding size and skill. He’s not a flashy player, but [he] has shown increased confidence with the puck as the year went on.”

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