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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