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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