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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