The 2008 NHL Draft does not feature an immediate impact player along the lines of Sidney Crosby or Alexander Ovechkin. Instead, the strength of the Draft lies in its depth.

Prior to the start of this season, Red Line Report’s Kyle Woodleif wrote, “Usually about a month into the season you begin to get a feel for what type of draft crop it’s going to be, and we’re happy to report that all early indications are that 2008 is shaping up to be a solid, and quite deep, draft class. Perhaps the deepest crop since the great talent bonanza of 2003.”

One problem the Rangers face in the first round is how the organization’s depth stands up against the projected availability of players at the 20th pick in the draft. Of the top 30 prospects rated by NHL Central Scouting (CS), there are 15 blueliners, 12 centers, two LWs and one C/RW. The problem arises because the Rangers’ depth is in defensemen and centers.

Of course, the Rangers could look to Europe as they did last year with Alexei Cherepanov. Given the volatile nature of the NHL-IIHL transfer agreement situation, the Rangers could catch a break and watch Nikita Filatov drop them. The only problem is that Filatov does not carry the baggage that Cherepanov did in respects to effort and desire. With that said, it is not out of the realm of possibility that the Rangers could move up if Filatov dropped.

If Filatov does not drop, or if the Rangers are unable to move up, the organization faces a decision.

If the Rangers stick to a strategy of drafting strictly for need, then they might have to consider making a trade. If the Rangers target a specific need, they could use some of their organizational depth to move up. For example, if the Rangers want a high scoring winger, they could consider moving up for a Filatov, Mikkel Boedker or Mattias Tedenby. If they are in the market for a physical defensive defenseman, they could trade up for a Tyler Myers, Luke Schenn or Colton Teubert. It is possible that Tedenby or Teubert could fall to the 20th pick.

On the other hand, the Rangers could simply draft the best player available and disregard the idea of drafting for need – something Woodleif explained in a June 2000 USA Today column.

If the Rangers stand pat, expect them to draft the best player available – regardless of position or perceived need. In doing so, they would be taking a page out of Woodleif’s game plan.

“Most teams do not ‘draft for need’ in the traditional sense as fans understand the term,” Woodleif explains. “Since the NHL is drafting predominantly 18-year-olds who aren’t going to be playing in the league for another 4-5 years, a position of need right now may be well fortified for years down the road, so there’s no sense trying to draft for need based on a strictly positional breakdown.”

The Blueshirts could take advantage of the depth of the draft and look to trade down and garner extra picks. That would give them the option of concentrating on quantity in 2008 or speculate by acquiring extra 2009 draft picks. The Rangers could also use the draft’s depth, and their organizational depth, by trading up to draft quality.

The last option could see the Rangers trading their first round pick to fill a specific need – whether it be a scoring winger, a defenseman who can quarterback the power play, or a physical defensive defenseman. If the Rangers do go this route, the player acquired has to be in his mid-20s or the franchise runs the risk of repeating past mistakes by trading away the future for a false quick fix.

Back when he was the Rangers Director Player Personnel, Tom Renney offered some insight into his theory regarding the draft.
“Some teams are guilty of looking at spot and pimples rather than what skills are all about. Some teams have convinced themselves that the (prospect) can’t play, but maybe you just draft skill,” Renney told Alan Adams of nhl.com in June 2003. “It’s easy to go out to a game and see the players who can skate and shoot and so on. But you do not know what is in his heart and in his head. And you have to be lucky and you have to be fortunate.”

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