As I mentioned in my historical look at the New York Rangers drafting history late in the first round (26th and 28th), there is a strong possibility that the team will look to move the 28th overall pick. The question is will the Rangers use their 1st round pick in a deal for a star forward (Rick Nash or Bobby Ryan) or do the Rangers look to trade down into the second round and secure extra picks?

In that previous story, I mentioned Tampa Bay as a prime target because they had three second round draft picks. However, with GM Steve Yzerman sending two of them to Nashville in the Anders Lindback trade, that removes the Lightning from the calculations. While the odds are slim that the Predators move any of those picks (unless they are making a blockbuster trade involving Ryan Suter or Shea Weber), there are a few trade options for the Rangers.

The following teams all own multiple second round draft picks: Buffalo (42nd and 44th), Carolina (38th and 47th), Colorado (41st and 54th), Columbus 31st and 45th), and Dallas (43rd and 61st).

By moving down, the Rangers could probably get a similar forward and still have an extra pick to look to the future by drafting a goaltender or by taking a gamble on a high-risk/high-reward forward.

For the sake of this portion of the Rangers Draft Preview, we are going to stay with the status quo and leave the Rangers with their 1st round pick. I have come up with a list of six players the Rangers have a shot at drafting with the 28th spot. While some of them are sure to be gone by then, there is a chance that they will be available for the Blueshirts.

Each player has ratings for the following scouting services: The Hockey News (THN), McKeen’s (McK), NHL’s Central Scouting (CS), and International Scouting Service (ISS). CS breaks down their ratings by North American skaters, European skaters, North American goaltenders and European goaltenders. THN lists each prospect’s NHL Translation. ISS provides a prospects’ comparable NHL player.

CS: # 29NA —– McK: # 43
THN: # 32 (Power Forward) —– ISS: # 15 (James Neal)

The 6-foot-2 and 200 Kerdiles spent last season with the USNTDP’s Under-18 team and scored 20 goals (7 PPG) and 22 assists in 50 games. The Rangers know his development is in the good hands of Mike Eaves at the University of Wisconsin. He has to work on producing a consistent effort from game-to-game and within games. However, Kerdiles showed flashes of what is to come as he led the USA to gold in the World U-18 tournament.

ISS: “One of the purest goal scorers in the draft…. A quick skater with great puck focus, Kerdiles is a dangerous shooter with pinpoint accuracy…. He can seem to disappear for portions of the game, but consistently jumps back onto the radar with a bang. He has good reactions around the puck and is a threat off the rush, during zone play or in scrambles.”

McK: “Kerdiles already has won two World U-18 Championship gold medals, as he played up last season with the program before winning this year as the first line centre. Kerdiles is a slick skater with explosive foot speed and a paralyzing change of pace. He can sustain strong body and puck control when stickhandling…. His overall character and mental resolve are areas in which he will need improvement, but he does bring an attractive skill-set to the table.”

THN: “He and Stefan Matteau were the best forwards this year, ” a scout told THN. “I like the way he attacks, the way he goes to the net and engages.” THN also wrote. “His size and speed intimidate defenders, as do his strength on the puck when he goes into corners or bullies his way to the front of the net for gritty goals.”

CS: # 17 NA —– McK: # 26
THN: # 30 (Power Forward) —– ISS: # 31 (Brooks Laich)

Yes, the 6-foot-1 and 210 pound LW is the son of Mr. Double Overtime himself, Stephan Matteau. Stefan played with the USNTDP’s Under-17 squad and scored 15 goals and 17 assists in 46 games. Matteau was all set to represent the USA in the World U-18, but an IIHF ruling that requires players to play the last three years in the country they want to represent – Matteau had only played two years in the USA.

Originally set to play at the University of North Dakota, Matteau shifted gears and will now play in the QMJHL with Blainville-Boisbriand – the team where his father is an assistant coach. Most scouting reports say that his rambunctious style of play is better-suited for Junior hockey, but will playing under his father be a detriment to his development? Only time will tell.

ISS: “Matteau’s energetic and determined style makes him easy to notice. He is capable of putting up good offensive numbers as well…. He is strong on the wall and works hard to protect the puck and get it out of the zone…. He has emerging power forward potential and does a lot of little things right every shift.”

McK: “His strength in the offensive zone, aside from his size and toughness, is his quick snapshot. He wastes little time unleashing his snapshot when he’s in the slot. He also gets his share of garbage goals by driving hard to the net and has the strength to carry a player on his back en route to it.”

THN: One scout said, “He has all the tools to be a quote-un-quote power forward. There are enough tools in his game that when he gets that consistency, he can be very, very effective.” A second scout told THN, “He took a lot of dumb selfish penalties. He’s definitely more a junior-style player than college player. He’d be in the box all game long in college.”

CS: # 25NA —– McK: # 39
THN: # 36 (Offensive Forward) —– ISS: # 88 (Not Available)

The 6-foot-0 and 200 pound Pearson was passed over in the last two NHL Drafts. After a 42 point rookie season in the OHL, Pearson responded with 37 goals and 53 assists in 60 games with Barrie – taking full advantage of being on the same line with Winnipeg 1st round draft pick Mark Scheifele. Pearson represented Canada in the World Junior Championship scoring one goal and five assists in six games. Pearson finished 3rd in the OHL in scoring and might have won the title if not for his time at the WJC. A broken fibula suffered in the final game of the regular season cost him a chance at any playoff action.

If the Rangers like Pearson enough to draft him the 1st round, it might behoove them to trade down a few picks and secure an extra draft pick or two.

ISS: “Dominant offensive game, slick hands, shot and ability to find open ice are at the pro level. He must work on his foot speed to make the NHL jump, doesn’t possess that elite get up and go with his heavy feet. A late bloomer and an interesting player to project.”

McK: “Pearson is a highly cerebral player from the blue line down. He sees the ice incredibly well and anticipates the play around him. His passing skills are very good, but his shot is his best weapon…. Pearson’s hand-eye coordination is outstanding, as is his innate ability to tip and redirect pucks in front. He is only an average skater.”

THN: A scout said. “He pretty much made you take notice of him. He adapted his game and showed a good defensive side to his game at the world juniors. Now it’s a question of whether you think he has no more room to improve or he’s a late developer.”

CS: # 75NA —– McK: # 32
THN: # 50 (Third Line Center) —– ISS: # 27 (Mats Sundin)

If you are in the mood to draft the son of a former Ranger, and Stefan Matteau is not your cup of tea, then perhaps the son of Ulf Samuelsson is more your taste. Henrik racked up frequent flyer mileage during the last couple of seasons. Samuelsson played for USNTDP’ Under-17 team that competed in the USHL in 2010-2011. Last season he played for Modo’s junior and senior teams before settling in with Edmonton Oil Kings at the end of the year. In 28 games in the WHL, the 6-foot-2 and 200 pound forward scored seven goals and 18 assists in 28 games.

Henrik’s brother, Philip (a defenseman), was drafted in the 2nd round in 2009 by Pittsburgh.

ISS: “While not a high end offensive talent. He has very good hands, a great shot, and drives to the net well. He is just learning to use his size to his advantage now and can be most dangerous when crashing the net. He loves to plat physical and can really have opponents looking over their shoulders worried about what he might do on the forecheck.”

McK: “He’s extremely effective when he’s positioned below the dots due to a set of soft hands and touch with the puck, especially when making plays to the backhand…. A Hard competitor with a nasty edge, Samuelsson, like his father, plays with a nasty streak which borderlines on dirty play and results in many undisciplined penalties. Samuelsson is not a quick skater … but musters good speed levels once in motion.”

THN: One scout said. “His hockey IQ is awesome, but he really labors around the ice. He’s smart and he’s putting up decent numbers, but I expected a little bit more. He’s really an intelligent player, but if his name were different, you’d have a little more trouble finding him.

CS: # 26NA —– McK: # 38
THN: # 29 (Two-Way Defenseman) —– ISS: # 28 (Kevin Bieksa)

Thrower’s 5-foot-11 and 190 pound frame does not tell the whole story on his style of play. Thrower is a tough player who loves to dish out big hits and is more than willing to fight if necessary. This was seen in the CHL/NHL Top Prospects game when he fought Thomas Wilson (see below) to a draw after the forward roughed up his Junior teammate Lukas Sutter.

The youngster is more than just a rough and tumble player – he has an offensive upside as well. In 66 games with Saskatoon, Thrower scored 18 goals and 36 assists to go along with 103 PIM (including nine fighting majors). Thrower figures to be in the midst of the Memorial Cup hunt because Saskatoon is hosting in 2013. Given the Rangers depth among left-handed shooting defenseman, Thrower is a perfect addition as a right-handed shot,

ISS: “Thrower is a true competitor who loves the thrill of the fight. He adapts well to a variety of roles and has a motor that just doesn’t seem to run out of juice. Saskatoon at one point had so many injuries that Thrower was literally playing over half the game and still matching up against top lines from opponents.”

McK: “Physical to the point of recklessness when jumping into hits, Thrower looks to hurt when making contact. That same attitude comes into play offensively where he’s a gifted puck-handler who charges up the ice with abandon. He’s aided by a smooth set of hands that contributes in both his scoring ability and playmaking from the back end.”

THN: One scout said, “He’s one of those players who can do it all. Finishes his checks, runs the power play and he’s not afraid to defend himself. His decision-making is getting better. He’s also getting back quickly when he jumps into the rush.”

CS: # 15NA —– McK: # 19
THN: # 25 (Power Forward) —– ISS: # 17 (Ryan Clowe)

Wilson’s development has been slowed by a series of injuries suffered during the past couple of years. In 2010/2011, he was limited to 28 games with Plymouth because a severed tendon in his wrist. Last year, he played in just 49 games (nine goals, 18 assists, 141 PIM) because a sprained MCL and a broken knuckle he suffered in the fight with Dalton Thrower.

The Rangers will be familiar with the 6-foot-4 and 205 pound Wilson because he often played on a line with 2011 1st round picks J.T. Miller. Some might draw comparisons to Hugh Jessiman, but Wilson has played at a higher level and would be taken with the 28th pick, not the 12th pick.

ISS: “One word to cap off his game is feistiness. You can see so many aspects of his game when watching the likes of Milan Lucic and Todd Bertuzzi. Prototypical power forward: tenacious, tough, nasty when needed. A player who plays heavy on the puck. Hits to hurt and plays a rugged style of play.”

McK: “Wilson is an intriguing prospect because he plays like a true power-forward and he hits to hurt. His hits can easily change the complexion of the game. He is an intimidating presence when he steps onto the ice and doesn’t hesitate to fight…. His potential, coupled with his unique brand of physical play may see him jump a few spots earlier than expected. He simply offers a dynamic that not many prospects offer.

THN: One scout said, “He’s an interesting player. All of the attributes of an NHL power forward. He skates well, is strong below the goal line and his hands and ability to make plays are underrated.”

In making my final decision on which way the Rangers should go with their 1st round pick, I have to factor in that the only two players who were still around in my 1st Round Mock Draft were Tanner Pearson and Dalton Thrower. Based on that, my decision would be to draft Thrower with the 28th overall pick.

If all things were equal, and all six of the players were available, then I would list Kerdiles first on my wish list because of his combination of speed, size and scoring ability. The fact that he will be under the tutelage of Mike Eaves at Wisconsin is an added bonus – possibly allowing him to make the early jump to the NHL like Derek Stepan.

Thrower’s combination of physical play and offensive upside make him the second choice of the six players. While the Rangers are deep on defense, Thrower brings a lot to the table and could allow the Rangers to shop around other prospects and turn their depth on defense into a young scoring forward.

The remaining forwards are pretty much a close bunch. It comes down to what type of player you prefer. Wilson probably represents the highest-risk/highest-rewards of the remaining four forwards because of his injuries and slowed development.

Matteau and Samuelsson are both solid players, but I have to wonder if I would be as high on them as I am if they did not have famous fathers who have a link to the Rangers.

Pearson is an intriguing player, but the question is has he reached the upper stage of his development or can he continue to develop and build on his reputation.

Gun to my head, I would rank the remaining four forwards thusly: Wilson, Matteau, Samuelsson, and Pearson.

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