The newest New York Ranger, Josh Nicholls, might owe Shane McColgan a thank you and root beer as a result of signing with the Blueshirts. The 6-foot-2 and 186 pound forward is a teammate of McColgan’s with the WHL’s Saskatoon Blades and you can bet the Blueshirts dialed into Nicholls this season while tracking McColgan’s progress.

Nicholls, who can play Center and RW, was originally a 2010 seventh round draft pick (#182) of the Toronto Maple Leafs. When he did not sign with Toronto, Nicholls was eligible for the 2012 NHL Draft but went undrafted.

As per Bob McKenzie of TSN, Nicholls signed an entry level contract (with a cap hit of $925,000) and will remain with the Blades until their season is over.

Nicholls was on the radar prior to the 2010 NHL Draft. NHL’s Central Scouting ranked him as their 93rd North American skater. McKeen’s ranked him at number 129 in their rankings of the Top 150 players. International Scouting Service ranked him at #199 and had the following write-up on him:

• Good linear skater but edge work needs improvement
• Two way player
• Leadership qualities
• Puck handling skills are decent
• Good stick around net in offensive zone
• Good positioning in d-zone
• Plays PK

Nicholls, who will be 21 on April 17, is playing his fifth season with the Blades – starting his WHL career as a 16-year-old.

The Tsawwassen, BC native has shown solid development as his WHL has progressed. After posting nine goals and 16 assists in 63 games in his rookie season, Nicholls’ numbers have steadily increased – as seen here:

• 18 goals and 30 assists in 71 games in 2008-2009
• 34 goals and 53 assists in 71 games in 2010-2011
• 30 goals and 38 assists in 56 games in 2011-2012
• 41 goals and 32 assists in 65 games (and counting) in 2012-2013

Hockey’s Future offers up the following Scouting Report on him:

“An interesting combination of size and speed, Nicholls is a two-way forward who displays some offensive upside. He is able to line-up both at center and on the right-wing. Very thin at the moment being only 186lbs and 6’2 so weight will be a priority over the next two seasons. Not a physical force, but forechecks well. He has developed into a well-rounded forward over the last few seasons; dangerous in all areas of the ice.”

“A long-term project with intriguing upside, Nicholls will spend the 2012-13 season in the WHL where he will continue maturing. Nicholls will continue his prominent offensive role with Saskatoon this season.”

“Projection: Versatile two-way forward with size.”

On his SNY Blog, Adam Rotter wrote that Nicholls scored a highlight goal reminiscent of Marek Malik’s shootout game-winning goal in November 2006. The main difference is that Nicholls’ goal was during the regular course of the game.

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