The New York Rangers are not scheduled to make a selection in the 2013 NHL Draft until the 3rd round at pick #65 – their lowest first pick ever. Previously, the Rangers lowest first draft pick was defenseman Filip Novak who was drafted in the 2nd round (64th overall) in 2000 in Glen Sather’s first draft as GM.

Neil Smith dealt away the Rangers first round pick as part of the trade that allowed the Rangers to move up to 4th in 1999 to draft Pavel Brendl. The Blueshirts should have had the 38th overall pick, but Sather swapped second round picks with the Detroit Red Wings who used the 38th pick to draft Tomas Kopecky. The Rangers received the 95th overall pick (3rd rounder) in the deal – which they used to select Dominic Moore.

The Rangers own Nashville’s 3rd round pick (#65), Columbus’ 3rd round pick (#75) and their own 3rd round pick (# 80).

Rangers Director of Player Personnel Gordie described how he is dealing with the missing 1st and 2nd round picks and what his plans are for the Rangers three 3rd round selections.

“This is the first time in my career I have had to wait so long to make a pick. But these are still important picks,” Clark explained to Jim Cerny of BlueshirtsUnited.com.

“The difference is that in the first round we tend to take the best player available regardless of position. Here we can think more about filling a need in the organization. For example we are a little light on defense because all of our young (defensemen) are already in the NHL for the most part. So that is one area we would target. And seeing if we can find a possible future No. 1 goaltender, as well.”

It is interesting reading Clark’s thoughts. I would think since the odds are better to get an impact player in the 1st round; teams would be looking to fill specific needs in the 1st round (and even the 2nd round). Teams would then switch to taking the best players available as you get deeper in the draft in an attempt to build as deep an organization as possible. Even if you end up stockpiling talent at a position, you could always use it in trades.

So what is Clark’s game plan approaching the 2013 NHL Draft.

“You might not be able to fill your biggest need in the third round, even with three thirds like we have,” Clark told Cerny. “For example, our biggest needs within the organization are a big-time offensive forward and a skilled offensive defenseman. But you probably are only going to get those type of players in the first round, not in the third. So we shift our focus to filling some of our other needs.”

In preparing my 3rd round draft preview I have taken Clark’s strategy into consideration. I have come up with a list of six potential 3rd round targets that are listed in alphabetical order.

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

NICK BAPTISTE – RW
THN: # 63 (Not Available) —– CS: # 61 NAS —– McK: # 64
ISS: # 48 (Brenden Morrow)

The 6-foot-1 and 189 Baptiste played for Sudbury (OHL) last season and scored 21 goals and 27 assists in 66 games. ISS sees him as a “2nd/3rd line winger while adding excellent secondary scoring. THN called him a “speedster with nice hands [who] had a great second half”.

ISS Scouting report: “Baptiste plays the game at a high tempo and has a relentless offensive motor. Possesses dynamic hands to match his quick outside speed …. Has great puck presence and the ability to burn opposition defenders while having the vision to find his teammates in the offensive zone. His defensive awareness and instincts have come a long way and are a work in progress …. It is evident in his intensity and work ethic that Nick has a passion for the game and development hasn’t stopped as he continues to improve.”

MATT BUCKLES – C
THN: # 77 (N/A) —– CS: # 117 NAS —– McK: #Not Available
ISS: # 69 (Not Available)

The 6-foot-1 and 204 pound Buckles scored 40 goals and 3`1 assists in 51 games for St. Michael’s (OJHL). In 17 playoff games, he chipped in another seven goals and 10 assists. THN described him as a “sniper who can bang and crash – headed to Cornell.”

ISS Scouting Report: “Buckles’ game is centered around his fierce physical game and his massive shot, which is lethal given room in the offensive zone. Has a variety of weapons in the offensive end as he shows great body presence and puck protection to carry the puck to the net, but can also act as a triggerman with his heavy one-timer. Explodes through checks and hits the opposition with emphasis. Skates well but lacks elite quickness, relying on his power strides up ice. He needs to work on his consistency ….”

ANTON CEDERHOLM – D
THN: Not Available —– CS: # 25 ES —– McK: # Not Available
ISS: #113 (Not Available)

The 6-foot-2 and 209 pound Cederholm played for Rogle Jr. in Sweden and scored five goals and eight assist in 36 games.

ISS Scouting Report: “A big, strong and mobile defenseman, Cederholm is already very mature for his age; something served him well in his 12 games in the Eliteserien this year, where he never looked out of place. He is strong around his own net and shows well in battle situations. Cederholm is at his best below his own goal line as he manages to deny lanes well and can really contain pressure to the outside. He is very good at clearing pucks and pushing them up ice to teammates. He can be a bit jumpy with the puck offensively and tend to rush or force plays.”

ANTHONY DUCLAIR – RW
THN: # 55 (Skilled Forward) —– CS: # 57 NAS —– McK: # 72
ISS: # 64 (Not Available)

The 5-foot-11 and 180 pound Duclair played 55 games with Quebec (QMJHL) and scored 20 goals and 30 assists – a decrease from his rookie season when he scored 31 goals and 35 assists in 63 games.

THN wrote that scouts compare his abilities to that of Marian Gaborik and Alexander Semin on one hand while questioning his consistency. “The tools are there, but he’s inconsistent. You never know what you are going to get from this kid,” one scout told THN.

Another scout told THN, “The key to Duclair is the team that gets him had better be patient and understanding with him. If they are, they’re going to be rewarded.”

ISS Scouting report: “Duclair has battled adversity this tear; injury early in [the] year and some inconsistent play, but [he] worked through and became a good offensive contributor with a +23 rating. When he is on his game he can be difficult to handle one-on-one and is dangerous in the offensive zone … when he is not, he looks like a career CHL player. Luckily for him, we have seen him at his best and believe he will mature and has top 6 upside with added maturity and consistency in compete level. He is not strong and that does force him to rely on his skating and stick skills too heavily.”

GUSTAV OLOFSSON – D
THN: # 80 (Not Available) —– CS: # 51 NAS —– McK: #51 NAS
ISS: # 71 (Not Available)

The 6-foot-3 and 185 pound Olofsson spent last season with Green Bay (USHL) and scored one goal and 20 assists in 61 games. Olofsson is committed to Colorado College. THN called him a “puckmoving defenseman [who] boasts poise [and a] great stick.”

ISS Scouting Report: “… has great size and plays a very responsible and steady game. He plays with good intelligence and poise with the puck. Although he is not an overly physical defenseman, he has a great stick and works his angles very efficiently. His biggest strength is he rarely gets beat. A frustrating defenseman to play against and get around. He stands out in most situations when he has little bit of extra time and space to make a play, such as the PP – but proves to be capable in 5-on-5 situations as well. A big quiet kid who reminds ISS of Jiri Fischer.”

KEATON THOMPSON – D
THN: # 75 (Not Available) —– CS: # 53 NAS —– McK: # 85
ISS: # 49 (Paul Martin)

The 6-foot-0 and 187 pound Thompson played for the USA’s Under-18 team and scored four goals and 17 assists in 60games. Thompson has verbally committed to play for the University of North Dakota starting in the 2014-15 season. THN called him a “smooth skating blueliner with upside [but] how much?”

ISS Scouting Report: “Thompson is a two-way puck moving defenseman that sees the ice exceptionally well. He possesses gifted athletic ability and elite vision. [He] was a standout defenseman for the USA U-18 team all season long. Keaton can play the game any way you like. He is at his best when he uses his patience and ice vision to distribute pucks. He has shut down capability and plays a responsible and smart game in all three zones. He can play physical when the situation calls for it and will not shy away from scrums and clearing men from in front of the net.”

I know there are no LWs among the group, but I believe that these forwards represent the best “bang for the buck” in the 3rd round.

In terms of preference, my first pick would be Duclair – and that is something that I would not have said if John Tortorella were still coach. Alain Vigneault’s style and patience would help to bring the best out of Duclair.

I would be comfortable with either Baptiste or Buckles as my second pick of the 3rd round. I would lean towards Buckles because of his big-time shot – something the Rangers could certainly use.

As for the third pick of the 3rd round, all three blueliners are close but my first choice would be Thompson because I think he might have the quickest transition to the NHL game – with Olofsson and Cedarholm following in that order.

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