While the New York Rangers own their own fourth round draft pick (#119), they do not own their fifth round pick (#149) because it was traded to San Jose as part of the ill-fated Ryane Clowe deal. On the plus side, the Rangers will be moving up in the fifth round to #122 as they acquired Florida’s pick in exchange for Casey Wellman.

The Blueshirts have no sixth round picks in 2014. Their own sixth rounder (#179) went to the Sharks in the deal that sent Tommy Grant and this conditional pick for Brandon Mashinter. The condition was met because Mashinter was a signed player on the Rangers’ Reserve List.

The Rangers did acquire a sixth rounder from Columbus (#167), but that selection was sent to Minnesota as part of the Justin Falk deal. The Rangers acquired the pick from the Blue Jackets in the Marian Gaborik deal.

The Rangers seventh round pick (#209) was traded to the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for Daniel Carcillo.

With the Rangers only having a fourth and fifth pick, the team’s best strategy will be to draft the best player available – regardless of position or current need – because these players are most likely a few years away from the NHL.

Since Glen Sather has been dealing away so many assets (especially draft picks), the Rangers have (and will continue) to make use of undrafted free agency. These players are older and more experienced and are much closer to the NHL than a regular draft prospect.

As a result, the Rangers can use undrafted free agents to fill in open spots in the organization.

Ryan Haggerty (6-0/200) was one of the first collegiate undrafted free agents to sign in mid-March. The RPI RW was named to the 2013-2014 All-ECAC Hockey First Team and was named as a 2013-2014 American Hockey Coaches Association second Team all-American. In three years at RPI, Haggerty’s offensive game and strength grew and he finished his collegiate career with 47 goals and 37 assists in 106 games.

In a bizarre twist, Haggerty’s contract did not permit him to be sent to the AHL. Rather than gain experience playing in Hartford, he spent his time practicing with the Rangers.

Here is his Hockey News Scouting Report:
Assets: Knows where to go in order to score goals, and has very good hands. Also displays pretty good strength in his lower body, which helps him win board battles.
Flaws: Must prove he can be a consistent scoring threat at the highest level, because the rest of his game is only average. Could stand to get stronger in his upper body.
Career Potential: Scoring winger with upside.

About three weeks later, Vermont senior captain Chris McCarthy was the second collegian to sign with the Blueshirts. The fifth-year senior captain helped Vermont to reach the NCAA Tournament. McCarthy received a medical redshirt after playing just five games into his junior year. During his final two years at Vermont, the 6-1/205 center scored 31 goals and 42 assists in 74 games.

McCarthy is a solid two-way center who should be able to contribute on the third or fourth lines. He attended the summer prospect camps of the San Jose Sharks and Chicago Blackhawks during the last two years.

In mid-April, the Rangers added depth to their blue line by signing their third non-drafted collegian – Mat Bodie of Union College. Flyers draft pick and USA World Junior team member Shayne Gottisbehere might have garnered more of the recognition, but it is Bodie who captained Union and garnered higher accolades.

Bodie was a 2013-2014 All-ECAC Hockey Team and 2013-2014 AHCA East First Team All-American. Bodie uses a strong skating game and hockey sense to overcome his slight build (6-0/165) – think Torrey Krug. Bodie averaged nearly a point a game as a senior (39 points in 40 games) and finished his career with 28 goals and 96 assists in 154 games.

The Rangers recently ventured across the Atlantic to add another undrafted defenseman in Petr Zamorsky (a right-handed shot). The 6-0/185 blueliner was selected as the Czech Extraliga’s best defenseman. At the beginning of May, Zamorsky signed a two-year deal with Espoo of Finland. However, his strong play in helping lead the Czech Republic to a fourth-place finish in the World Championship drew attention from the NHL and Zamorsky exercised an NHL-out clause in his Espoo deal.

Turning our attention back to the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, I have identified three players as potential fourth round draft selections and three players as fifth round draft picks.

Each player has ratings for the following scouting services: NHL’s Central Scouting (CS), The Hockey News (THN), 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 while ranking skaters and goaltenders together. ISS provides a prospects’ comparable NHL player and has separate rankings for skaters and goaltenders.

The Draft positions utilized are those as of June 26, 2014.

FOURTH ROUND (#89)

MILES GENDRON – D
CS: #: 74 NAS — THN: Not Rated in the Top 100
ISS: 121 (Not Available)
ISS NHL Potential: “Four-five defender who can contribute offensively.”

The 6-2/173 Gendron has committed to attend the University of Connecticut in 2015-16. Interesting side note, his coach at Rivers was former NHLer Shawn McEachern, who played a big part in Gendron’s development during the 2012-13 season. McEachern switched Gendron from center to defense.

Gendron does have the option to play in the USHL for Green Bay who drafted him this year. Last year, Lincoln of the USHL drafted as well as Moncton (QMJHL).
ISS says he is “a gifted offensive player with natural playmaking ability. An excellent skater with good speed who can change gears without hesitation and loves carrying the puck. Possesses a hard, accurate point shot that he can get off in no time…. Tries to do too much on his own. Still needs to get stronger physically as he has a lanky frame.”

Ed Harding, ISS Regional U.S. Scout, wrote: “Very good feet and quickness in his game. Best skater on the ice. Gave opponent hard time by jumping into play and breaking up plays with his back pressure. I would have liked to see him control the puck better.

Dennis MacInnis, ISS Director of Scouting, wrote: “smooth feet and quick. Reads plays very well and good gap control. Moves the puck smartly and very strong on the rush. He needs to work on getting shots through on the offensive blueline.”

CHRISTIAN JAROS – D
CS: # 119 ES —– THN: # Not Rated in the Top 100 (Not available)
ISS: # 90 (Not available)
ISS NHL Potential: “A bottom four defenseman who brings a physical edge and defensive shutdown qualities to the blueline.”

The 6-4/205 right-handed shooter is a physical defensive d-man who leads by example. The Slovak-born Jaros played last season with Lulea in Sweden. If you were as frustrated as I was watching Rangers flail away with pokechecks, you won’t get that with Jaros because he is more likely to lay the body than use his stick.

ISS sees him as a “strong two-way figure on the backend brought it on both sides of the puck, defensively incredibly smart, attention to detail and active while offensively showing good vision and smart decision on the first pass….”

Steve Crocker, ISS Regional European Scout, wrote: “Brings intensity and a physical element to the blueline. Won’t hesitate to engage and get involved in the play. Logs big minutes.”

Ondrej Otcenas, ISS Regional European Scout, wrote: “Pretty good skater with good mobility on his size. Very good shot from point. Needs to improve his defensive play, but is very skilled. Plays body well and can make accurate long passes.”

BLAKE WEYRICK – G
CS: # 11 NAG —– THN: # Not Rated in the Top 100 (Not available)
ISS: # 18 G
ISS NHL Potential: “He’s got some skill and with added maturity could surprise and be a serviceable pro who may even be able to compete for a start here or there.”

The California native spent last season with the USNTDP and was committed to attend Brown University. However when he was unable to get the necessary financial aid package from Brown (Ivy League schools do not offer athletic scholarships), Weyrick de-committed from the school. His USHL rights belong to Tri-City and his Junior rights belong to Red Deer (WHL).

Kyle Woodlief from Red Line Report offered his opinion on Weyrick: “When at his best, Weyrick flashes a crisp glove hand and limits second-chance opportunities by absorbing pucks into his body and smothering rebounds. At 6-3, 210, he has the size that NHL clubs crave, and he fills the net with an upright style. However, he has a tendency to be wildly inconsistent and doesn’t always handle adversity well when things break down around him.”

Weyrick is an athletic goaltender who plays smartly in terms of positioning and mechanics. His problems arise when his concentration starts wondering and it is that lack of focus that causes his problems and throws off his game.

Phil Myre, ISS Head U.S. Scout, wrote: “Very good size goalie. Plays angles well. Has good skills. Good technique and lateral movement. Must improve focus and concentration. Must improve rebound control.”

Ron MacLean, ISS Regional Ontario Scout, wrote: “There’s a lot to like in his game and his flaws seem palpable enough to be addressed in the short term.”

In respect to my fourth round preference, I wouldn’t have a problem selecting any of these three players in the third round if my three third round preferences were not available. My order of preference is Weyrick, Jaros and Gendron.

While the Rangers are set with Henrik Lundqvist in goal, the cupboard behind him is pretty barren. Last year the Rangers drafted Mackenzie Skapski in the 6th round and he is progressing, but the Rangers still need to add more depth. Scott Stacjer has continued to battle the injury bug while Jason Missiaen and Jeff Malcolm have not staked out a spot with Hartford.

Things got so back with the Wolf Pack that they had to sign and rely AHL veteran goaltenders Dov Grumet-Morris and David LeNeveu.

While Cam Talbot proved to be a superb backup to The King, his days with the Rangers might be numbered. Talbot is set to be an Unrestricted Free Agent following this season. You have to figure that Talbot will want to test free agency to see if he can, at the very least, compete for a starting job. The Rangers might not be able to afford the salary cap space to overpay him to stay. In fact, the Rangers might want to start looking to move him now because a potential starting goalie who is making less than $600,000 will be enticing to more than a few NHL teams.

As a result, Weyrick gets the nod over Jaros and Gendron. While I like both defensemen, I am more intrigued with Jaros’ size, physicality and the defensive presence he brings. The fact that Jaros is a right-handed shot is a bonus.

FIFTH ROUND (#122)

LOUIE BELPIDIO – D
CS: # 107 NAS —– THN: # 85 (Not available)
ISS: # 126 (Not available)
ISS NHL Potential: “Top 4 puck moving defenseman with incredible smarts and vision when moving the puck.”

The 5-11/193 right-handed shooting blueliner spent last season with the USA U-18 team and is committed to the University of Miami (Ohio). Belpidio was named one of the three best American players at the U-18 Tournament (Jack Eichel and Alex Nedejkovic were the other two selected).

ISS said his “Hockey sense and IQ on the puck are major strengths … his game as a defenseman is based around his poised play on the puck and leadership qualities. Mobility, agility, and overall skating is a strength.”

While his size is a question, his hockey knowledge and ability to read the game help to compensate.

Crocker wrote: “A Highly intelligent offensive defenseman who shows incredible vision and mobility to run the offensive point or QB the breakout up ice.”

Paul Dionne, ISS Regional U.S. Scout, wrote: “One of the most improved players on the NTDP’s U-18 squad and still has really flown under the radar as a very smart two-way defender that has excellent game speed, rarely makes mistakes and just simply gets the job done.”

ALEXANDER SHAROV – LW
CS: # 34 ES —– THN: # Not Rated in the Top 100 (Not available)
ISS: # 111
ISS NHL Potential: “Top 6 producer.”

While the 6-2/189 Sharov had a good regular season playing for CSKA Moscow in Russia’s MHL (17 goals and 17 assists in 41 games), he saved the best for the playoffs as he tallied six goals and 12 assists in 20 games.

ISS calls him a “natural goal-scorer with good finishing ability that has produced at every level. Can line up either down the middle or on the wing …. Brings shiftiness and evasiveness doe to his skating ability and speed. Has plus hockey sense.”

Sharov still needs to get stronger and work on adding a physical aspect to his game and he still needs to work on his play in the defensive zone.

Yuri Yanchenkov, ISS Head European Scout, wrote: “Good third-liner for me. Competes hard. Has goal scoring ability but all-around game needs improvement.”

MacInnis wrote: “Has the ability to handle the puck at high speed and change gears without missing a beat. Can go through the motions at times. Needs to play more committed defensively.”

LINUS SODERSTROM – G
CS: # 3 E-G —– THN: # 43 (Project goaltender)
ISS: # 19 G
ISS NHL Potential: “Possesses a good projectable frame and raw skill-set to be an interesting development case.”

The 6-4/194 Soderstrom played 23 games with Djurgarden in the Swedish Junior League posting a 2.61 GAA and a .915 SV%. Soderstrom uses his size to play within his crease – utilizing a butterfly style.

ISS cautions that he needs to get stronger and work on being more comfortable leaving his crease to handle the puck. However, they do say “his frame and technical skills are intriguing and show good potential for the next level when looking at his entire package that he brings to the table.”

Cocker wrote: “Soderstrom possesses an incredible total package as a goaltender … raw frame, controlled lateral movement between the pipes. Seems to elevate his game when he is needed the most, could be a riser come Draft day.”

Olli Lahdesmaki, ISS Hockey Intern, wrote: “Calm, well postured goaltender, pays attention to eh details. Good coverage on net, while glove/blocker are quick. Some inconsistency during U-18, but was solid when it mattered most.”

My order of preference for the fifth round pick might be the toughest of all four rounds because the three players I selected are so different. In the end, I decided to go with Soderstrom, Belpidio and Sharov.

Since the Rangers organization is deepest in forwards, especially after their solid three picks in last year’s third round, I decided to place Sharov third. While I like Belpidio, and he does fit the Rangers need for a potential PP leader, I went with Soderstrom as my second goaltender of the draft because I want to be certain that I have potential NHL-caliber goaltenders available in the system. My hope is that between Weyrick and Soderstrom I am able to hit on an NHL goalie. If both goaltenders develop into NHL-caliber players, then that is a valuable trade asset because goaltending is a lot like pitching in baseball – you can never have too many of them.

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