Even though the New York Rangers are scheduled to draft in the 1st round for the first time since 2012, they do not have their full complement of draft picks. Their 2nd round pick went to Carolina in the Eric Staal trade and their 3rd round pick went to Detroit in the Brendan Smith trade.

The Rangers dealt their own 4th round pick (#114) to Colorado in the Nick Holden trade, but they did pick up a 4th round pick from Florida (#102) in the Keith Yandle trade.

The Blueshirts own their own 5th round pick, but will move up in the 6th as a result of two separate trades. They dealt their 6th rounder (#176) to Nashville for Magnus Hellberg and acquired a 6th round pick from Vancouver as part of the Emerson Etem/Nicklas Jensen trade. The Rangers still own their own 7th rounder (#207).

In doing research for this article, I came across an amazing statistic/draft oddity. The 2017 Draft will mark the eighth straight time the Rangers do not have draft picks in the 1st, 2nd and 3rd rounds. The last time the Rangers did have those picks was in 2009 when they drafted Chris Kreider, Ethan Werek and Ryan Bourque.

There are three players who were on my original list, but dropped off after I completed my 2017 NHL Mock Draft because I slotted them in prior to the Rangers pick at 21. In fact, I had all three players being picked one after another: Eeli Tolvanen (#16 to Calgary), Isaac Ratcliffe (#17 to Toronto) and Nic Hague (#18 to Boston),

Truth be told, if Tolvanen is still available when the Rangers draft I would not walk to the podium, I would sprint to the podium to draft the Finnish winger. While Tolvanen needs to tighten up his work in the defensive zone, he is an explosive offensive player who will get bigger, better and stronger while at Boston College – unless the NHL team that drafts him makes him play in the OHL.

Ratcliffe is a big forward (6-6/195) who has drawn comparisons to Kevin Hayes – and depending on your opinion of Hayes – that is either a good thing or a bad thing. Ratcliffe is going to be a heavy load to handle once his talent matches his size

Hague offers up an even bigger prospect, literally, as the blueliner is 6-5/216. Hague needs to work on his skating stride and, like Ratcliffe, have his hockey sense grown into his body.

With those three out of the running, that leaves us five players to review.

LIAS ANDERSSON – C – HV 71 (Sweden)
CS: # 3 E
THN: # 23 — Best Case: Ondrej Palat
ISS: # 25 — Style Comparison: Alexander Steen
NHL Potential: NHL upside as a potential top 2 line player.

Andersson has family connections to the NHL as his father Niklas was drafted 68th overall in 1989 in Quebec. Niklas played 165 games with five NHL teams. Lias’s father is a European scout for the Los Angeles Kings. Uncle Mikael was a 1st round pick in 1984 (#18) who played for five NHL teams an appeared in 761 games.

The 5-11/198 center played in the top Swedish League last season as an 18-year-old and scored 9 goals and 10 assists in 42 games. He also represented Sweden in the WJC and scored 3 goals in 7 games – not too bad for a player who was asked to use his solid two-way play to anchor the third line.

Dennis MacInnis (ISS Director of Scouting): “Complete package for a two-way forward. Highly intelligent player with good skills and physical tools. Has good character and work ethic”.

Ben Gallant (ISS Scout): “Liked this player at WJC. Played at center on shutdown line. Willing to engage physically and showed good creativity on the cycle. Tools to be a middle NHL forward that can play on [PP and PK].

Rocco Zappia (ISS Scout): Playmaking centre. Good skater, plays with a lot of pace and moves up the ice with speed. Very cerebral player, displays high hockey sense. Does a really good job of finding the open man.”

MAXIME COMTOIS – LW – Victoriaville (QMJHL)
CS: # 30 NA
THN: # 19 — Best Case: Brandon Saad
ISS: # 30 — Style Comparison: Austin Watson
NHL Potential: 3rd line [winger] who can play just about any role in the lineup.

The 6-2/200 Comtois was rated as the #3 prospect a year ago by THN. After scoring 26 goals and 34 assists in 65 games in his rookie season, his offensive numbers fell to 22 goals and 29 assists in 61 games. THN pointed out that too much was made and expected of Comtois offensively coming into this season. While his numbers might have dropped, he is solid at both ends of the rink and is a 200-foot player who will block shots and do what it takes to win – include kill penalties.

Dennis MacInnis: “Not a lot of flash to his game, but is a steady and dependable player with good hockey sense and compete level – he will play in the NHL, but there will never be a wow factor to his game.”

Chris Mooring (ISS Scout): “North/south type of skater with acceptable speed once he gets going. Looks like a middle six complimentary type power winger. Needs to show more consistency with and without the puck and improve first couple of steps and agility.”

Bob Johnson (ISS Scout): One thing about this player [is] he works hard on every shift. The puck wasn’t going in for him this year. He competes on every shift and he gets his nose dirty in traffic.”

JASON ROBERTSON – RW – Kingston (OHL)
CS: # 14 NA
THN: # 51 — Best Case: Mark Stone
ISS: # 36 — Style Comparison: Not Listed
NHL Potential: 2nd line sniper that can help PP.

The 6-2/196 Robertson has the size and scoring ability that teams want. The problem is that his skating needs improvement and he need to add a little more bulk and strength to his game. He might be a bit of a reach at #21, but his ability to score puts him on my radar. He more than doubled his point total from his first season (54-18-14-32) to his breakout second season (68-42-39-81).

The Rangers should be intrigued from this snippet from his ISS Scouting Report: “At his best on the PP where he works the half-boards, disguises the release on his shot well fooling goaltenders.

Greg Hickman (ISS Scout): “Offensive forward with great size and frame. Showing more confidence and poise with the puck. Skating and feet could be better, lateral skating is poor. Puck skills are strong. Has offensive upside at higher levels.”

Ben Gallant: “Natural goal scorer with high end offensive instincts. Shot is heavy and accurate with quick release. Footspeed needs to improve ….”

CONOR TIMMINS – D – Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)
CS: # 18 NA
THN: # 38 — Best Case: Marc-Edouard Vlasic
ISS: # 28 — Style Comparison: Alec Martinez
NHL Potential: 2nd pairing defender who can add some offensive upside.

While Timmins might not be the “big” defenseman the Rangers could use, the 6-1/185 Timmins is the mobile/puck-moving d-man that Alain Vigneault wants on his blue line. He projects out as a player who can play among the top four on defense and man the point on the PP and PK. Most importantly to some fans, he is a righty shooting defenseman – a need for the Rangers.

Timmins saw a huge jump in his offensive production from his first season in the OHL (60-4-9-13) to last season (67-7-54-61).

Dennis MacInnis: “RH-shooting d-man with hard, low point shot. Skating is fluid and mobile. Has the habit to recognize his options quickly when retrieving pucks defensively. Makes a good first pass out of his zone. Like his offensive upside.”

Phil Myre (ISS Scout): “Conor has continued to improve all season long. Average size RD who plays top pair, top PP, and PK. Excellent puck mover and also has the ability to carry the puck up ice and beat players one-on-one,

Matt Manners (ISS Scout): Knows when to jump up offensively. He QB’s the PP unit and plays PK. Offensive game has improved tons this season. Heady player. Has good mobility and quickness.

KAILER YAMAMOTO – RW – Spokane (RW)
CS: # 17 NA
THN: # 24 — Best Case: Conor Sheary
ISS: # 26 — Style Comparison: John Gaudreau
NHL Potential: Top six forward – valuable piece on the power play.

At 5-8/160, Yamamoto would be the only player on the team that could look eye-to-eye Mats Zuccarello without any strain. One question with Yamamoto is will he be another Zuccarello/John Gaudreau or another Rocco Grimaldi? The other question is whether the Rangers could afford to have two players who are 5-8/5-7 among their 12 forwards? Of course, Zuccarello and Martin St. Louis coexisted without any problems so it can be done. The only difference is St. Louis’s experience dwarfs (no pun intended) that of Mats and Kailer.

The one thing in Kailer’s favor is that he has excellent skating ability. Much like Johnny Hockey and Zucc, Yamamoto is able to use his hockey sense to stay out of danger even though he is not afraid to go where bigger players fear to go.

After 71 points in his rookie season in the WHL, Kailer raised his game to the tune of 42 goals and 57 assists in 65 games.

Dennis MacInnis: “Obviously small, but strong and explosive on his skates and he has a low center of gravity. Size is a concern, but if he was two inches taller he’s a no-brainer.

Milan Dragicevic (ISS Scout): “Huge engine in small body. Very smart. High hockey IQ, excellent pucks skills and speed. Can change the game in a positive way very quickly. Overall, really like his game and his composure, hard to teach that offensive skill set.”

Brent Parker (ISS Scout): “Small and skilled – size won’t be an issue with his high hockey IQ and how he uses his body position. Very good skater who is elusive and can change direction on a dime – dynamic high end offensive talent”.

When it comes time for the Rangers contingent to walk up to the podium, one of the five players I have previewed should still be on the board. As I mentioned earlier, if Eeli Tolvanen is available he is my first choice.

If Tolvanen is not available, then I would draft Conor Timmins with the 21st overall selection. He checks off a couple of the boxes that current Rangers players do not. While I am not obsessed with an even split of lefty/right shots on defense, it makes life easier by having a couple of righty shots on the blue line. Timmins also fits the Rangers desire to have d-men who can move the puck and make the first pass of the d-zone.

Looking at the rest of my favorites, I put them in this order: Yamamoto (by a wide margin), Robertson, Andersson and Comtois. I know that there is a concern about Yamamoto’s size when you already have a winger his size, but that could put the Rangers in a position to move Zuccarello to fill other needs and possibly shave a little but off their cap hit if having two smallish players ever became a problem – which it didn’t with Zucc and MSL.

If Robertson and Andersson were true Rangers’ targets, I might consider moving down (even out of the 1st round) and try to recapture a 2nd and/or 3rd round pick. The idea of trading down might not be a bad idea as multiple teams have multiple 2nd round picks. Someone like Buffalo might look to jump up into the 21st spot to draft Jake Oettinger – with the Rangers taking the Sabres two 2nd round picks at #37 and #54.

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