Wed 10 Sep 2014
Who would have expected the final piece of the New York Rangers “2014 NHL Draft” puzzle to be added late in August – almost a month prior to the start of Training Camp? That is the case with the Rangers being the winners of the Kevin Hayes Sweepstakes. By signing the former 2010 Chicago Blackhawks 1st round pick (24th overall), President/GM Glen Sather helps ease the loss of the team’s 2014 1st and 2nd round picks as part of the Martin St. Louis/Ryan Callahan trade.
While Brian Costello of The Hockey News wrote in an August 20, 2014 online article that Hayes would have been a 2nd round pick if the 2010 NHL Draft were re-drafted today, there is no doubt that Hayes would have been worth a 1st round pick this year given his stature (6-5/225) and his breakout season (40-27-38-65) as Senior for Boston College.
The best part about Hayes signing with the Rangers is that the playing field was level for all 29 teams once Hayes declined to sign with the Blackhawks. While technically an Unrestricted Free Agent, Hayes falls under the entry-level contract terms that all rookies face under the current CBA. Hayes’ signing with the Rangers has more to do with his perception of his ability to make the team than it does with the deep pockets of James Dolan.
Even better than the Rangers winning a fair contract fight is the fact the 2nd round compensatory pick Chicago gets (54th overall) comes from the NHL – not the Rangers.
Some will point to Hayes’ breakout season being keyed by his linemates Johnny Gaudreau and Bill Arnold. While that might be possible, that puts Hayes in a golden position to shine in the NHL if he is teamed with the Rangers version of Gaudreau – Mats Zuccarello. Heck, Hayes’ ability to play center might position him for a chance to be teamed with St. Louis.
New York Rangers President/GM Glen Sather did his best to liven up the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. It started in March when he dealt away his 2014 1st round pick to Tampa Bay as part of the blockbuster deal for Martin St. Louis. Slats kept the puck sliding as he traded Derek Dorsett to Vancouver for a 3rd round draft pick (#85) and continued into Saturday when he made a couple of more deals that saw the Rangers increase their number of picks from five to seven.
With a Vancouver’s 3rd round pick in his pocket, Sather traded the Rangers 3rd round pick (#89) to Washington for a pair of 4th round selections (#104 and #118).
The trade with the Capitals allowed Sather to move his own 4th round pick (#119) to his buddy Steve Yzerman in exchange for two Lightning 5th round picks (#140 and #142).
Sather’s trade machinations set the Rangers up for a balanced draft that saw the team draft a pair of goaltenders and forwards and three defensemen. Here is a look at each of the newest Rangers draftees.
Second Round – Brandon Halverson (#59)
The 6-4/176 Halverson was the 6th rated goaltender by both Central Scouting (CS) (among North American Goalies) and International Scouting Service (ISS). The Hockey News (THN) did not have him rated among their Top 100 players. As for his NHL Potential, ISS believes “Halvorson will have a chance to see NHL time based on his upside and size.”
The 18-year-old native of Traverse City, MI saw limited action with Sault Ste. Marie (PHL) last season – appearing in 19 games (12-6-1, 2.96 GAA and .904 SV%).
ISS Scouting Report: “Halverson is a big goaltender who did not see a lot of action this season backing up Pittsburgh draft pick Matt Murray. However, he shows good upside for the next level. Halverson’s athleticism and stick handling ability with the puck separate him from most of his peers. Although he will need to learn when and when not to make plats with the puck, his natural ability is top notch.”
Mike MacFarlane, ISS Head Ontario Scout, wrote: “He is a good size kid who moves well in the net, has a real physical presence. Showed a good glove, good focus, got a little fancy a couple of times moving the puck, but that is coachable. I like this kid, good lateral, squares well and controls rebounds, doesn’t give shooter much. Didn’t play much last year but will be number 1 next year, has the potential to play in the show.”
Phil Myre, ISS Head U.S. Scout, wrote: “Very good size goalie. Has excellent focus and competitiveness. Plays angles very well, controls rebounds well. Good technique. Patient in the net. Excellent prospect for the NHL. Possibly #1 or 1A.”
Third Round – Keegan Iverson (#85)
The 6-0/219 RW was rated the 85th best prospect by ISS, the 85th best North American skater by CS and was the 90th best player rated by THN who called Iverson “a competitive power forward [who] hits clean, but hard.” ISS sees his NHL potential as a “3rd line grinder who will send opposition coaches into fits with his ability to pummel opponents.”
The St. Louis Park, MN native spent last season with Portland (WHL) and posted career highs in games, goals, assists and points (67-22-20-42). Iverson, who turns 18 in August, has represented the USA at various U-17 and U-18 tournaments.
ISS Scouting Report: “What you see is what you get with Iverson, he’s a no frills in your face type of player who plays a smash mouth style and can beat opponents into submission. He is not flashy, doesn’t possess a ton of creative skill around the puck, but he can bump and pound his way all over the ice, including to and directly in front of the net which makes him a real difficult player to prepare for and contain. He wins battles consistently and while not overly quick or elusive, he’s a freight train at times and it’s not easy to dent him the space he wants to get.”
Ross MacLean, ISS Head Western Scout, wrote: “He’s the type of player who doesn’t take no for an answer. He leaves it all out there and he will go at anybody who stands in his way.”
Phil Bohenblust, ISS Regional European Scout, wrote: “Gritty two-way winger. Skates well, very strong balance. A hard forechecker in the corners that can create room for his teammates. Plays defensively reliable. Didn’t show much offensively, missed creativity.”
Fourth Round – Ryan Mantha (#104)
The nearly 6-foot-5 and 225-pound Mantha was rated the 149th best North American skater by CS and was #59 on the ISS List who compared his style of play to that of Simon Despres. ISS sees his NHL potential as that of a “depth defender who can kill penalties.”
Mantha, a right-handed shot, turned 18 about a week before the Draft, had a verbal agreement to play at the University of North Dakota – who is deep in defenseman. As a result, Mantha decided to pass on college and signed with OHL’s Niagara IceDogs.
“He’s an NHL draft pick, he’s very focused on his career and he wants to get a contract and be a pro,” his new GM/Coach Marty Williamson explained to Bernie Puchalski of Niagara Advance.ca. “The timing is very good for us, adding a piece like that when we feel our team is ready to blossom.”
Given what Mantha told Neate Sager Yahoo Sports, the Rangers will have a big say where the youngster plays in 2014/2015.
“I think they’re [his NHL team] going to decide,” The Clarkstown, MI native explained to Sager. “Some teams say they won’t but I think if someone has input on what is best for me, I’ll really consider it.”
Mantha’s decision to forego collegiate hockey mirrors the decision 2011, Rangers 1st round draft pick J.T. Miller made. Miller verbally committed to North Dakota before shifting gears and heading to Plymouth (OHL).
The big d-man is the first of two Rangers draft picks that have an NHL legacy in their background. His uncle Moe Mantha Jr. played in 656 NHL games, his dad (Bob) played in Major Juniors and his grandfather (Moe Sr.) played minor hockey.
ISS Scouting Report: “Long, lean, towering defenseman with great size and reach. Extremely difficult to beat in one-on-one situations and is a tremendous asset on the penalty kill due to his long reach and shot-blocking abilities. He skates well for a big man; however, lacks mobility and top speed. Not an effective puck-handler due to less than ideal hands. Will never be mistaken for an offensive producer due to his limitations instinctively. Still needs to continue adding mass to his tremendous frame and get stronger.”
Myre wrote: “Excellent size defenseman – right shot defenseman. Average skater and average puck skills. Makes a good first pass. Needs to improve foot speed and overall skill sets.
Jan Has, ISS Regional U.S. Scout, wrote: “The overall defensive game and the coverage of his space was satisfying; however, his intense involvement was not to the level as should be expected from a high NHL draft prospect.”
Fourth Round – Igor Shesterkin (#118)
The 6-1/185 goaltender was the second goaltender the Rangers selected – and I have also seen his last name spelled Shestyorkin. The 18-year-old netminder was rated as CS’s 7th best European goaltender and was not among the 200 or so players rated by ISS. The one scouting service that was very high on Shesterkin was Red Line Report (RLR).
Kyle Woodlief, who runs RLR, has Shesterkin rated as the second best goaltending prospect behind only Mason McDonald. RLR had Shesterkin listed as a possible 2nrd round draft pick.
In a June 18, 2014 article for USA Today Woodlief wrote, “Next up for Red Line is Igor Shestyorkin, a super-competitive kid who never gives up on a play. The cat-like acrobat shows phenomenal reflexes and anticipation, and almost never gets beaten by anything clean – it has to be a rebound, deflection, or screen shot. He needs plenty of work on his technique, but his focus and concentration are outstanding. The biggest downside is clubs not being certain of his future intentions – he has indicated a willingness to come to North America once his Kontinental Hockey League contract is done, but his availability is not a given.”
Shesterkin split time in the KHL (9 games-2.80 GAA-.903 SV%) and in Russia’s Junior League (MHL). In 23 MHL games, he posted a 14-5-4 record with a 1.42 GAA and a .947 SV%. He had a stellar playoffs helping MHK Spartak win the championship with a 12-7 record with a 1.75 GAA and a .937 SV%.
Director of Player Personnel Gordie Clark spoke about the team’s draft on the Rangers official web site. SNY’s Adam Rotter offered this version of Clark’s take on the two newest goalies in the Rangers system.
“We went in looking for a goalie. We have been looking the last 3-4 drafts and there [hasn’t] been a lot of what we would call number one prospects. This was the year we thought that there were 4 or 5 and we took Halverson and we liked him where he was sitting at the end of the second round. Then Shestyorkin, two years ago at the under 18, as an underage, was outstanding, and he had a great year in the league and my Russian guy followed him a lot. We went in and looked at him a lot – we think that he is a number one prospect. By the time we picked him, we [looked] at who [was] left and there are some guys that you want to try but none were considered impact players at defense of forward – and this guy we had listed as a number one goalie. I didn’t go in looking for two, but he was still sitting there and sometimes we take the best player available and Shestyorkin was there.”
Fifth Round – Richard Nejezchleb (#122)
I don’t know how to pronounce the name and I am working on spelling it, but the name Richard Nejezchleb was known to me before the Draft because Jess Rubenstein of “Prospect Park” and “Blueshirt Bulletin” touted him as a player he liked for the Rangers.
Considering he was rated the 50th best North American skater by CS and the 84th best overall prospect by ISS, the Rangers got a great value pick at #122. ISS sees his NHL potential as being a player who “provides good organizational scoring depth. Can fill in when needed and contribute.”
In Nejezchleb’s case, the third time was the charm as 2014 represented his third year of draft eligibility. In 2012, his first year of eligibility, Nejezchleb was rated as the 41st European skater.
Because of his age (20) and gritty style of play, Clark believes that Nejezchleb could be the first of Class of 2014 to turn pro.
While the 6-2/210 RW was born in Prague, Czech Republic, he is no stranger to North American hockey having played the last two seasons with Brandon (WHL). Last year he set career highs in games, goals, assists and points (66-32-25-57), before adding five goals and four assists in nine playoff games.
ISS Scouting Report: “Nejezchleb has already passed through two drafts and seemed to be looking to add enough to his game to try and avoid a third time. He’s a big body with good offensive skills and this year he added some much improved fire and desire. He has a good reach which he has really learned to use properly around the net and has added more intensity on his net drives and overall presence. Nejezchleb was significantly more physical on a consistent basis this year than previous years and proved to be an impactful goal scoring forward night in and night out for the Wheat Kings. Needs to keep his feet moving as he tends to stand still or glide at times.”
MacLean wrote: “He has come a long way and has shown that he is willing to pay the price to score ugly goals, something he wasn’t prepared to do before now.”
Andruw Yarema, ISS Regional Western Scout, wrote: “Really elevated his game for the playoffs. Battled hard along the boards. Used size and strength to create room in front of the net,”
Fifth Round – Daniel Walcott (#140)
The 5-11/170 blueliner was first eligible for the NHL Draft in 2012. The Rangers see him as an offensive defenseman who spends the season as an overage defenseman in the QMJHL with Blainville-Boisbriand. Last season he scored 10 goals and 29 assists in 67 games as a rare 19-year-old rookie in Junior hockey.
Walcott’s late start to Junior hockey came as result of spending 2012/2013 season playing collegiate hockey for Lindenwood University – which plays in the American College Hockey Association Division 1. The ACHA is the governing body of non-varsity college hockey in the USA.
Coached by former NHL d-man Rick Zombo, Walcott, one of the youngest players in the ACHA, scored four goals and nine assists in 33 games as Lindenwood reached the ACHA Finals only to lose to Minot State.
Prior to the Draft, McKeen’s hockey scout Rick Springhetti reviewed the Top 20 draft QMJHL prospects and listed Walcott at #14. Here is what he said about Walcott via MontrealHockeyTalk.com: “Overage player was an unknown at the start of the season but his mix of offence, defense and quickness has made him one of the Q’s better defensemen this season.” Central Scouting ranked him 160th among North American skaters in their Mid-Term rankings.
While speaking with Sunaya Sapurji of Buzzing the Net (for Yahoo Canada) Walcott describes his style of play. “I’m a two-way defenceman. I bring a lot of offence and I can play defence too and shutdown top lines. I can be in-your-face and physical. I give my heart out every game – a lot of character.”
The Canadian web site Future Considerations lists the following talking point on Walcott:
• Strong, two-way presence and was “dominating” in his rookie season in the QMJHL
• Skates well and can generate a lot of speed going forward and backward
• Strong in transition and can skate with the fastest skaters in the Q
• Plays a shutdown, aggressive “in-your-face defensive game.”
• “Is physical and willing to give a beating if needed. Uses his frame to separate the puck off attackers and to clear the danger zones around his net. Has strong leadership qualities both on and off the ice. Lacks a little in the size for the style and temperament he plays.”
• Walcott is a minute muncher who contributes offensively with a strong first pass and the support of his forwards. Poised with the puck under pressure and displays impressive vision
• His NHL potential is to be a two-way defenseman.
Fifth Round – Tyler Nanne (#142)
The 5-10/174 Nanne carries an impressive NHL and sports pedigree. His grandfather Lou Nanne is a member of the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame and was a 1980 Lester Patrick award winner for his work in hockey in the USA. Tyler’s brother Louie was drafted 188th overall in 2012 by Minnesota and spent last season with Sioux Falls of the USHL. Their uncle, Tino Lettieri, represented Canada i4 international soccer games and was a goalkeeper in the old NASL and MISL.
Nanne, who can play forward as well as defense, broke many hearts in Minnesota when he committed to play at Ohio State starting in 2015. He is expected to play this season for Sioux Falls.
In 27 games with Edina High School, Nanne scored seven goals and 20 assists. His five goals led his team in the playoffs and 11 points (in 11 games) was tied for second on the team.
Nanne was ranked eight spots behind (#168) his eventual Rangers teammate Daniel Walcott in Central Scouting’s Mid-Term rankings before settling as the 188th ranked North American skater in the final report.
Here are Future Considerations talking points on Nanne:
• Mobile, puck moving defenseman who is “ultra confident” with the puck.
• Not afraid to join the rush and very creative with the puck
• Smoot skater and can go end to end quickly
• Hard shot from the point but could be more accurate
• Sound positionally defensively but still has a long way to go.
• “The one thing that is very impressive is his smarts and ability to make the simple play to avoid trouble. He does not panic when there is a hard forecheck applied. He has solid upside and raw potential, but it will certainly help if he grows a little bit more.”
• Has played a bit of forward and may have his future there.
• NHL potential is to be an offensive defenseman or forward.
With their last two selections it is apparent that the Rangers were putting an emphasis on skill (offensive skill to be precise) than on size. Walcott and Nanne are pretty much the same type of player – smallish defenseman who have high offensive skills and could develop into power play QBs down the road. Both project out as third line defensive pairings with the main difference being one is a left-handed shot (Walcott) and one is a right-handed shot (Nanne).