Since the boys won’t be back in town to play an NHL game until October 28, the New York Rangers mantra to start the season has to be “we got to get ourselves back to the garden.”

While this off-season is nowhere near as long as last season thanks to the Great Lockout of 2012, it sure feels longer. Part of it has to do with the Rangers early exit in last season’s playoffs, and part of it has to do with the Blueshirts and their Magical Mystery Tour as they open the season with nine consecutive road games (as opposed to their seven-game, two-continent opener in 2011/2012).

Rangers fans are already lamenting and fearing the worst for their team. In a way, that is understandable. Fans learn to expect the worst and then adjust accordingly. They fear a slow start will doom them to a non-playoff season in Coach Alain Vigneault’s first season.

It is a sentiment that Hockey News scribe Ronnie Shuker wrote about in their October 14 issue.

In the article Shuker writes that only two teams since the 2000/2001 season (the year the NHL became 30 team league), only two teams that were last in their conference as early as the end of November (07/08 Capitals) and as late as the end of January (08/09 Blues) made the playoffs.

Shuker points out the Columbus Blue Jackets’ slow start last season (5-12-3) put them in such a hole that their remarkable finish (19-5-4) could not make up the difference a point not lost on their coach.

“We learned first-hand about the importance of getting off to a decent start,” coach Todd Richards explained to Shuker. “We got off to a horrible start and it ended up costing us the season.”

While Shuker backed up his contention with stats (like the one about playoff teams since 2000/01) and quotes, the bottom line is that last season was still only a 48-game season. We have no idea how the Blue Jackets start would have played out had last year been a normal season.

A full training camp might have been just the panacea for Columbus’ inability to get out of the gate strongly.

Certainly, no team is going to win or lose the Stanley Cup in October (or even November for that matter). A poor start does not doom a team to a playoff-less season – it just means that said team has added pressure and little-to-no wiggle room towards the end of the season. In other words, it means putting yourself in a position where your playoff life comes down to an Olli Jokinen shootout attempt.

A slow start seems inevitable for a variety of reasons: the road trip from hell to start the season, a new coach who is installing a completely new style of play and the loss of Ryan Callahan (for one game anyway) and Carl Hagelin (for at least games) – especially in light of the Rangers poor pre-season record.

Please note that these are not excuses, they are merely explanations – and that is the way the team has to treat them.

I understand the need for the Rangers playing their pre-season games on the road given the renovation of Madison Square Garden, but I can’t fathom why they had to do all the travelling they did. While their work in helping Banff recover is admirable, the Rangers could have stayed closer to home and done the same in terms of helping the region recover from Hurricane Sandy. I guess Glen Sather’s priorities override his team’s priorities.

The Blueshirts 1-5-0 record is not so much of a concern as was their nine goals for and 22 goals against – including their 5-0 shutout at the hands of the Vancouver Canucks. The problem was not losing to John Tortorella; the problem was the five goals against that were allowed with Henrik Lundqvist in goal to start the game and the Big Six defensemen all in the lineup.

For his part, Vigneault has been wise to downplay the Rangers nine game road odyssey at the start of the season.

“We haven’t done anything different,” AV told WFAN’s Mike Francesa. I don’t want this team to play one way at home and one way on the road. There is one way to play and that is the right way.”

As we look ahead to the 2013/2014 season, there is an old cliché that best describes the Rangers – they are a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. They have the talent to win the Metrosexual (er, Metropolitan) Division and they have enough questions to be an epic fail this season.

Let’s take a look at some of the factors for the Rangers season.

Four and Three

The one thing the Rangers, as an organization, should have taken from their playoff loss to the Boston Bruins is the need to play “four and three” hockey. In other words, the Rangers need to roll four lines and three sets of defensemen – something that Vigneault is well aware of.
“With 82 games, the demands, this year will be challenging because you need to play a home and home everywhere, you need four lines and six d. you need that depth,” AV explained to Francesa. “It’s 82 games and then 4 rounds. You need to play your bench and spread the minutes so that the energy is always there.”

Special Teams

Everyone knows that the Rangers power play has left a lot to be desired since the 2006/2007 season (the last time they had a Top 10 PP). For a team that continually has problems generating a consistent offense, a reasonably successful power play is needed. They cannot repeat last season’s 23rd rated power play.

While the power play has been a sore spot for years, the Rangers penalty killing units were average at best last season – ranking 15th in the NHL. This is a unit that should rebound once everyone is healthy (as long as they stay healthy).

Just how important is the success of the Rangers special teams? Larry Brooks of the NY Post offered this insight: “Five-on-five the Rangers had the third-best differential in the NHL last year behind only Cup winner Chicago and Eastern top-seed Pittsburgh.”

Patience

This is meant more for the fans than the team. Let’s face it, patience is not a virtue that most Rangers fans share – myself included.

Some fans grew tired of Tortorella’s constant line shuffling within games and from game-to-game. Well, be ready for more of the same. With Callahan and Hagelin out of the lineup, Vigneault was not able to use the pre-season to experiment with line combinations. As a result, he is going to have do some of that during the regular season once Cally and Hags are back in the lineup. That will require more shuffling of the lines as AV tries to get the right combinations.

No Distractions

The popular belief is that with Tortorella gone and a “Clean Slate” in place all is well in Rangerland. Well, that might not necessarily be the case because of some on-ice and off-ice issues that could creep up during the season.

Management faces some difficult decisions in terms of contract decisions at the end of the season with the most important being the negotiations with UFAs Ryan Callahan, Dan Girardi and Henrik Lundqvist. The King has already said he is not going to comment on the situation any more, but that doesn’t mean the media (both local and national) won’t continually bring it up.

The contract decisions are not just limited to the Big Three. The Rangers have to make decisions on fellow RFAs Brian Boyle and Anton Stralman as well as RFAs Derrick Brassard, Michael Del Zotto, John Moore and Mats Zuccarello.

While the salary cap is expected to increase about $6 million or so, they just may not be enough funds to go around.

That brings us to The Brad Richards Saga – and it is one that is sure to drag on all season. If there is ever one Ranger who needs fast start more than life itself, it is Richards. A slow start will only continue to fuel the fires of the controversial decision GM Glen Sather made not to jettison the veteran center. Depending on how bad he is playing, there will be calls to bench him towards the end of the season, not because of his poor play, but because the team can’t afford to have get hurt and thus not be able to buy him out during the Summer of 2014.

The End Justifies The Season

While much has been written and debated about the Rangers, what with their nine game road trip to the start the season and the concern about getting off to a poor start, not as much has been written and debated about the Blueshirts need to finish the season strongly in light of the Olympic break.

The Rangers will have 23 games left in the regular season when they return on February 27. The team could have anywhere from 7-10 players participating in Sochi with Lundqvist being front and center of the Olympians. Vigneault is going to have to work hard at balancing their need for rest and the Rangers need to finish strongly.

Given AV’s dealings with the travel issues in Vancouver, he is well versed at juggling all of the issues that play into rest versus practice. Hopefully, that experience comes in handy during the Rangers first five games of the season as they spend time on the West Coast and St. Louis.

Making the Move

The Garden’s renovation, combined with all of the travel made possible with the NHL’s realignment and new scheduling format, makes for a rollercoaster of a season in terms of the Rangers schedule. Starting off with nine straight road games (and 10 of 11), the Blueshirts also face a pair of five game road trips in late November and then again at the end of December/beginning of January.

However, those sets of five game road trips bookend a stretch that will see the Rangers play 11 of 12 games at the Garden with their lone trip seeing them shuffle off to Buffalo. Ironically, that stretch begins with Tortorella’s return to MSG on November 30.

The Rangers will be 26 games into the AV Era and poised to show just how well they have adapted to his system. The Rangers must capitalize on this home stretch or it will not matter how they started the season, nor will it matter how they finish it.

The Prediction

If the Rangers can return home with nine points from their nine game road trip, then I would call the start a success. As for the season, I see the Rangers finishing second in the Division and fifth in the Conference. After that, my crystal ball becomes a little cloudy based on just how healthy the Rangers are at the end of the season.

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The start of the 2013-2014 NHL season can’t come soon enough for hockey fans after losing nearly half of last season. It marks an important anniversary in New York Rangers history – the 20th anniversary of the slaying of the dragon at MSG. The new season also marks the debut of Alain Vigneault as the 35th head coach in Blueshirts history. Only time will tell if Rangers fans will refer to AV’s stint in the Big Apple as the Vigneault Era or the Vigneault Error.

In a season that features realignment, new goal nets and the potential for a new hybrid icing system, one intriguing subplot to this season is finding out who will win the “coaches’ trade” between the Rangers and Vancouver Canucks as former Rangers bench boss John Tortorella heads to the Pacific Northwest as the 17th coach in Canucks history.

While coaches are “hired to be fired”, the swapping of Alain Vigneault and John Tortorella as coaches would sure make a 1994 Stanley Cup rematch even more riveting – especially when you consider both coaches were used as scapegoats for their General Managers inability to produce a winner.

While both GMs fired their coaches to deflect attention off of themselves, they each had different reasons for utilizing the same game plan.

Rangers GM Glen Sather is no danger of losing his job any time soon. He is as close to having a job for life as any GM in sports. His reasoning for turning to a scapegoat is to protect/rebuild his reputation. Sather has not been the architect of a Stanley Cup champion since 1988. His bout with prostate cancer helped lend urgency to protecting/rebuilding his legacy.

Canucks GM Mike Gillis has to consider himself in survival mode. Although Vancouver is five-for-five in winning the Northwest Division during Gillis’ tenure, the team has been knocked out in the Conference Quarterfinals (aka the first round) the last two years in five games (2012 to Los Angeles) and in four games (2013 to San Jose) while posting a pedestrain28-28 record in the playoffs.

Sather is looking to change the Rangers style of play for the third time in nine months. Leading up to last season, Sather dealt away some of the “jam” that Torts often praised as the Rangers GM attempted to correct the Blueshirts offensive woes. In doing so he never really increased the Rangers offense, rather he depleted the Rangers depth.

As a result, Slats traded away Marian Gaborik in order to fill the depth holes that Sather had created as part of the Rick Nash trade and never filled via free agency or trade.

With salary cap constraints dictating policy, Sather is once again looking to boost offense in the form of a new style of play – thus the hiring of Vigneault. Of course, the Rangers would have had maneuverability within the salary cap had Sather simply bought out Brad Richards.

Given the potential bargain basement free agents that were available after the initial free agent frenzy, the Rangers could have added depth at a reasonable price, signed Derek Stepan to a longer deal rather than a bridge deal and used some of that Rangers depth to be more active in the trade market.

Mike Gillis has had a trying off-season as well. Vancouver’s GM faced the same dilemma that Neil Smith did at the end of the 1992-1993 season. Both Gillis and Smith had championship-caliber teams that languished in the playoffs and were facing major decision in terms of goaltending.

Smith had to make a decision between Mike Richter and John Vanbiesbrouck. While the VanRichterbrouck tandem worked well in the regular season, it was a playoff failure. Smith decided on the younger Richter as he shipped Beezer to Vancouver prior to the 1993 Expansion Draft in exchange for future considerations.

Vancouver made the deal in order to expose Vanbiesbrouck in the Expansion Draft as a means of protecting their prospects – which worked as the goalie was the first player selected by Florida. In return, the Rangers acquired Doug Lidster who would go on to play an important role late in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Smith then replaced Vanbiesbrouck by acquiring Glenn Healy from Tampa Bay in exchange for a 1993 third round draft pick.

It was pretty much an expected done deal that Roberto Luongo’s time in Vancouver was done – so much so that the veteran netminder put his townhouse up for sale. In a pre-cap NHL, Gillis would have followed Smith’s example and moved the veteran goalie. However, despite Luongo’s resume, trading the 34-year-old became less and less an option when you factor in that he has nine years left on his 12-years, $64-million contract at an annual cap hit of $5.3 million.

As you might imagine, Luongo was stunned at the news that it was Cory Schneider who was dealt on draft day in exchange for New Jersey’s first round draft pick (Center Bo Horvat 9th overall).

On August 23, Luongo spoke with TSN’s James Duthie and talked about the aftermath of the Schneider trade and his relationship with the Canucks. In that interview Duthie asked Luongo if he felt “divorced” from the Canucks following another playoff loss.

“Well I use that analogy all the time. That’s what it felt like and I accepted it and I was fine with it and I had moved on personally,” Luongo admitted. “I mean, the only problem is, she didn’t, and she wanted me back (laughs).”

In the interview Luongo says that he hoped e deal could be worked out with Florida or Tampa Bay because of his desire to return to the Sunshine State because his wife and her family are from Florida.

Luongo had grown so disenchanted by the end of last season that he even explored the possibility of voiding his contract.

So rather than have a younger goalie with a veteran backup like Smith’s Rangers had in 1994, Gillis and his Canucks have a veteran goaltender who may or may not be disgruntled and his backup is 25-year-old Swedish goalie Eddie Lack who has yet to play an NHL game (99 AHL games during the last two seasons).

In 1994, Neil Smith did not take the safe route when he hired Mike Keenan as coach. Smith had to know that he would bump heads with the fiery Keenan sooner rather than later – I just don’t think he expected their relationship to hit full boil as fast as it did.

Gillis is facing the same situation in Vancouver. While Tortorella doesn’t have the same GM aspirations that Keenan had, his baggage does make Torts a risky hire – especially for a GM like Gillis who is hiring his first NHL coach. Gillis inherited a coach in Vigneault who had a Northwest Division title (2006-07) and a fifth place finish (2007-08) under his belt in Vancouver.

ON THE FLY –

The Rangers tryout offer to goaltender Johan “Moose” Hedberg is an interesting development. While it was announced at the same time Martin Biron was away from camp tending to personal matters, could the Rangers be looking to make a switch in Henrik Lundqvist’s backup?

If the Rangers were to go with Hedberg, the Blueshirts could look to trade Biron and save some much-needed space under the salary cap.

Since Hedberg was bought out by the Devils, he might be very satisfied with a deal near the NHL minimum salary. If if he signed a deal worth $650,000, that is still half of what Biron will make this season. While it doesn’t seem like a lot, $650,000 is enough of a reason to make a switch – esepcially depending on how Derek Stepan’s contract eventually plays out.

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When you are the last team to make their first selection in a draft, you do not expect to be acquiring any household names. That was the situation the New York Rangers faced during the 2013 NHL Draft as the Blueshirts sat through 64 previous selections before entering the draft with the 65th overall pick.

You can just imagine how anxious Rangers Director of Player Personnel Gordie Clark must have been getting waiting for his turn to draft.

“I just never had sat there and watched so much talent walk by our table to get to the podium, and even in the second (round) where there are so many good names,” Clark explained to Jim Cerny of BlueshirtsUnited.com.

“But I would never give Nash back for that first (round pick), and Ryane Clowe was such a big part of our march after the trade deadline. It was interesting, though, how it went because you just had to wait and watch all of these players go off the board. But in the end we liked who we got.”

However, low and behold, the Rangers did manage to reach out and draft a player with a household name – sort of.

If family lineage has anything to do with playing in the NHL, Adam Tambellini is destined for an NHL career. His father Steve was the New York Islanders first draft choice (#15) in the 1978 NHL Draft. The former Edmonton Oilers GM played for four NHL teams scoring 160 goals and 150 assist in 553 games while winning the Stanley Cup with the 1980 Islanders.

Older brother Jeff was the second of two first round draft picks (#27) of the Los Angeles Kings in 2003. The Kings drafted Brian Boyle one pick ahead of Jeff. Big brother played four three NHL teams and scored 27 goals and 36 assists in 242 NHL games. Jeff has played the last two years with Zurich in the Swiss A League.

“He’s a lot like his bloodlines,” Central Scouting’s B.J. MacDonald told Mike G. Morreale of NHL.com.

“He’s very good with the puck and has really nice size. People were waiting for the trade, and at Christmas his game took off. He’s got an NHL shot and can score … he has a nice wrist shot as well. He can beat goalies clean from the dots on that wrister. He’s got a quick release, is efficient and intelligent.”

MacDonald was not the only person who liked Tambellini’s bloodlines and NHL connection.

“There’s no question,” Clark admitted to Cerny. “I think a lot of Steve Tambellini. I remember watching his other son. He was shorter and faster, this one taller and more of a playmaker. Both of them have Steve’s shot. They have NHL shots. He needs to put a little weight on and he’ll have time to do that at North Dakota.

“It’s kind of like [Carl] Hagelin. We projected he might be there four years, and he came out all right. North Dakota’s put a bunch of players in the NHL.”

Tambellini was one of 18 draftees who counted ties to former or current NHL family members.

Adam’s NHL start will be delayed a few years as he is set to attend the University of North Dakota this year where he will spend some time building up his 6-foot-2 and 158 pound frame. The C/LW last season with Surrey and Vernon of the BCHL and scored 36 goals with 29 assists in 52 games.

Tambellini was on the radar of the following Scouting Services: NHL Central Scouting (CS) (#42 North American skater), International Scouting Service (ISS) (#93), The Hockey News (THN) (#33), and McKeen’s (McK) (#69).

Here is Tambellini’s ISS Scouting Report: “Few players have shown as much development on the ice in the past two seasons as Adam Tambellini. [He] is a perfect example of how a late birthday can work to a player’s advantage. Tambellini established himself as a premier forward in the BCJL this year. He has good size, works hard and thinks the game very well. His offensive timing and net presence are very strong which makes him a very dangerous offensive player during zone play. He has good hands, moves well for his size and can play in all situations. He has shown up in all the big games this year for his team.”

While the Rangers sat and waited two plus rounds before making their first selection, they only had to wait a few minutes before exercising their next two picks – both in the third round (# 75 and #80).

With their middle third round pick, the Blueshirts drafted Russian LW Pavel Buchnevich and then finished up the third round by drafting QMJHL LW Anthony Duclair.

Adam Kimelman praised the Rangers for selecting the pair of LWs.

“The Rangers got good value for their picks. Russian left wing Pavel Buchnevich, the second of three third-round picks, was highly regarded for his skill,” Kimelman wrote on THN’s web site.

“The third third-round pick, left wing Anthony Duclair, got a good hockey education from Patrick Roy the past two seasons with the Quebec Remparts,” the NHL.com columnist wrote.

The 6-foot-1 and 161 pound Russian played for Cherepovets last season. In 24 games with their Junior Team, Buchnevich scored 8 goals and 15 assists. The youngster also played in 12 KHL games with Cherepovets adding a goal and an assist as a teenager. One of his assistant coaches with Cherepovets was former Rangers forward Vladimir Vorobiev. Clark compared Buchnevich to former Rangers 1st round draft pick the late Alexei Cherepanov.

Buchnevich received solid rankings from three of the above Scouting Services: CS (#10 European skater), (ISS) (#34), THN (#Not Rated), and McK (#76). Craig Button, former NHL GM and current TSN analyst, had him rated as the 33rd best player.

Morreale offered up the following tidbit on Pavel.

“Buchnevich, who is No. 10 on Central Scouting’s list of the top European skaters, told NHL.com he will spend two more seasons in the KHL before coming to North America. He has two years remaining on his contract with Cherepovets. The 6-1, 176-pound left-handed shot is very strong on the puck and offers a tremendous wrist shot and one-timer.”

NHL Director of European Scouting Goran Stubb commented to Morreale that, “He has great offensive instincts but needs to improve his defensive game. He does have all the tools to become a star.”

Here is Buchnevich’s ISS Scouting Report: “The only Russian U-18 player to play more than one game in the KHL this season, Buchnevich really burst onto the scene this year and managed to showcase himself well at all the major events and high exposure situations he attended.”

“Buchnevich has good size, controls the puck well but thinks the game very quickly and can execute with very little time or space available. He is confident and manages to find his way to the high slot often without the puck and times with the puck and defenders draped all over him. He is a dangerous shooter who can place his shots well and pick corners but is even more dangerous considering his vision and instinct with the puck, using quick fakes and look-offs to set up wide-open teammates.”

ISS also wrote: “Needs to add muscle [and] not always the most intense [player]. ISS compares him to Johan Franzen and sees him as a “2nd-3rd line player who can be relied on for offensive production and PP contributions.”

The third of the trio of 3rd round picks was a player I wrote about in my Third Round Draft Preview – Anthony Duclair. Interestingly enough, the draft guides that I had listed him as a RW, but the Rangers list him as a LW – which was a position the organization was looking to strengthen.

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. It appears that a pair of “I’s” played a part in his production reduction – Injuries and Inconsistency.

The interesting point to note is that Duclair’s rookie QMJHL numbers were second to only one other Under-17 player that year – 2013’s number one draft pick Nathan MacKinnon. In their 2012 Draft Guide, ISS listed Duclair as the 28th best prospect as they looked ahead to the 2013 NHL Draft.

The talent and tools are there, it is just a matter of finding a tool bag for all of those tools. Even I have to admit that Duclair’s chances at making an impact with the Rangers is better with Alain Vigneault as coach then they would be with John Tortorella behind the bench. Duclair’s defensive lapses would have driven Torts batty.

Duclair received the following pre-draft rankings: CS (#57 North American skater), ISS (#64), THN (#55), and McK (#72).

Here is Duclair’s 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.”

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 related to THN, “Because there’s so much talent, people think there’s more there, whereas I accept them for what they are. 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.”

THN wrote that a third scout told them “Duclair has done a better job this season slowing the game down, which allows him to be more creative with the puck rather than just using his speed. His junior numbers haven’t caught up to his skill.” THN projects him as a “Skilled Forward”.

Kyle Woodlief of Red Line Report said that Duclair is “very difficult to contain when he’s at full throttle, and can make plays at top speed, but has tendency to stay outside on the rush, not often cutting inside or driving to the net.”

Duclair and teammate Adam Erne earned one-game suspensions from coach Patrick Roy over “indifferent play”. Duclair also missed time during the season with an ankle injury (almost six weeks) just three games and eight points) into the season. I suppose there is a question to whether Duclair had an attitude problem or it was just a clash between coach and player.

One positive in Duclair’s favor is that, according to Cerny, growing up in Montreal Duclair’s father’s favorite team was the New York Rangers.

Another positive in his favor is that Duclair knows he needs to ramp up his game.

“I have a lot of speed, that’s one of my biggest assets as a player, and I love to compete,” Duclair told Cerny on Draft day. “I have been compared to Evander Kane, which is an honor, of course. But I’m not coming off the greatest season, I’m not going to lie. After my rookie season (in Quebec) I was projected as first rounder, then I got hurt at the beginning of this year and fell a bit (in the draft). So I want to prove to myself first that I am still a top prospect.”

After their trio of the third round, the Blueshirts did not draft again until the 4th round. With the 110th selection they drafted Prince Edward Island defenseman Ryan Graves. In 68 games last season, his second in the QMJHL, the 6-foot-4 and 220 pound blueliner scored 3 goals and 13 assists. He was the 116th ranked North American skater by CS (up two places from his Mid-Term ranking) and was ranked #135 by ISS.

Although a Rangers draft pick, Graves will be playing for the Islanders next season – PEI’s new ownership has rebranded the team as the Charlottetown Islanders. Graves was the 9th overall pick in the 2011 QMJHL Draft – the same Draft that saw Nathan MacKinnon go 1st overall.

“After the third round you’re looking for things that stand out. Ryan Graves, he’s a big 6’4” defenseman and I would say he had an average first half and then the second half of the year his play just went up hill,” Clark told HockeyScene.com.

Here is Graves’ ISS Scouting Report: “Has size and good backwards mobility, but forward mobility is very average. Stride is short and choppy. Looks like defensive D, puck skill is average. Good defensive read and positioning, but has a tendency to get locked on guys in D zone and run around a bit for a hit. Plays with some grit and does not back down from confrontation. He possesses good size with the potential to really fill out and get stronger as he develops. Always willing to stand up for teammates, Graves is still working on game-to-game consistency and is an unpolished long-term project on defense.”

The Rangers fifth and final selection of the 2013 NHL Draft came in the 6th round when they selected goaltender Mackenzie Skapski with the 170th overall pick. The 6-foot-2 and 186 pound goalie was born the day after the Rangers last won the Stanley Cup.

Skapski entered the 2013 NHL Draft as the 17th ranked North American goalie by CS. However, he is no stranger to the NHL scene as he was invited to the Minnesota Wild’s 2012 Development Camp.

After spending the 2011/2012 season as the backup goalie to Nathan Lieuwen (Buffalo’s 2011 6th round pick), Skapski stepped into the starting role last year with Kootenay. In 65 games, Skapski posted a 35-25-1-0 record with a 2.78 GAA and a .910 SV%.

Jess Rubinstein of Prospect Park wrote, “[Skapski] is also coached by former Hartford coach Ryan McGill and was the starter for the Ice playing in 65 games with a decent 2.78 GAA and a 0.910 save percentage off a 34-25-1-0 with 7 shutouts. Skapski is an older draftee as this was his 2nd time through the draft. Had a great 2nd half in the 2012-13 season including Goalie of the Month for February as he went 22-7-1 to help Kootenay earn a playoff spot.”

Justin Goldman of McKeen’s Hockey wrote, “I had him targeted as a “below-the-radar” pick after a breakout season in Kootenay. He was passed over in last year’s draft, but played in 65 games this season in the WHL and tied a league-high seven shutouts. He was invited to the Wild’s development camp last summer, where I had a chance to see him up close, and liked his combination of size and athleticism.”

Given how he battled back from adversity about four years ago, making the jump from the WHL to the NHL should be a piece of cake.

Dan Kinvig of the Abbotsford (BC) News relates the following story.

On Dec. 11, 2009, Skapski was on the bus with the Fraser Valley Bruins major midget squad when the vehicle hit some black ice just south of Williams Lake, skidded off the highway and landed on its side.

Skapski suffered the most serious injuries of anyone on the team – he sustained a broken nose and a fractured orbital bone, and had surgery to place a couple of plates in his cheek and to remove a blood clot beside his brain. During his convalescence, he lost 30 pounds, dropping from 155 to 125.

But he battled back, and earned a roster spot with the WHL’s Kootenay Ice in 2011-12 …. Skapski got into just 19 games, though, and was passed over in the 2012 NHL draft, his first year of eligibility.

According to Kinvig, Skapski father, Denis, played two seasons of NCAA hockey at the University of Alabama-Huntsville and then played briefly in the ECHL with the Columbus Chill and the Roanoke Valley Rampage. Unlike his son, Dad was a defenseman.

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With the season for the National Hockey League having concluded several months ago, the offseason has begun. While during this time, matches do not occur between the professional NHL teams, it is a time when a lot of activity occurs that will affect the next season. Fans spend a lot of time monitoring these movements as they anticipate the start of the new season in the fall. New York Rangers fans are hoping the offseason changes will boost their team’s capabilities which can make them serious contenders to win the Stanley Cup in 2014.

These changes that are occurring within the New York Rangers are also important for those making sports bets on the team. As there are no current games which can be wagered on, the sportsbooks are taking futures bets on the New York Rangers. These kinds of bets make prediction of future events. Before the season begins is the riskiest time to make this kind of wager. For this reason, the potential payout on a futures bet can be rather large which is why many people place them. Futures bets are also the type of bet that takes the longest to see results.

Given the time that bettors must wait until the season begins, there are other ways to enjoy the excitement of ice hockey right in your own home. Online casinos, like Lucky Nugget featured different sports related slot machines. One game in particular that Rangers fans would enjoy is Ice Hockey. This game has a total of 15 paylines. Players have the chance to win the highest payout this game offers which is $50,000. The teams in this game are made up of the top 8 countries in regards to ice hockey. Players select the two teams from these choice: Sweden, Canada, USA, Germany, Russia, Finland and the Czech Republic. Payouts occur when players from the same team are found on an active payline.

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And in his second year of eligibility, Brendan Shanahan gets the call.

The former New York Ranger was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame along with Devils defensemen Scott Neidermayer and Red Wings and Blackhawks standout Chris Chelios  in a ceremony slated for November 11th.

Shanahan, who is now the Czar of Discipline in the NHL, played for the Rangers from 2006-08, joining Jaromir Jagr to form Hall of Fame leadership on Tom Renney’s teams.

The two time Stanley Cup winner with the Red Wings, seems to enjoy his time in New and many NHL hockey betting people always backed the power forward left wing. He scored 656 goals and 698 assists.

After Jagr left to play in Russia after the 2008 season, the Rangers chose not to re-sign Shanahan, a move Renney later admitted was a mistake and may have eventually cost him his job.

Shanahan came to the Rangers after playing years with the Red Wings, and he was consider the final piece that won two Stanley Cups in the 1990s.

“It was just the right fit,” Shanahan said. “They had not won the Cup in several decades. They had been close. At the time that’s all I wanted to do. I think you mature a bit as a player, you want to get yourself established, get yourself to feel like you belong, and then all of a sudden you start realizing how hard it is and how difficult it is to win a Cup and you become obsessed with it. I was lucky at that point in my career to join a team that was obsessed with it and a group of guys that were also obsessed with it, and were also talented enough to be a legitimate contender. I know I wouldn’t be on this call today if it weren’t for my time in Detroit.”

Also enshrined is former Rangers coach Fred Shero, who brought the Blueshirts to the 1979 Stanley Cup Finals after coaching the Flyers to two Stanley Cups.

In the 1978-79 playoffs, the Rangers defeated the Kings, Flyers and Islanders to reach the Finals against Montreal, but lost the series 4-1. In 1979-80, the Flyers knocked them off in the second round of the playoffs, and after a 4-13-3 start in 1980-81, Shero stepped down.

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We all know that the New York Rangers keep one eye on their roster and their other eye on the salary cap. Who knew that they had to monitor the number of NHL familial relations they have in their organization. After all, after drafting Adam Tambellini (whose father and brother were ex-NHLers) why else would they trade Christian Thomas to the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for Danny Kristo?

Online some fans have bemoaned the fact that the Rangers gave up on Thomas too soon. I don’t think that really is the case. While Thomas does have more professional experience (78 games – 73 last season) than Kristo (nine games last season), the newest Ranger might be more NHL ready and is certainly far superior a skater.

Here is what Corey Pronman of Hockey Prospectus wrote in reviewing the trade.

Kristo, who just turned 23, is arguably NHL ready or somewhat close to making the jump. He becomes one of the Rangers top prospects and could be a decent addition soon for a power play that hasn’t been the best.

There had been indications that Montreal wasn’t really high on Kristo be it for talent or character issues. An example of the latter was when their GM Marc Bergevin questioned Kristo’s off-ice decisions.

On pure talent Kristo is a better prospect than Christian Thomas. That’s not to say Thomas is a poor prospect as he has character, offensive ability and he could be an average to above-average pro. However Kristo is arguably a top 100 drafted prospect in hockey with significant upside even if he does carry more risk than Thomas. In a one for one deal, it’s hard to make a perfectly equal trade and one team usually comes out ahead. In my opinion it was the Rangers.

In the interest of equal and balanced reporting, Marc Antoine Godin (the Canadiens beat reporter with Montreal’s La Presse), on September 19, 2012, tweeted the following missive from Habs GM Marc Bergevin: “Marc Bergevin on Danny Kristo: You can’t always blame immaturity. If he wants to have an NHL career he’ll need to make the right decisions.”

While some might be wondering why the big deal about being NHL-ready now, remember that the Blueshirts do not know when Ryan Callahan and Carl Hagelin will be able to return to action following their off-season shoulder surgeries.

The Canadiens Blog Eyes on the Prize wrote, “Kristo is one of the fastest skaters in the organization, possibly even the fastest, and gives the Canadiens even more depth at forward. The right winger can make plays at top speed, which instantly puts him at the top of the Bulldogs call up list if a skilled forward is injured.”

While neither Kristo (6-foot-0 and 190 pounds – according to the team’s official press release) nor Thomas (5-foot-9 and 162 pounds) are going to make anyone forget Zdeno Chara, the Rangers do add a bit of size while increasing team speed. After all, if you are not going to be a power forward, you better a quick forward.

Besides with forwards like Ryan Bourque (5-foot-9) and Mats Zuccarello (5-foot-7), every inch counts.

Kristo was Montreal’s 2nd round draft pick (#56) in the 2008 NHL Draft – the same Draft that saw the Rangers select Derek Stepan with the 51st pick. In their 2013 Future Watch issue, The Hockey News rated Kristo the Habs’ 10th best prospect and wrote that he is a “speedy winger has quick hands, good scoring ability, But has to improve maturity and work ethic.”

Hockey’s Future web site wrote, “At times, Kristo lacks the consistency and the work ethic needed to play at the NHL level but definitely not the skills. He has quick acceleration, a powerful stride and uses his explosive speed to help make space for him offensively. The talented winger is equally fast with or without the puck and has developed the ability to shoot the puck while in full stride toward the net with a quick, accurate release.”

Montreal signed the 23-year-old Kristo to a two-year deal (which expires after the 2013-2014 season) on Trade Deadline Day (April 3, 2013) after he finished his four years of college eligibility at the University of North Dakota. In 40 games at North Dakota, Kristo scored 26 goals and 26 assists and was one of the 10 finalists for the Hobey Baker Award. Kristo finished his four years in college as a point per game producer, tallying 68 goals and 93 assists in 157 games.

Danny was twice a double award winner during his collegiate career. In the 2009-2010 season, Kristo was named the WCHA’s Rookie of the Year and, of course, was a member of the WCHA All-Rookie Team. In 2012-2013, he earned WCHA First All-Star honors and was named to the NCAA’s West First All-Star team.

The Eden Prairie, MN native played for Team USA at the 2013 World Cup and scored one goal and two assists in 10 games. He is no strangers to representing the red, white and blue – as he has done so numerous times. In 2010 he teamed up with future Ranger mates Ryan Bourque, Chris Kreider and Stepan to help lead the USA to the Gold Medal in the 2010 World Junior Championships – scoring five goals and three assists in seven games.

In 2008, the International Scouting Service rated the forward as their 56th best prospect in the 2008 NHL Draft. Their scouting report said, “Kristo was very impressive throughout the IIHF World Under-18 Hockey Championships in Kazan, Russia. He is a great offensive zone player. He can really make things happen offensively. He is fearless on the forecheck and has great shooting instincts. He is always in the play and does not give up on puck battles. His speed is adequate but could be better, some development is needed.”

ISS rated his Skating and Puckhandling as “Very Good” and his Shot/Scoring and Hockey Sense as “Excellent”.

NHL’s Central Scouting rated him as their 37th best North American skater. Central Scouting’s Jack Barzee offered up this report on Kristo: “Danny is a strong kid, but not a very big, physical kid. He has very quick feet and he’s very smart. He’s clever with the puck, he can set people up and he can finish. Sometimes he can take himself away from his best assets – thinking and skating and using his hands, and he tries to knock big guys down and he physically can’t, but he’s got that bite to his game. He has a real top-end level offensively, he could be a top-two line guy in the NHL someday and he’s going to play and be successful.”

Even Kristo offered up a scouting report on himself.

“I would describe my game as an up-tempo, speed game. I think my strengths as a player are my speed, hands and vision. I would like to improve on playing more consistent and improving in the weight room,” Kristo explained as part of his Central Scouting profile.

While the Rangers lose the son of former NHL forward Steve Thomas, Kristo does have a connection to a former NHL draft pick. His minor hockey coach with the Indianapolis Checkers of the Eden Prairie Hockey Association was Monty Trottier (the Islanders 4th round draft pick (#68) in the 1980 Draft) the non-NHL playing middle brother between Bryan and Rocky.

Kristo’s father, Mark, played for Bemidji State (1972-76) and was selected as one of the university’s 50 greatest players in 2006.

The key to Kristo’s success will be his ability to translate his skating advantage from the bigger collegiate rinks to the more confined NHL rinks. The key to that translation will have to be the first step or two he takes. As you have read, he has the potential explosiveness to beat his defenders to the outside. It is a matter of him harnessing his ability and his hockey sense as he evolves from a collegiate player into an NHL player.

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NHL teams can begin speaking to free agents as of 12:01am Wednesday morning under the provision that players are unable to sign deals unto 12:00pm Friday afternoon. As far as the New York Rangers are concerned, they will be taking more of a New York Mets approach rather than a New York Yankees approach (which is also the New York Rangers approach). In other words, the Blueshirts will not be diving into the deep end of the pool – heck I am not even sure they will be in the shallow end of the pool either. They just might be doing some dumpster diving looking to get inexpensive pieces to help build organizational depth.

That was the aim behind the acquisitions of defensemen Justin Falk and Danny Syvret and the eventual departure of Ryane Clowe as an UFA. It will probably be the way the Rangers continue their summer run up to the beginning of the Alain Vigneault Era.

While the Rangers are not in NHL salary cap hell, they are in the vicinity with all of the RFA contracts they have to settle. They submitted qualifying offers to RFAs Falk, Carl Hagelin, Ryan McDonagh, Derek Stepan, and Mats Zuccarello. As steep a task as that it is, next year is even more crucial and crazy with the Rangers needing to make decisions on UFAs-to-be Brian Boyle, Ryan Callahan, Dan Girardi, Henrik Lundqvist, and Anton Stralman – and RFAs-to-be Derick Brassard, Michael Del Zotto, Chris Kreider, and John Moore.

That is what makes President/GM Glen Sather’s decision not to use his second amnesty buyout on Brad Richards even more puzzling. Setting aside Richards’ subpar performance, the Rangers can use the $6.67 million the team would have saved from buying out Richards just to re-sign their own players – never mind going after big-time free agents.

This is not a personal vendetta. It is, as Michael Corleone said, strictly business. The Rangers run two risks by not buying out Richards. The first is they lose flexibility now moving forward. While they should be able to keep their own RFAs and possibly sign a couple of “low-hanging” fruit type players, they are not going to be able to make too many major changes other than banking on Vigneault working some magic.

“The only hope (for the Rangers) to give themselves any flexibility to change their roster is by buying (Richards) out, so that’s what makes me think that they would,” former Rangers President/GM Neil Smith explained to Pat Leonard of the Daily News in a telephone interview.

“I don’t know whether they should or not. That’s up to them. But the logic behind that would be freeing the money – obviously the team had some deficiencies – and to shore up those deficiencies and make the team better. It’s their only card to play. If they don’t play that card, that’s fine, but they go in next year with the same roster.”

Of course, the Rangers still do have the option of exercising their second buyout after the 2013-2014 season. However, that is where the Rangers encounter the second major problem of not buying B-Rich out.

If Richards suffers from an injury that is not healed by June 30, 2014 and/or would require post-season surgery, the Blueshirts would be unable to buy Richards out and then would face the wrath of his onerous contract. Remember, the Rangers signed that contract prior to the new CBA – and that new agreement does not look kindly on teams trying to get around the salary cap. The Blueshirts would not be able to bury Richards’ contract in the minors like they did with Wade Redden’s deal.

I am not an expert on the NHL’s salary cap, I do not play one on television, nor did I stay in a Holiday Inn Express. As a result, I turn to Pat Leonard to explain why the Rangers are just delaying the inevitable in terms of buying Richards out.

“Still, the new ‘Cap Advantage Recapture’ clause in the NHL’s and NHLPA’s new collective bargaining agreement likely will force the Rangers to buy out Richards’ contract in the summer of 2014 regardless of how he performs,” Leonard wrote in the Daily News.

“The “CAR” clause seeks to penalize teams for doling out massive, frontloaded contracts under the previous CBA. It forces teams who have signed a player to a frontloaded contract to absorb that player’s remaining cap hit for the remainder of his original term in the event he retires early.”

So why would the Rangers run the risk, even if it were ever so small, and not go the amnesty route?

The easiest answer is that they believe Vigneault’s new system will breathe new life into Richards. The Blueshirts see last season as an aberration rather than the rule.

In a way, the Rangers might be correct. I have the feeling that Richards was never in the proper mental mindset or physical condition to jump back into the NHL following the lockout. The harder he tried to get things going, the further down he fell – the quicksand analogy that Keanu Reeves’ character (Shane Falco) referred to in the movie The Replacements.

Richards made mention to things possibly not being right in a couple of conversations he had with Larry Brooks of the NY Post.

At the end of June when rumors were swirling that Richards was facing his last days as a Ranger, he told the NY Post in an e-mail that “Things will be better next year wherever I am.”

Prior to that response to Brooks, Richards hinted at some possible trouble – what exactly it was is not clear.

“I didn’t feel normal all season,” Richards told Brooks on breakup day. “There are a thousand things it could have been, but I’m not going to dwell on that now.”

Was it John Tortorella’s act wearing thin? Was it an injury? Was it Richards admitting he was not properly focused to play the season? We may never know, but obviously it is something that Rangers management believes he can overcome.

Of course, I wouldn’t be a Rangers fan if there wasn’t a more cynical explanation to it all.

Glen Sather is going to be turning 70-years-old on September 2 and he is a little more than three months removed from prostate cancer surgery. Let’s face it; he is facing his own mortality. Contrary to the blustery comments he made when he ran the Oilers how he could win championships with the Rangers financing behind him, all Slats has brought to New York is one division title is 13 years. It has been 23 years since he last won the Stanley Cup. It is also the reason why he fired Tortorella and made the safe coaching hire rather than think out of the box.

Sather desperately wants one final Stanley Cup championship so that he can retire on top. He believes that the best chance he has at winning is to keep Richards on the roster – no matter the cost to the Blueshirts future. Face it, if the Richards non-buyout proves to be the wrong move, Sather will be long gone and the job of cleaning up Sather’s mess will belong to Jeff Gorton or whoever replaces Slats.

As a result, the Rangers stand like the little kid with his nose pressed against the candy store window – dreaming of what could be. The odds are stacked against the Rangers because their maneuverability is limited. If they did indeed exercise the amnesty buyout, the Rangers would have had some leeway in terms of free agency – especially with the market being buoyed by other amnesty buyouts.

Even if the Rangers decided not to get too involved in free agency, they would have the cap space to make trades with teams looking to dump salaries but not wanting (or able) to use their amnesty buyouts.

The Brad Richards Saga is a case of the franchise being penny-wise and pound-foolish.

UPDATE: Katie Strang of ESPN tweeted that Scott Arniel will be joining Alain Vigneault’s staff as an assistant coach (along with Ulf Samuelsson). It will be interesting to see how Arniel and Derick Brassard get along on Broadway because the two had their moments when they were both in Columbus.

While it seems that Brassard took the high road, his agent did not. Aaron Portzline of The Columbus Disptach wrote that Allen Walsh went on the offensive after Brassard had been a healthy scratch for seven of 10 games. On December 1 2011, Portzline offered the following missive from Brassard’s agent:

“While I have tremendous respect for (general manager) Scott Howson and the rest of Columbus’ management team, the situation regarding Derick Brassard has become untenable. The coach has a history of burying players and using them as scapegoats to mask his own lack of success on the ice. Derick has been singled out, almost from the very beginning of the season, to be the fall guy in case things don’t go well. The Columbus organization cares about Derick and has been good to him, but at some point, one has to say, enough is enough.”

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The NHL Lockout forced the league to turn the 2013 NHL Draft into a marathon draft session on Sunday, June 30. This year marks the 10th anniversary one of the strongest and deepest drafts in NHL history.

It is a topic that The Hockey News (THN) chose to highlight in their 2013 Draft Preview issue. Senior Editor Brian Costello offered up two quotes from their 2003 Draft Preview issue that spoke to the depth of the 2003 Draft.

One GM told THN, “There are 12 guys in our tops five.”

An Assistant GM offered up two opinions, “Anyone from one to 45 is real good. You’ll get a player at 45 and the guy could end up being as good as the guy at 10.” Costello pointed out that the 10th player drafted was Andrei Kostitsyn and Patrice Bergeron was drafted 45th.

He also said, “Some late first round and second round guys will turn out to be real solid, franchise-type players.” Costello pointed out that Corey Perry was selected 28th and Shea Weber was 49th.

When comparing 2003 to 2013 Costello writes “… the 2013 draft is shaping up to be the best since the 2003 edition. Most scouts love the depth of talent. One scout compares it favorably to 2003. That’s saying a lot.”

Detroit’s Director of Amateur Scouting, Joe McDonnell, confirms the depth of the 2013 Draft.

“I think it’s real deep draft,” McDonnell admitted to Mike G. Morreale of NHL.com. “We just finished up our year-end meetings [on May 26] and know we’re going to get a player if we’re picking in the 18th spot or lower. We think we’re going to get a real good player no matter where we’re picking in the first round.”

The 2013 Draft should please teams that like to take the best player available and teams that are looking to draft for need – especially at the top of the draft.

“It’s almost a what-are-you-looking-for type of draft. What do you need, and just pick one. I especially think that’s the case for a team in the top 10,” McDonnell explained to Morreale. “The players available are all so close and tight … even when you get past the top three, the list goes on and on.”

The conventional wisdom seemed to point the Avalanche in the direction of the Denver-trained Seth Jones – a defenseman some have compared to Chris Pronger.

However, the powers-that-be in Colorado seemed prepared to turn conventional wisdom into Draft fodder.

“If we do pick first, we’re leaning more toward one of those three forwards,” Avalanche Executive Vice president of Hockey Operations Joe Sakic told Adrian Dater of The Denver Post.

Dater writes that, if the Avalanche keep the pick, they would look at Nathan MacKinnon, Jonathan Drouin or Alexander Barkov.

There is a connection to the first two forwards and the Avalanche. Patrick Roy, Coach and Vice President of Hockey Operations, is very familiar with MacKinnon and Drouin who both played in the QMJHL.

While many think Sakic is bluffing, Dater said that is not the case. While the Avs may yet trade down in the draft in exchange for established NHL talent and a lower first round draft pick, if Colorado keeps the pick they intend to use it on a forward.

On June 25, ESPN The Magazine reported that Roy favors selecting MacKinnon with the first overall pick, with Drouin and Barkov as the next two choices in order.

As a result, it is very possible that the draft landscape could change very much if a team believes Jones is the missing piece of their puzzle.

If Sakic is willing to trade down, just how far down would he be willing to go?

Whether they have an interest in Jones or not, could Columbus or Calgary be active teams in terms of trades with each team owning three first round draft picks?

Could Jim Nill look to move his two first round picks in an attempt to get his tenure in Dallas off to a quick start?

In this Mock Draft, 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.

The Draft positions utilized are those as of June 27, 2013 – with one exception. If Sakic and the Avalanche pass on Seth Jones, then I see Carolina swapping picks with Florida so the Hurricanes can draft Jones.

1. COLORADO AVALANCHE – Nathan MacKinnon – C
THN: # 1 (Two-way Forward) —– CS: # 2 NA—– McK: # 2
ISS: #1 (Jeremy Roenick)
MacKinnon out up huge numbers in the QMJHL (32 goals and 43 assists) in just 44 games as injuries cut short his season. Roy is saying that MacKinnon is the front-runner as the Oilers continue to stockpile young scoring forwards.

2. CAROLINA HURRICANES* – Seth Jones – D
THN: # 1 (Two-way Defenseman) —– CS: # 1 NAS —– McK: # 1
ISS: #2 (Alex Pietrangelo)
Jones gives the ‘Canes an all-around solid d-man whose ability on the defensive end adds balance to their defense corps and addresses a need for defensive help on the blue line.

3. TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING – Aleksander Barkov – C
THN: # 6 (Offensive Forward) —– CS: # 1ES —– McK: # 5
ISS: # 5 (Ryan Getzlaf)
With Vincent Lecavalier being bought out, Tampa Bay will probably look to Barkov as the anchor for their second line and serve as a great one-two punch with Steven Stamkos for a long time.

4. NASHVILLE PREDATORS – Jonathan Drouin – LW
THN: # 2 (Offensive Forward) —– CS: # 2 NAS—– McK: # 3
ISS: # 3 (Pavel Datsyuk)
The Predators have long had a defensive system in place and have yearned for scoring help. Drouin projects out as much as a playmaker and he is a goal scorer – giving Nashville the big-time forward they have searched for.

5. FLORIDA PANTHERS* – Valeri Nichushkin – LW
THN: # 5 (Skilled Forward) —– CS: # 2 ES —– McK: # 6
ISS: # 4 (Jaromir Jagr)
There is always a concern about drafting Russian players in the 1st round since the NHL and KHL do not have a transfer agreement in place. However, Nichushkin is an imposing offensive force with a combination of size (6-4/202) and hockey sense.

6. CALGARY FLAMES – Sean Monahan – C
THN: # 7 (Offensive Forward) —– CS: # 5 NAS —– McK: # 11
ISS: # 9 (Mikko Koivu)
With all of the young turk forwards in the Western Conference, Calgary will turn to Monahan to help make up the difference. He is a playmaking center who has strong hockey skills

7. EDMONTON OILERS – Darnell Nurse – D
THN: # 8 (Tw-way Defenseman) —– CS: # 4 NAS —– McK: # 8
ISS: # 6 (Brent Seabrook)
THN compared Nurse to a Chris Pronger based on his playing ability and size (6-5/192). While he still has some filling out to do, Nurse has the ability to be a shutdown d-man with a developing offensive game.

8. BUFFALO SABRES – Elias Lindholm – C
THN: # 4 (Two-way Forward) —– CS: # 3 ES—– McK: # 4
ISS: # 7 (Zach Parise)
Sabres could use an impact d-man or forward, but should go with the best offensive forward left on the board. They can find a solid d-man later, but won’t be able to match Lindholm’s ability or NHL-readiness later in the draft.

9. NEW JERSEY DEVILS – Bo Horvat – C
THN: # 16 (Two-way Forward) —– CS: # 15 NAS —– McK: # 14
ISS: # 10 (Ryan O’Reilly)
The perennial search for Martin Brodeur’s eventual replacement continues. The Devils might need to replace Patrik Elias and David Clarkson and must forfeit their 2014 1st rounder as part of their penalty for circumventing the salary cap with Ilya Kovalchuk. After drafting Stefan Matteau last year, Max Domi could be a possibility here. In the end, it will be the solid Horvat who will fit in well in NJ’s system.

10. DALLAS STARS – Max Domi – C
THN: # 15 (Power Forward) —– CS: # 19 NAS —– McK: # 9
ISS: # 25 (Sergei Samsonov)
Domi might not have the size Jim Nill would love, but he does have his father’s heart to along with an offensive game that Tie could only dream of having.

11. PHILADELPHIA FLYERS – Rasmus Ristolainen – D
THN: # 22 (Two-way defenseman) —– CS: # 4 ES —– McK: # 21
ISS: # 11 (Niklas Kronwall)
This could be a potential spot for Zach Fucale with Ilya Bryzgalov being bought out. However, they will likely pair Steve Mason up with a veteran and use this pick to add a big-time blue line prospect.

12. PHOENIX COYOTES – Hunter Shinkaruk – C
THN: # 23 (Offensive Forward) —– CS: # 6 NAS —– McK: # 22
ISS: # 13 (David Perron)
Shinkaruk is as strong an offensive player in the Draft. He is an outstanding competitor with solid hockey sense. He still needs work in the defensive zone and has to get stronger, but he is natural-born leader who will be a Captain in the NHL.

13. WINNIPEG JETS – Nikita Zadorov – D
THN: # 14 (Defensive Defenseman) —– CS: #22 NAS —– McK: # 7
ISS: # 8 (Jared Cowan)
Zadorov is a nice combination of defensive ability and size (6-5/230) who left Russia to play in the OHL. His ability projects him out to a top four blueliner who is developing some offensive skills.

14. COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS – Anthony Mantha – LW
THN: # 24 (Offensive Forward) —– CS: # 10 NAS —– McK: #24
ISS: # 24 (Wojtek Wolski)
Mantha was the only draft-eligible Junior player to score 50 goals. He has a sniper’s touch, but must his work level and physical play. With three 1st rounders, it is still worth taking the risk on the offensive potential.

15. NEW YORK ISLANDERS – Zachary Fucale – G
THN: # 25 (Starting Goalie) —– CS: # 1 NAG —– McK: # 28
ISS: # 1 G (Carey Price)
After using all seven picks on d-men last year, you have to figure GM Garth Snow looks to add depth to his forward corps. However, without an impact goaltender in the organization, Snow will snap up the best netminder in the draft. If he does select a forward, look for him to reach for someone like Michael McCarron or J.T. Compher.

16. BUFFALO SABRES – Samuel Morin – D
THN: # (Two-way defenseman) —– CS: # 23 NAS —– McK: # 13
ISS: # 32 (Tyler Myers)
Alexander Wennberg might also be a good call here, but Buffalo has to be tempted at thought of pairing Morin (6-6/200) with Myers (6-8/227). Despite his size, Morin is mobile blueliner who needs to develop his game and work on filling out his body.

17. OTTAWA SENATORS – Alexander Wennberg – C
THN: # 11 (Skilled Forward) —– CS: # 5 ES —– McK: # 13
ISS: # 15 (Jakub Voracek)
Ottawa will need to add depth to their defense corps, but Wennberg’s offensive abilities are too much to pass on. While he needs to bulk up and add a physical aspect to his game, his skating, puck-handling and hockey sense power his game.

18. DETROIT RED WINGS – Adam Erne – LW
THN: # 13 (Two-way forward) —– CS: # 26 NAS —– McK: # 20
ISS: # 37 (Kyle Okposo)
Erne, who will turn 19 in April, has posted back-to-back 28 goal seasons in the QMJHL. He is a developing player who does a little bit of everything well. One scout told THN that he is a “high-productivity/low-flash guy”.

19. COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS – Curtis Lazar – C
THN: # 9 (Character Forward) —– CS: # 20 NAS —– McK: # 12
ISS: # 12 (Dustin Brown)
Jackets could look for a d-man, but they should have some options with their 3rd pick of the round. Lazar is a good two-way player that features an excellent shot. At 5-11/193, Lazar will have to work on getting stronger and he must find a consistency to his game for him to move from top nine forward to top six (and better) forward).

20. SAN JOSE SHARKS – Kerby Rychel – LW
THN: # 21(Power Forward) —– CS: # 17 NAS —– McK: # 25
ISS: # 20 (Chris Kunitz)
Rychel’s Dad (Warren) played in the NHL and Kerby’s Windsor Junior team has been very successful so Rychel should be well-prepared to take the next step to the NHL. He is a character-type player who has tallied two straight 40 goal seasons.

21. TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS – Valentin Zykov – RW
THN: # 31 (Power Forward) —– CS: # 7 NAS —– McK: # 32
ISS: # 19 (Devin Setoguchi)
Toronto might be better off with a center (Frederick Gauthier or Nic Petan), but Zykov’s offensive ability is too hard to pass up. Zykov left Russia to continue his development in the QMJHL and scored 40 goals in his rookie season.

22. CALGARY FLAMES – Robert Hagg – D
THN: # 12 (Two-way defenseman) —– CS: # 8 ES—– McK: # 19
ISS: # 31 (John Carlson)
Hagg got a huge break as injuries the Swedish WJC team wreaked havoc with their defense. Hagg stepped in and didn’t miss a beat. He is a mobile d-man who is a good defender. He will need a couple of years to develop his game, but he has NHL size already (6-2/204).

23. WASHINGTON CAPITALS – Ryan Pulock – D
THN: # 10 (Offensive Defenseman) —– CS: 12 NAS # —– McK: # 15
ISS: # 14 (Dan Boyle)
THN pointed out that the Caps only have one blueliner under contract for 2014-15 so defense is a good way to go, although the gritty Ryan Hartman would look good too. Pulock would give Washington another deadly weapon from the point on the PP, and he kills penalties too. While good defensively, it is his big-time shot that is his calling card.

24. VANCOUVER CANUCKS – Ryan Hartman – RW
THN: # 28 (Power Forward) —– CS: # 16 NAS —– McK: # 36
ISS: # 41 (Brad Marchand)
If you are going to commit to John Tortorella as your coach then you might as draft a Torts’ player. THN called him the “prototypical guy you love on your team, but hate to play against.” He helped lead the USA to Gold at the WJC as part of their shutdown line. He plays bigger than his size (5-11/187) and has room to develop an offensive game.

25. MONTREAL CANADIENS – Frederick Gauthier – C
THN: # 30 (Defensive Forward) —– CS: # 8 NAS —– McK: # 23
ISS: # 18 (Brandon Sutter)
THN pointed out that the Habs have plenty of guys who play bigger than their size (e.g. Brandon Prust and Brendan Gallagher). Gauthier not only brings size (6-5/210), he also brings a solid two-way game. There are some concerns over his poor playoff performance, but has the all-around game to be a solid second line contributor.

26. ANAHEIM DUCKS – Michael McCarron – RW
THN: # 27 (Power Forward) —– CS: # 35 NAS —– McK: # 33
ISS: # 23 (John LeClair)
The Ducks would like to have seen Gauthier drop to them. Instead they take size on the wing instead (6-5/228). The USNTDP player will be attending Western Michigan where he will play for former NHL coach Andy Murray – unless he bolts for London (OHL). McCarron needs to continue his development and maturity – as well working on his skating and puck skills.

27. COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS – Josh Morrissey – D
THN: # 19 (Offensive Defenseman) —– CS: # 27 NAS—– McK: # 18
ISS: # 21 (Kris Letang)
With all of the offensive players they brought in via trades last year and the draft this year, Morrissey ties in well as on offensive d-man who can skate, move the puck and QB the PP. There are some concerns on his size (6-0/182), but his offensive abilities makes him a dangerous player – even though he will need to bulk up and get stronger.

28. CALGARY FLAMES – Eric Comrie – G
THN: # 32 (Starting Goaltender) —– CS: # 2 NAG —– McK: #52
ISS: # 6 Goalie (No player comparison given)
With the future of Miikka Kiprusoff up in the air, the Flames need to bring in a goaltender with one of their three picks. The 6th pick is too high and the 22nd pick too low to draft Fucale. It is possible they will try to package their lower two 1st rounders to move in the round – perhaps swapping them with the Islanders. If not, then the Flames will draft Comrie, the half-brother of ex-NHLers Mike and Paul Comrie. Interestingly enough, Mike was forced to retire after undergoing a third hip surgery. Eric played just 37 games due to a hip injury, but he is well-schooled on playing goal because his Junior team is owned by Olaf Kolzig.

29. DALLAS STARS – Andre Burakovsky – LW
THN: # 17 (Skilled Forward) —– CS: # 6 ES —– McK: # 16
ISS: # 16 (Daniel Alfredsson)
Burakovsky is no stranger to the NHL as his father Robert was an 11th round pick in the 1985 draft by the Rangers who played 23 NHL games with Ottawa. Andre is a very good offensive player with his puck skills being the key to his game. He needs to work on his defensive play and his consistency in order to reach his full potential in the NHL.

30. CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS – Steve Santini – D
THN: # 65 (Two-way Defenseman) —– CS: 47 NAS # —– McK: # 41
ISS: # 17 (Daniel Girardi)
Santini is committed to play at Boston College. He is a character player who is a big-time defensive d-man who likes to use his size (6-2/207) and hockey sense to patrol the defensive zone. He plays a smart game offensively, but it is his defensive work that earned him best defenseman honors at the 2013 Under-18 tournament in Sochi, Russia.

First Round Draft Pick Transactions

• The Minnesota Wild’s first-round pick will go to the Buffalo Sabres as the result of trade on April 3, 2013 that sent Jason Pominville and a fourth-round pick in 2014 to Minnesota in exchange for Matt Hackett, Johan Larsson, a second-round pick in 2014, and this pick.
• The New York Ranger’s first-round pick will go to the Columbus Blue Jackets as the result of a trade on July 23, 2012 that sent Rick Nash, Steven Deslisle, and a conditional third-round pick in 2013 to New York in exchange for Artem Anisimov, Brandon Dubinsky, Tim Erixon and this pick. The condition – the Rangers did not reach the Stanley Cup Finals – was converted on May 25, 2013.
• The St. Louis Blues’ first-round pick will go to the Calgary Flames as the result of a trade on April 1, 2013 that sent Jay Bouwmesster to St. Louis in exchange for Mark Cundari, Reto Berra, and this pick (being conditional at the time of the trade). The condition – Calgary will receive St. Louis’ first-round pick in 2013 if St. Louis qualifies for the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs – was converted on April 23, 2013.
• The Los Angeles Kings’ first-round pick will go to the Columbus Blue Jackets as a result of a trade on February 23, 2012 that sent Jeff Carter to Los Angeles in exchange for Jack Johnson and this pick (being conditional at the time of the trade). One condition was converted on April 5, 2012, when Los Angeles qualified for the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs, giving Columbus the right to choose between Los Angeles’ first-round picks in either 2012 or 2013. The other condition was converted on June 22, 2012, when Columbus chose not to take Los Angeles’ first round pick in 2012, giving them this pick.
• The Pittsburgh Penguins’ first-round pick will go to the Calgary Flames as the result of a trade on March 27, 2013 that sent Jarome Iginla to Pittsburgh in exchange for Kenny Agostino, Ben Hanowksi, and this pick.
• The Boston Bruins’ first-round pick will go to the Dallas Stars as the result of a trade on April 2, 2013 that sent Jaromir Jagr to Boston in exchange for Lane MacDermid, Cody Payne, and this pick (being conditional at the time of the trade). The condition – Dallas will receive a first-round pick if Boston advances to the 2013 Eastern Conference Finals – was converted on May 25, 2013.

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In this Second Round Mock Draft, 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.

The draft positions are as of June 27, 2013 and presume that no trades will have been made since then – with one exception. As I mentioned in my Mock 1st Round, I have Florida (2nd overall) and Carolina (5th overall) swapping first round draft picks. As a result, I am transferring Carolina’s 2nd round pick (#35) to Florida as part of that deal (*).

With three teams having three 2nd round picks (Montreal, san Jose and Winnipeg), there might be some wheeling and dealing as these teams might look to jump up into the 1st round.

31. FLORIDA PANTHERS – J.T. Compher – C
THN: # 41 (Two-Way Forward) —– CS: # 34 NAS —– McK: # 56
ISS: # 26 (Mike Richards)
Compher is more of a playmaker than goal scorer, but he is comfortable playing any style of hockey. He earns plus marks for his ability to compete and his hockey sense.

32. COLORADO AVALANCHE – Mirco Mueller – D
THN: # 18 (Two-way Defenseman) —– CS: # 9 NAS —– McK: # 17
ISS: # 35 (Cody Franson)
After passing on Seth Jones in the 1st round, the Avs go defense in the 2nd. Mueller improved his draft status by playing Junior hockey in the WHL. While he still needs to bulk up some (6-3/184), Mueller’s game is based in his ability to move the puck and skate well.

33. TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING – Madison Bowey – D
THN: # 44 (Two-way Defenseman) —– CS: # 32 NAS —– McK: # 35
ISS: # 22 (Kevin Bieksa)
Bouwey is hoping to follow in the footsteps of fellow Kelowna d-men like Shea Weber, Duncan Keith and Luke Schenn. Put up decent numbers, but there is still untapped offensive potential to go with a player who is a big-time competitor who is not afraid to be aggressive.

34. MONTREAL CANADIENS – Emile Poirier – LW
THN: # 47 (Offensive Forward) —– CS: # 39 NAS —– McK: # 26
ISS: # 79 (Not available)
Some teams might be scared off by his awkward skating style, but he manages to plow through and produce offensively. He will need to continue to work on his skating and get a little stronger. If he does that, the Habs might have the steal of the draft.

35. FLORIDA PANTHERS (*) – Ian McCoshen – D
THN: # 26 (Defensive Defenseman) —– CS: # 24 NAS —– McK: # 29
ISS: # 28 (Zach Bogosian)
This pick is the bonus I have the Panthers getting for switching 1st round picks with the Hurricanes. I have them drafting another college-bound player as the Panthers swap immediate help for long-term help as they pare off some bad contracts. McCoshen has the ability and size to project out at least as a top four d-man with the upside of being a shutdown defender in the NHL.

36. MONTREAL CANADIENS – Shea Theodore – D
THN: # 46 (Offensive Defenseman) —– CS: # 11 NAS —– McK: # 49
ISS: # 38 (Paul Martin)
Theodore is a good defender, but his calling card is his ability to move and distribute the puck. Those attributes, and his ability to get shots on goal, make him a potential NHL PP QB,

37. EDMONTON OILERS – Chris Bigras – D
THN: # 33 (Defensive Defenseman) —– CS: # 14 NAS —– McK: # 27
ISS: # 30 (Duncan Keith)
With all of the young offensive firepower the Oilers have drafted over the past couple of years, Bigras makes a fine defensive addition to their blue line. He plays a solid game and is at home in the defensive end. He has the ability to play on the PP as well as starring on the PK, he should be a top four d-man for Edmonton.

38. BUFFALO SABRES – Jacob De La Rose – C
THN: # 29 (Two-way Forward) —– CS: # 7 ES —– McK: # 31
ISS: # 33 (Jordan Staal)
De La Rose captained Sweden’s Under-18 team and was a member of its WJC team so he is familiar with playing in high pressure games – not to mention that he helped Leksand return to the Swedish Elite League. He is a solid and safe pick whose upside is as a 2nd line center with good defensive attributes and at worst a 3rd line center with offensive punch.

39. NEW JERSEY DEVILS – Nic Petan – C
THN: # 42 (Offensive Forward) —– CS: # 33 NAS —– McK: # 46
ISS: # 29 (Derek Roy)
Petan’s size (5-8/165) is the one thing that might keep him out of the 1st round. However, lack of size didn’t stop Lou Lamoriello from drafting Zach Parise 10 years ago and it won’t deter him from drafting Petan. While he tied for the WHL in scoring (46-74-120), the best part of his game is that he makes his teammates better when he is on the ice.

40. DALLAS STARS – Dillon Heatherington – D
THN: # 45 (Defensive Defenseman) —– CS: # 31 NAS —– McK: # 44
ISS: # 27 (Joni Pitkanen)
The Stars would probably like to select a more offensive-type d-man, but the best value at this pick is with Heatherington. While he is seen as a defensive player, he has top notch hockey sense that allows him to contribute on the offensive end. He can play on both special teams.

41. PHILADELPHIA FLYERS – Morgan Klimchuk – LW
THN: # 38 (Two-way Forward) —– CS: # 25 NAS —– McK: # 42
ISS: # 47 (James Neal)
An offensive player, Klimchuk showed an ability to take care of the defensive side during his stint with Canada’s Under-18 team where he was a big part of their PK. That aside, Klimchuk’s games is derived from his big shot which is made even more lethal by his ability to hit the net.

42. PHOENIX COYOTES – Tristan Jarry – G
THN: # 68 (Not Available) —– CS: # 3NAG —– McK: # 65
ISS: # 2 Goalie (Not Available)
With Mike Smith’s status uncertain, GM Don Maloney should look to add some more organizational depth behind Mark Visentin. Jarry has big-time numbers as Laurent Brossoit’s backup with the Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL): 18-7-0, 1.61 GAA, .936 SV%.

43. WINNIPEG JETS – Laurent Dauphin – C
THN: # 66 (Not Available) —– CS: # 28 NAS —– McK: # 37
ISS: # 44 (Mike Ribeiro)
The speedy Dauphin earned Player of the Game honors at the 2013 CHL Top Prospects game. He is a playmaker who also has the ability to score goals. Dauphin sees top six forward minutes and plays on PP and PK.

44. COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS – Linus Arnesson – D
THN: # 40 (Defensive Defenseman) —– CS: # 13 ES —– McK: # 38
ISS: # 51 (Marc Staal)
Arnesson earned props for stepping and playing in the Swedish Elite League last season. While he is a mobile defender, he is more at home on the defensive side of the game. THN said that one scout compared his style of play to that of Toni Lydman.

45. ANAHEIM DUCKS – Justin Bailey – C/RW
THN: # 34 (Power Forward) —– CS: #38 NAS —– McK: # 40
ISS: # 42 (James van Riemsdyk)
The only thing separating Bailey from the 1st round are his injury woes – and there a lot of them. He suffered two separated shoulders before he ever made his OHL debut last year. While playing for Kitchener last year, he suffered a concussion and a chest injury that limited him to 57 games. Bailey, son of former NFL LB Carlton Bailey, brings size (6-3/194) and offensive abilities. Needs to get stronger and stay healthy.

46. MINNESOTA WILD – Jason Dickinson – C/LW
THN: # 35 (Two-way Forward) —– CS: # 30 NAS —– McK: # 34
ISS: # 36 (Jeff Carter)
Another one of those talented prospects who has the skills, but needs to find a consistency to his game. His offensive game is keyed by his superb puck skills and plus shot.

47. ST. LOUIS BLUES – Tommy Vannelli – D
THN: # 37 (Offensive Defenseman) —– CS: # 44 NAS —– McK: # 30
ISS: # 96 (Not available)
Vannelli is a bit of a reach at this spot in the Draft, but is worth the shot as a high-risk/high-reward draft pick. Vannelli, who has committed to the University of Minnesota, played for the USA 2013 Under-18 team and the 2012 Ivan Hlinka team. His ice vision allows him to make breakout passes and serves him well on the PP; he will have to bulk up his frame (6-2/167) while at Minnesota.

48. DETROIT RED WINGS – Brett Pesce – D
THN: # 52 (Two-way Defenseman) —– CS: # 40 NAS —– McK: # 57
ISS: # 90 (Not Available)
Pesce took a regular shift as an 18-year-old freshman at the University of New Hampshire (HE). His development took a little hit in 2011-12 as a torn labrum robbed him of valuable ice time. THN said he managed to play for the U-17 team that year and was second only to Jacob Trouba among the USA blueliners. He is a steady player who can evolve into a top four d-man by bulking up his frame (6-3/170) and continuing to get experience at a high level.

49, SAN JOSE SHARKS – Connor Hurley – C
THN: # 48 (Two-way Forward) —– CS: # 45 NAS —– McK: # 50
ISS: # 45 (Andrew Ladd)
Hurley split his time last year between Edina High School (MN) and the USHL (where he played for Muskegon and the USA U-18 team). If he were born a day later, he wouldn’t have been draft eligible this year. He has committed to the University of Notre Dame. He is a highly competitive player who will need to be more consistent with his play and add some bulk to his frame (6-1/172).

50. SAN JOSE SHARKS – William Carrier – LW
THN: # 51 (Offensive Forward) —– CS: # 18 NAS —– McK: # 54
ISS: # 100 (Not available)
Another player with consistency issues, Carrier got sidetracked last season because of a serious ankle injury – which limited him to just 34 games with Cape Breton (QMJHL). His development also was hindered by playing on a bad team. Despite playing only 34 games, Carrier was his team’s leading scorer (16-26-42). The big knock on him is his skating, but if he can stay healthy and add that elusive consistency to his game, Carrier can make the next step to the NHL.

51. TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS – Marc-Olivier Roy – C
THN: # 58 (Offensive Forward) —– CS: # 54 NAS —– McK: # 55
ISS: # 54 (Pascal Dupuis)
Roy is a solid two-way player who has the ability to score goals and find the puck. While he is slight (6-0/175), he is not afraid to get involved in traffic and will go to the net to score goals. It would not surprise me to see a team take a flyer on him late in the first round.

52. BUFFALO SABRES – Jimmy Lodge – C/LW
THN: # 64 (Not available) —– CS: # 21 NAS —– McK: # 68
ISS: # 39 (Jason Pominville)
It kind of makes sense for the Sabres to draft a Jason Pominville-type player. Lodge’s hockey sense make up for his less-than-smooth style of skating and his lack of bulk (6-1/166). On the plus side, Lodge is player who has shown an ability to develop all facets of his game. He is on the cusp of being a top six forward prospect and should play on PP and PK.

53. WASHINGTON CAPITALS – Artturi Lehkonen – LW
THN: # 36 (Offensive Forward) —– CS: # 9 ES—– McK: # 39
ISS: # 46 (Loui Eriksson)
Lehkonen’s season suffered as he dealt with two concussions this year. His slender stature (5-11/163) is something to be concerned about, but his hockey sense and puck skills allow him to survive and thrive. He did produce last season while playing in Finland’s top league. He could be a big-time contributor on a line with Alex Ovechkin.

54. DALLAS STARS – Zach Nastasiuk – RW/C
THN: # 39 (Two-way Forward) —– CS: # 13 NAS —– McK: # 51
ISS: # 54 (Ryan Kesler)
At the very least, Nastasiuk will find a home in the NHL as a solid defender in his own zone and as a tenacious forechecker in the offensive zone. He likes to get involved physically and is not afraid to block shots. If he develops an offensive game, he is a top six forward. If not, he will be a solid 3rd line forward with some scoring punch.

55. MONTREAL CANADIENS – Oliver Bjorkstrand – LW
THN: # 53 (Offensive Forward) —– CS: # 36 NAS —– McK: # 48
ISS: # 67 (Not available)
A little undersized (5-11/167), Bjorkstrand gets high marks for leaving Denmark for the WHL (Portland) where he scored 31 goals and 32 assists in 65 games. His father Todd played at the University of Maine and in the minors before finishing a long career in Denmark – thus giving Oliver a professional hockey pedigree. He has good hands and a good shot which provides him scoring ability.

56. EDMONTON OILERS – Spencer Martin – G
THN: # 60 (Starting Goaltender) —– CS: #5 NAG —– McK: # 67
ISS: # 5 Goalie (Not Available)
Martin stopped all 16 shots he faced in the 2013 CHL Top Prospects game. Martin utilizes the butterfly technique, but has drawn some criticism for being too much of a technique goalie. He has a solid glove and is in position to make saves because of his ability to move side-to-side with ease.

57. LOS ANGELES KINGS – Marko Dano – C
THN: # 43 (Project Forward) —– CS: # 12 ES —– McK: # 43
ISS: # 81 (Not available)
Dano gets high marks for leading Slovakia in scoring (6-4-5-9) during the WJC and for getting playing time in the KHL as an 18-year-old. Because he is not that big (5-11/183), Dano uses his hockey sense to read the play as it develops and get to loose pucks. He utilizes good skating and puck skills to work in tight situations.

58. SAN JOSE SHARKS – Eric Roy – D
THN: # 54 (Offensive Defenseman) —– CS: # 41 NAS —– McK: # 58
ISS: # 73 (Not Available)
While his goal total jumped from 11 to 17, his overall point total dropped (53 to 39) and he was a -32 for a bad Brandon (WHL) team. The theme of inconsistency really hits home with Roy as a scout told THN that his inconstancy ranges, but only from game-to-game, but shift-to-shift. On the plus side, Roy has size (6-3/187) and an offensive ability to create his own chances and an improving physical game.

59. WINNIPEG JETS – Nick Sorensen – RW
THN: # 49 (Offensive Forward) —– CS: # 48 NAS —– McK: # 47
ISS: # 55 (Niclas Bergfors)
Yet another player who battled the injury bug last season. Knee and shoulder injuries have limited him to just 54 games with Quebec (QMJHL) during the last TWO seasons. However, in those games, Sorensen scored 25 goals and 31 assists. He will need to bulk up some (6-1/175), but if he does and if he stays healthy, he has the offensive ability and hockey sense to be a top six forward.

60. BOSTON BRUINS – Jonathan Diaby – D
THN: # 50 (Defensive Defenseman) —– CS: # 37 NAS —– McK: # 45
ISS: # 98 (Not Available)
There are a couple of ways the Bruins could go if they want a d-man, but Diaby offers them the biggest one (6-5/223). He is a stay at home d-man who does have good mobility for a player his size. Can and will block shots, Diaby is also willing to drop the gloves – as witnessed by his 10 fights in Juniors last season.

61. WINNIPEG JETS – John Hayden – C/RW
THN: # 73 (Not Available) —– CS: # 29 NAS —– McK: # 74
ISS: # 43 (Ryan Malone)
Hayden projects out as your prototypical power forward (6-3/185). He is committed to play at Yale in 2014-15, but Halifax (QMJHL) took a flyer on him late in their draft. He is a top notch competitor whose physical play powers his game (pun intended) – which he uses well to gain space and finish off his checks.

Second Round Draft Pick Transactions

• The Nashville Predators’ second-round pick will go to the Montreal Canadiens as the result of a trade on February 27, 2012 that sent Andrei Kostitsyn to Nashville in exchange for the cancellation of a previously arranged conditional fifth-round pick (in a 2012 trade of Hal Gill to Nashville from Montreal) in 2013 and this pick.
• The Calgary Flames’ second-round pick will go to the Montreal Canadiens as the result of a trade on January 12, 2012 that sent Michael Cammalleri, Karri Ramo, and Montreal’s fifth-round pick in 2012 to Calgary in exchange for Rene Bourque, Patrick Holland and this pick.
• The New York Islanders’ second-round pick will go to the Anaheim Ducks as the result of a trade on June 22, 2012 that sent Lubomir Visnovsky to New York in exchange for this pick.
• The Ottawa Senators’ second-round pick will go to the St. Louis Blues as the result of a trade on February 26, 2012 that sent Ben Bishop to Ottawa in exchange for this pick.
• The New York Rangers’ second-round pick will go to the San Jose Sharks as the result of a trade on April 2, 2013 that sent Ryane Clowe to New York in exchange for Florida’s third-round pick in 2013, a conditional second-round pick in 2014 (which is met if the Rangers re-sign Clowe) and this pick.
• The St. Louis Blues’ second-round pick will go to the Buffalo Sabres as the result of a trade on March 30, 2013 that sent Jordan Leopold to St. Louis in exchange for a conditional fifth-round pick in 2013 and this pick.
• The Vancouver Canucks’ second-round pick will go to the Dallas Stars as the result of a trade on April 2, 2013 that sent Derek Roy to Vancouver in exchange for Kevin Connaughton and this pick.
• The Anaheim Ducks’ second-round pick will go to the Edmonton Oilers as the result of a trade on July 12, 2011 that sent Andrew Cogliano to Anaheim in exchange for this pick.
• The Pittsburgh Penguins’ second-round pick will go to the San Jose Sharks as the result of a trade on March 25, 2013 that sent Douglas Murray to Pittsburgh in exchange for a conditional second-round pick (the condition will only be met if the Penguins re-sign Murray since the Pens didn’t win 2 playoff rounds) in 2014 and this pick.
• The Winnipeg Jets will receive the 29th pick of this round (59th overall) as compensation for not signing 2008 first-round draft pick Daultan Leveille.
• The Chicago Blackhawks’ second-round pick will go to the Winnipeg Jets as the result of a trade on February 27, 2012 that sent Johnny Oduya to Chicago in exchange for Chicago’s third-round pick in 2013 and this pick.

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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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