As I mentioned in my historical look at the New York Rangers drafting history late in the first round (26th and 28th), there is a strong possibility that the team will look to move the 28th overall pick. The question is will the Rangers use their 1st round pick in a deal for a star forward (Rick Nash or Bobby Ryan) or do the Rangers look to trade down into the second round and secure extra picks?

In that previous story, I mentioned Tampa Bay as a prime target because they had three second round draft picks. However, with GM Steve Yzerman sending two of them to Nashville in the Anders Lindback trade, that removes the Lightning from the calculations. While the odds are slim that the Predators move any of those picks (unless they are making a blockbuster trade involving Ryan Suter or Shea Weber), there are a few trade options for the Rangers.

The following teams all own multiple second round draft picks: Buffalo (42nd and 44th), Carolina (38th and 47th), Colorado (41st and 54th), Columbus 31st and 45th), and Dallas (43rd and 61st).

By moving down, the Rangers could probably get a similar forward and still have an extra pick to look to the future by drafting a goaltender or by taking a gamble on a high-risk/high-reward forward.

For the sake of this portion of the Rangers Draft Preview, we are going to stay with the status quo and leave the Rangers with their 1st round pick. I have come up with a list of six players the Rangers have a shot at drafting with the 28th spot. While some of them are sure to be gone by then, there is a chance that they will be available for the Blueshirts.

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

NICOLAS KERDILES – LW/C
CS: # 29NA —– McK: # 43
THN: # 32 (Power Forward) —– ISS: # 15 (James Neal)

The 6-foot-2 and 200 Kerdiles spent last season with the USNTDP’s Under-18 team and scored 20 goals (7 PPG) and 22 assists in 50 games. The Rangers know his development is in the good hands of Mike Eaves at the University of Wisconsin. He has to work on producing a consistent effort from game-to-game and within games. However, Kerdiles showed flashes of what is to come as he led the USA to gold in the World U-18 tournament.

ISS: “One of the purest goal scorers in the draft…. A quick skater with great puck focus, Kerdiles is a dangerous shooter with pinpoint accuracy…. He can seem to disappear for portions of the game, but consistently jumps back onto the radar with a bang. He has good reactions around the puck and is a threat off the rush, during zone play or in scrambles.”

McK: “Kerdiles already has won two World U-18 Championship gold medals, as he played up last season with the program before winning this year as the first line centre. Kerdiles is a slick skater with explosive foot speed and a paralyzing change of pace. He can sustain strong body and puck control when stickhandling…. His overall character and mental resolve are areas in which he will need improvement, but he does bring an attractive skill-set to the table.”

THN: “He and Stefan Matteau were the best forwards this year,” a scout told THN. “I like the way he attacks, the way he goes to the net and engages.” THN also wrote. “His size and speed intimidate defenders, as do his strength on the puck when he goes into corners or bullies his way to the front of the net for gritty goals.”

STEFAN MATTEAU – LW
CS: # 17 NA —– McK: # 26
THN: # 30 (Power Forward) —– ISS: # 31 (Brooks Laich)

Yes, the 6-foot-1 and 210 pound LW is the son of Mr. Double Overtime himself, Stephan Matteau. Stefan played with the USNTDP’s Under-17 squad and scored 15 goals and 17 assists in 46 games. Matteau was all set to represent the USA in the World U-18, but an IIHF ruling that requires players to play the last three years in the country they want to represent – Matteau had only played two years in the USA.

Originally set to play at the University of North Dakota, Matteau shifted gears and will now play in the QMJHL with Blainville-Boisbriand – the team where his father is an assistant coach. Most scouting reports say that his rambunctious style of play is better-suited for Junior hockey, but will playing under his father be a detriment to his development? Only time will tell.

ISS: “Matteau’s energetic and determined style makes him easy to notice. He is capable of putting up good offensive numbers as well…. He is strong on the wall and works hard to protect the puck and get it out of the zone…. He has emerging power forward potential and does a lot of little things right every shift.”

McK: “His strength in the offensive zone, aside from his size and toughness, is his quick snapshot. He wastes little time unleashing his snapshot when he’s in the slot. He also gets his share of garbage goals by driving hard to the net and has the strength to carry a player on his back en route to it.”

THN: One scout said, “He has all the tools to be a quote-un-quote power forward. There are enough tools in his game that when he gets that consistency, he can be very, very effective.” A second scout told THN, “He took a lot of dumb selfish penalties. He’s definitely more a junior-style player than college player. He’d be in the box all game long in college.”

TANNER PEARSON – LW
CS: # 25NA —– McK: # 39
THN: # 36 (Offensive Forward) —– ISS: # 88 (Not Available)

The 6-foot-0 and 200 pound Pearson was passed over in the last two NHL Drafts. After a 42 point rookie season in the OHL, Pearson responded with 37 goals and 53 assists in 60 games with Barrie – taking full advantage of being on the same line with Winnipeg 1st round draft pick Mark Scheifele. Pearson represented Canada in the World Junior Championship scoring one goal and five assists in six games. Pearson finished 3rd in the OHL in scoring and might have won the title if not for his time at the WJC. A broken fibula suffered in the final game of the regular season cost him a chance at any playoff action.

If the Rangers like Pearson enough to draft him the 1st round, it might behoove them to trade down a few picks and secure an extra draft pick or two.

ISS: “Dominant offensive game, slick hands, shot and ability to find open ice are at the pro level. He must work on his foot speed to make the NHL jump, doesn’t possess that elite get up and go with his heavy feet. A late bloomer and an interesting player to project.”

McK: “Pearson is a highly cerebral player from the blue line down. He sees the ice incredibly well and anticipates the play around him. His passing skills are very good, but his shot is his best weapon…. Pearson’s hand-eye coordination is outstanding, as is his innate ability to tip and redirect pucks in front. He is only an average skater.”

THN: A scout said. “He pretty much made you take notice of him. He adapted his game and showed a good defensive side to his game at the world juniors. Now it’s a question of whether you think he has no more room to improve or he’s a late developer.”

HENRIK SAMUELSSON – C/RW
CS: # 75NA —– McK: # 32
THN: # 50 (Third Line Center) —– ISS: # 27 (Mats Sundin)

If you are in the mood to draft the son of a former Ranger, and Stefan Matteau is not your cup of tea, then perhaps the son of Ulf Samuelsson is more your taste. Henrik racked up frequent flyer mileage during the last couple of seasons. Samuelsson played for USNTDP’ Under-17 team that competed in the USHL in 2010-2011. Last season he played for Modo’s junior and senior teams before settling in with Edmonton Oil Kings at the end of the year. In 28 games in the WHL, the 6-foot-2 and 200 pound forward scored seven goals and 18 assists in 28 games.

Henrik’s brother, Philip (a defenseman), was drafted in the 2nd round in 2009 by Pittsburgh.

ISS: “While not a high end offensive talent. He has very good hands, a great shot, and drives to the net well. He is just learning to use his size to his advantage now and can be most dangerous when crashing the net. He loves to plat physical and can really have opponents looking over their shoulders worried about what he might do on the forecheck.”

McK: “He’s extremely effective when he’s positioned below the dots due to a set of soft hands and touch with the puck, especially when making plays to the backhand…. A Hard competitor with a nasty edge, Samuelsson, like his father, plays with a nasty streak which borderlines on dirty play and results in many undisciplined penalties. Samuelsson is not a quick skater … but musters good speed levels once in motion.”

THN: One scout said. “His hockey IQ is awesome, but he really labors around the ice. He’s smart and he’s putting up decent numbers, but I expected a little bit more. He’s really an intelligent player, but if his name were different, you’d have a little more trouble finding him.

DALTON THROWER – D
CS: # 26NA —– McK: # 38
THN: # 29 (Two-Way Defenseman) —– ISS: # 28 (Kevin Bieksa)

Thrower’s 5-foot-11 and 190 pound frame does not tell the whole story on his style of play. Thrower is a tough player who loves to dish out big hits and is more than willing to fight if necessary. This was seen in the CHL/NHL Top Prospects game when he fought Thomas Wilson (see below) to a draw after the forward roughed up his Junior teammate Lukas Sutter.

The youngster is more than just a rough and tumble player – he has an offensive upside as well. In 66 games with Saskatoon, Thrower scored 18 goals and 36 assists to go along with 103 PIM (including nine fighting majors). Thrower figures to be in the midst of the Memorial Cup hunt because Saskatoon is hosting in 2013. Given the Rangers depth among left-handed shooting defenseman, Thrower is a perfect addition as a right-handed shot,

ISS: “Thrower is a true competitor who loves the thrill of the fight. He adapts well to a variety of roles and has a motor that just doesn’t seem to run out of juice. Saskatoon at one point had so many injuries that Thrower was literally playing over half the game and still matching up against top lines from opponents.”

McK: “Physical to the point of recklessness when jumping into hits, Thrower looks to hurt when making contact. That same attitude comes into play offensively where he’s a gifted puck-handler who charges up the ice with abandon. He’s aided by a smooth set of hands that contributes in both his scoring ability and playmaking from the back end.”

THN: One scout said, “He’s one of those players who can do it all. Finishes his checks, runs the power play and he’s not afraid to defend himself. His decision-making is getting better. He’s also getting back quickly when he jumps into the rush.”

THOMAS WILSON – RW
CS: # 15NA —– McK: # 19
THN: # 25 (Power Forward) —– ISS: # 17 (Ryan Clowe)

Wilson’s development has been slowed by a series of injuries suffered during the past couple of years. In 2010/2011, he was limited to 28 games with Plymouth because a severed tendon in his wrist. Last year, he played in just 49 games (nine goals, 18 assists, 141 PIM) because a sprained MCL and a broken knuckle he suffered in the fight with Dalton Thrower.

The Rangers will be familiar with the 6-foot-4 and 205 pound Wilson because he often played on a line with 2011 1st round picks J.T. Miller. Some might draw comparisons to Hugh Jessiman, but Wilson has played at a higher level and would be taken with the 28th pick, not the 12th pick.

ISS: “One word to cap off his game is feistiness. You can see so many aspects of his game when watching the likes of Milan Lucic and Todd Bertuzzi. Prototypical power forward: tenacious, tough, nasty when needed. A player who plays heavy on the puck. Hits to hurt and plays a rugged style of play.”

McK: “Wilson is an intriguing prospect because he plays like a true power-forward and he hits to hurt. His hits can easily change the complexion of the game. He is an intimidating presence when he steps onto the ice and doesn’t hesitate to fight…. His potential, coupled with his unique brand of physical play may see him jump a few spots earlier than expected. He simply offers a dynamic that not many prospects offer.

THN: One scout said, “He’s an interesting player. All of the attributes of an NHL power forward. He skates well, is strong below the goal line and his hands and ability to make plays are underrated.”

In making my final decision on which way the Rangers should go with their 1st round pick, I have to factor in that the only two players who were still around in my 1st Round Mock Draft were Tanner Pearson and Dalton Thrower. Based on that, my decision would be to draft Thrower with the 28th overall pick.

If all things were equal, and all six of the players were available, then I would list Kerdiles first on my wish list because of his combination of speed, size and scoring ability. The fact that he will be under the tutelage of Mike Eaves at Wisconsin is an added bonus – possibly allowing him to make the early jump to the NHL like Derek Stepan.

Thrower’s combination of physical play and offensive upside make him the second choice of the six players. While the Rangers are deep on defense, Thrower brings a lot to the table and could allow the Rangers to shop around other prospects and turn their depth on defense into a young scoring forward.

The remaining forwards are pretty much a close bunch. It comes down to what type of player you prefer. Wilson probably represents the highest-risk/highest-rewards of the remaining four forwards because of his injuries and slowed development.

Matteau and Samuelsson are both solid players, but I have to wonder if I would be as high on them as I am if they did not have famous fathers who have a link to the Rangers.

Pearson is an intriguing player, but the question is has he reached the upper stage of his development or can he continue to develop and build on his reputation.

Gun to my head, I would rank the remaining four forwards thusly: Wilson, Matteau, Samuelsson, and Pearson.

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Unless the New York Rangers trade their 1st round pick to move down into the second round, the Blueshirts are set to make the 59th overall selection with their second round pick. The team slides down one slot because the San Jose Sharks received a compensatory pick (#55) because they did not sign 2007 1st round draft pick Patrick White.

In my 1st round preview, I mentioned the possibility the Rangers would look to trade down to stockpile extra picks and possibly use one on a goaltender. While the Rangers could still take a goalie with the 59th pick, I just don’t think the value will be there – unless an Oscar Dansk falls that far.

Since I do not see that happening, here is a list of six players who have a chance to be available at #59 for the Rangers.

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

BRIAN HART – LW
CS: # 54NA —– McK: # 54
THN: # 56 (Power Forward) —– ISS: # 64 (Not Available)

TSN’s Craig Button compares the 6-foot-2 and 216 pound Hart to former NHLer Bill Guerin based on his size, physical play and temperament. He scored 29 goals and 27 assists in 27 games for Exeter Academy in New Hampshire. Hart is set to attend Harvard to play hockey and pass up on scholarship offers to play soccer.

ISS: “Hart … has all the tools to develop into a good player at the next level. He has legitimate size, a very good touch and hands for a bigger man and he has better than average feet…. Has the potential to really fill out as he matures. One of the most underrated players in the draft. A diamond in the rough for the team that selects him.”

McK: “Power is the name of his game, as he is more of a north-south guy with limited finesse skills, yet is able to bulldoze through the opposition. Once he is in motion, he’s difficult to stop and he understands and uses this to his advantage to actively drive the net. He relies solely on his shot, as it is hard and heavy and can handcuff goalies.”

THN: One scout said, “He’s got size, his skating is pretty good and when he gets a head of steam he’s tough to stop. Heavy shoot, too.” Another scout expressed concern for Hart jumping from high school straight to college. That scout stated, “I like when these high school kids play a year of junior (e.g. USHL) first before college. It’s tough because these guys don’t have the dieticians or other off-ice advantages of a major junior player.”

JARROD MAIDENS – C/LW
CS: # 35NA —– McK: # 47
THN: # 38 (Power Forward) —– ISS: # 58 (Mike Richards)

TSN’s Craig Button believes Maidens would have been a 1st round pick if not for the injury that limited him to just 28 games (12-11-28) with Owen Sound. While injuries do heal, concerns over concussion linger on and that is why Maidens is not mentioned in 1st round discussions. As a rookie in 2010/2011, Maidens scored the overtime goal in Game 7 that clinched Owen Sound’s first OHL championship. The 6-foot and 180 pound Maidens won a Gold medal in the Ivan Hlinka Under-17 Tournament during that same season.

ISS: “The kind of player every coach wants on his team. Extremely driven, effective in all zones while being most dangerous from the hashmarks in. Center with a powerful stride, excellent speed once he’s moving, and a strong heavy shot…. Competes from start to finish. Communicates to his teammates and is a natural leader.”

McK: “He’s a highly athletic player who’s an excellent skater, enabled by his up-right posture and stride which allow for powerful thrusts that help enter each zone effectively. He is always in and around the puck dues to his skating and size. His offensive zone hockey sense comes into question at times due to his decision-making with the puck….”

THN: One scout said, “He has definite upside, but I don’t think he’ll be a high-end guy. Looks like a third-liner. Good skater, but needs to increase his offense.” Another scout was more positive in his praise. “He’s big body with skill,” the scout offered. “Good puck skills, hands and creativity. For a 16-year-old to come through [in Game 7], even the fact he was on the ice at the time is a credit to Maidens and showed that coach Mark Reeds trusted him.”

CRISTOVAL “BOO” NIEVES – C
CS: # 27NA —– McK: # 48
THN: # 55 (Offensive Forward) —– ISS: # 63 (Not Available)

The 6-foot-3 and 184 pounds Nieves is a pass-first, shoot-second center. In 28 games with Kent (CT) prep school, he scored seven goals and 32 assists. Following Kent’s season, Nieves joined Indians of the USHL and played 13 games (2-8-10). Boo has committed to attend the University of Michigan where he will be coached by the legendary Red Berenson. Button calls him “a tremendous player with excellent upside, and that is a big variable, but one that can pay off.”

ISS: “Nieves rocked off the charts after showing off his stuff with USA at the Ivan Hlinka. A very raw prospect that has much upside. Nieves is a smooth skater with explosive quickness. He has good size but is very thin and has a ton of room to build on his frame.”

McK: “Nieves’s game is predicated on speed because of his first-step quickness, effortless stride and ability to change directions, which are among the best in the draft…. Nieves struggled this season offensively, raising concerns about his game and in particular, his finish…. Nieves is more of a playmaker-passer since he sees the ice well and gains considerable real estate with his speed.”

THN: A scout said, “He’s got tremendous tools. When you go to see him, he jumps out at you. He gets up to speed really fast ad he’s a quick strider. Creates turnovers and reads the play.”

DAMON SEVERSON – D
CS: # 48NA —– McK: # 53
THN: # 65 (Not Listed) —– ISS: # 50 (Tim Gleason)

The 6-foot-2 and 200 pound Severson is a solid two-way defender who played in 56 games for Kelowna and scored seven goals and 37 assists – doubling his point total from 2010/2011. While he doesn’t have the same top-end ability as fellow Kelowna blueliners Tyler Myers and Luke Schenn, Severson is a top six d-man who can see time in all situations. Severson is a right defenseman.

ISS: “Never the flashiest player on the ice, Severson is reliable and composed in all three zones and can jump out at times on either side of the puck with a big play. He has a huge shot that can find the net well and he seems to understand when to use it and when to fake it to create passing lanes…. Severson doesn’t shy away from any situation the game throws at him and is not afraid to drop the gloves if the situation calls s for it.

McK: “He plays more of a two-way game, as his puck skills are better than average. He can just as easily carry the puck into the zone or make a decent first pass. Used on the power play due to his shot, it’s hard and finds a way to get through in traffic…. His defensive game needs work…. He is a player that has raw ability, but will need to groomed slowly.”

THN: THN’s brief blurb on Severson says, “Scouts love his frame, mobility and surly attitude on the ice.”

LUKAS SUTTER – C
CS: # 39NA —– McK: # 50
THN: # 63 (Not Listed) —– ISS: # 68 (Not Available)

The 6-foot and 207 Sutter is the son of former NHLer Rich Sutter so is it should come as no surprise that Button says, “Lukas finds some way, somehow, to inject himself into the game. He can do it defensively, offensively or by ‘getting under the skin’ of opponents and disrupting them. Sutter showed a big improvement from his first season in Saskatoon in 2010/2011 (71-4-15-19-175) and last season (70-28-31-59-169).

ISS: “An ultra intense and hard working player with tremendous character, Sutter is an ultimate competitor who will step up his game on either side of the puck to win. Offensively he is best suited when driving lanes and crashing the crease. Defensively he can shut down, antagonize and rough up opponents extremely well.”

McK: “His breakout season can be attributed to several factors, including graduations and the significant improvements he made in several aspects of his game from skating, to strength and conditioning, to his shot and his faceoff skills, Sutter is the ultimate pest, who is renowned for his sandpaper style of play…. Playing his style of game often means you have to fight and Sutter engaged in nine fighting majors, showing he wasn’t afraid of backing down from challenges…. His style of play would be a welcome addition to NHL teams, but he doesn’t project to become a top-six forward, yet he fits the mould of a hard-nosed, physical bottom-six player.

THN: THN’s brief blurb on Sutter says, “Rich’s kid brings a lot of fight and plays against top lines.”

DANIL ZHARKOV – LW
CS: # 32NA —– McK: # 52
THN: # 49 (Skilled Forward) —– ISS: # 33 (Tomas Vanek)

While last season was Zharkov’s first in the OHL, he played 38 games with Tri-City in the USHL in 2010/2011. Last year in Belleville, a broken collarbone caused him to miss the start of the season. He finished with 23 goals and 13 assists in 50 games – flashing some of his offensive prowess. The 6-foot-3 and 200 pound Zharkov does have issues with finding the ability to play well on a consistent basis.

ISS: “Zharkov is a forward that has all the tools to develop into a very good player at the next level. He has legitimate size, a very good touch and hands for a bigger man and has better than average feet. He has improved each year and has not taken the easy route.” ISS sees him as a “power forward with a heavy shot, offensive mind who can go on scoring droughts.”

McK: “It is quite conceivable that Zharkov played out of position this season, as he looked uncomfortable on the left side and he would constantly sway to the right to make plays. Blessed with good size and a quick shot, Zharkov was effective on the half boards on the power-play, demonstrating his good passing skills and a long reach to settle down pucks as he displays a better game with time and space.”

THN: One scout said, “He’s a big guy who’s really skilled, but he was very in and out for me. For a big guy, I would like to see him use his size a little bit more. I’d like to see him create a little more room for himself.”

In making the decision for the Rangers 2nd round pick, I am faced with the same problem as in the 1st round – a limited choice when it comes to the Blueshirts’ pick. Of my six candidates, only two were still available in my 2nd Round Mock Draft: Brian Hart and Jarrod Maidens. Of the two, Hart would be choice with the 59th pick because of his offensive potential and I am a bit concerned at Maidens’ concussion history.

Again, if all things were equal and all six players were available, I would roll the dice and select Danil Zharkov with the 2nd round pick. While there are consistency and hockey sense questions, Zharkov’s size and offensive upside and ability seem to be worth the gamble.

Hart and Sutter would be in a close battle for second and third choices. While it would be nice to for the Rangers to get involved in the Sutter Family business, I might make Hart a slight favorite over Sutter because of his offense.

Severson is an interesting option because he plays the right side, but given that Dalton Thrower would probably be my first round pick, I would be reluctant to go with back-to-back defensive picks. As a result, Severson would be my sixth choice.

As for four and five, it is a tough call because Nieves and Maidens each have their pluses and minuses. In the end, I would place Maidens ahead of Nieves based on his leadership abilities and based on the fact that his Junior coach gave him ice time in a seventh and deciding game as a 16-year-old rookie – and that says a lot of his character, ability and hockey sense.

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The New York Rangers 3rd round pick will be the 89th overall selection. Here is a look at six players that I would target. Unlike the first two rounds, there is no 3rd Round Mock Draft so the presumption is that all six players could be available at #89.

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

NIKITA GUSEV – LW
CS: # 20E —– McK: Honourable Mention.
THN: 62 (Not Available) —– ISS: 49 (Sergei Samsonov)

The 5-foot-9 and 165 pound Gusev enters his third NHL Draft and is ripe to prove 29 NHL teams were wrong for passing over him the previous two drafts. His size and lack of physical play has hurt him, but his offensive numbers are just too good to pass up. In just 34 games with CSKA in Russia’s Junior League, Gusev scored 30 goals and 47 assists – good enough for second in the league. As dazzling as those numbers were, Gusev saved his best production for the playoffs as he scored 33 points – 18 more than the runner-up. Concerns over signability might cause Gusev to slip into the third round – and possibly beyond.

ISS: “Gusev may be small but he is very sturdy on his skates…. He has tremendous speed and quickness which can make him elusive enough, but his ability to control the puck with much bigger opponents all over him is a sight to see. Gusev has super skills, he sees the ice very well and has excellent offensive understanding with and without the puck.”

McK: “Gusev combines tremendous lateral agility with world-class patience and is a dual threat to score thanks to both a natural playmaking touch and a slick accurate release that can find all corners of the net. The 5’9” winger also owns a high-powered one-timer capable of reaching velocities seemingly not possible for such a small player.”

THN: THN’s brief blurb on Gusev says, “Dynamic but diminutive scorer has been placed over twice before.”

ESA LINDELL – D
CS: # 12E —– McK: # 65
THN: # 78 (Not Available) —– ISS: # 128 (Not Available)

Lindell played for Jokerit’s Junior team in Finland last year and posted some big offensive numbers in 48 games: 21 goals and 30 assists – numbers good enough for the 6-foot-3 and 195 pound defenseman to finish in the Top 10 in scoring.

ISS: “Lindell’s appeal comes mostly from his offensive production ability. He’s not a great skater by any means but always seems to make something happen with the puck. He has a great shot, reacts quickly to pressure and loves to jump in from the weak side to the net front area…. With proper development he could be a diamond in the rough.”

McK: “Lindell is the sum of his parts since he does nothing exceptional, but does many little things well. He thrives with the man advantage. As the extra time and space allow him to make better calculated decisions…. Lindell has limited lower-body strength and a hunched-over skating style that impedes his overall speed…. He has good sense of recognizing pressure and reacts accordingly

THN: THN’s brief blurb on Lindell says, “Bib Blueliner has a knack for putting the puck in the net.”

SAM KURKER – RW
CS: # 36NA —– McK: # 69
THN: # Not Rated —– ISS: # 90 (Not Available)

The 6-foot-2 and 208 pound Kurker led St. John’s Prep to the Super 8 semifinals. In 22 games, he scored 32 goals and 28 assists. Kurker has committed to Boston University – despite some NHL teams who wanted him to pass on college hockey to play Junior hockey. McKeen’s believes he will spend a year in the USHL before joining the Terriers in 2013-2014.

ISS: “Kurker is a player who has been consistently getting better. Good sized developing power forward with nice size and some jam [Coach John Tortorella will love that] to his game. As he gets stronger he will be able to execute better off his already very good instincts…. He can still improve his skating, especially his acceleration and overall power, but has potential to provide very good depth and adapt to any rile for a club.”

McK: “Built like a power-forward. He marries his size with a good set of hands and is not afraid to engage. Equally adept at scoring dirty goals as he is skilled ones. Kurker boasts a strong shot from the dots, but will also drive the net and bury in garbage goals. Mot an overly strong skater, he will need to address his explosiveness as he lacks a separation gear; however, due to his expansive frame he does a good job of using his size to protect the puck to make plays.”

MATIA MARCANTUONI – C
CS: # 59NA —– McK: # 92
THN: # 71 (Not Available) —– ISS: # 74 (Not Available)

A Concussion and season-ending shoulder injury caused Marcantuoni to play just 24 games with Kitchener (nine goals and five assists) last season. An ankle injury in 2010-2011limited him to just 42 games (11 goals and 16 assists). The 6-foot and 174 pounder served as captain of Team Ontario that won Gold at the 2011 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge. Matia was a member of the Under-18 team that won the 2011 Ivan Hlinka Tournament, but only played one shift before fellow 2012 prospect Calle Andersson knocked him out with a hit.

ISS: “His shiftiness, foot speed, power and acceleration combined are all excellent. His battle along the wall and overall work ethic was inconsistent on a game by game basis. Awareness issues defensively also had him struggling in being a reliable component to the Rangers offense.”

McK: “His game is based on speed. As he is a dimensional skater in terms of acceleration, speed, change of direction and balance. Marcantuoni can handle the puck at top speeds; however, his hockey sense comes into question as he makes suspect decisions in the offensive zone…. Not one to bail on a hit, he plays a gutsy game and competes; however, his durability has become an issue.”

THN: THN’s brief blurb on Marcantuoni says, “Speedster and pre-season first rounder hobbled by injuries.”

ANTHONY STOLARZ – G
CS: # 4NA-G —– McK: # 100
THN: # Not Rated —– ISS: # 10-G (Not Available)

The 6-foot-5 and 200 pound Stolarz has taken a rather long and winding road along his hockey travels. The Jersey native began by playing in his home state in 2010-2011 in the EJHL. Last year he hooked up with Corpus Christi of the NAHL posting a 2.69 goals against average and a .923 save percentage. Stolarz will continue his development as a member of the University of Nebraska-Omaha.

CS: NHL goaltending scout Al Jensen offered this opinion on Stolarz while speaking to Neate Sager of Yahoo, “The kid’s huge, the kid’s huge. And he’s got that drive and determination. He’s aggressive, great athleticism and quickness. He’s got the tools that could someday get him there. He’s already got some of that stuff. Maybe four or five or six years down the road, the kid might be something.”

McK: “Stolarz is a prototypically-sized goaltender with remarkable athleticism and quickness. He was very consistent this year and is a mentally tough player with good awareness and focus. He moves very well in the net and very rarely this season did he surrender soft goals. He’s also strong in traffic as he collapses quickly for a player of his size. He’s light on his feet and a skilled puckhandler outside of his crease.”

ANTON ZLOBIN – RW
CS: # 137 NA —– McK: # Sleeper
THN: # Not Rated —– ISS: # 100 (Not Available)

The 5-foot-11 and 195 pound Zlobin had the last laugh this year after being passed over in the 2011 NHL Draft (59-23-22-45). Zlobin scored the game-winning overtime goal that propelled Shawinigan to the Memorial Cup championship. Zlobin stepped up his offensive production with 40 goals and 36 assists in 66 games during the regular season and added three goals and seven assists in 11 playoff games. Zlobin was just one of six QMJHL players to score 40+ goals.

ISS: “He has a quick stick, displaying a ton of composure and patience when he has possession of the puck. A highly skilled offensive minded forward that possesses a real scorer’s touch. He is at his best and most effective when he has the puck.”

McK: “Blessed with quick hands, he excels at handling the puck at varying rates of speed and is able to release a hard, accurate wrist shot with little warning. Considered more of a shooter, his passing skills are developed, especially on the power play where he is allotted more time and space…. The biggest aspect of his games that has to improve is his willingness to handle the physical game, as he can shy away from one-on-one battles. A lack of consistency cripples his draft stock, but his offensive dimension is appealing.”

As far as who would be my selection, I would not hesitate to draft Anthony Stolarz with the third round pick. He has the size and potential that teams crave when they are looking at drafting young netminders. I have no problem with what Jensen said about him being something in four to six years. The Rangers don’t need a goalie now; rather they need to start grooming someone for down the line.

Sadly, I have a feeling that Stolarz goes before the Rangers make the 89th overall selection. It would not surprise me to see him go in the second round – maybe even to the Rangers – so on the remaining five prospects.

I am torn between Nikita Gusev and Sam Kurker as my second choice. Gusev appears to have that elite offensive ability that NHL teams crave. However, the Rangers depth chart is filled with smaller forwards like Shane McColgan, Michael St. Croix and Christian Thomas. Kurker might not have Gusev’s offensive abilities, but he has the size (and talent) that NHL teams crave.

In the end, it is Kurker’s “jam” that puts him ahead of Gusev as Torts is a jam kind of guy – as opposed to marmalade I guess .

In filling out spots three through five, I am intrigued at what Esa Lindell can bring to the table. I know his offensive numbers are from Finland’s Junior league, but they are impressive nonetheless – and his size doesn’t hurt either – so he is my third choice.

Picking between Matia Marcantuoni and Anton Zlobin is a tough choice for me. All things being equal, Marcantuoni would get the nod. However, there is a question as to whether he has had a bad run of luck in regards to injuries or is he really that injury prone. In the end, Zlobin gets the call ahead of Marcantuoni because of Matia’s injuries and because of Zlobin’s potential on the power play.

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The New York Rangers 4th round pick will be the 119th overall selection. Here is a look at six players that I would target. Unlike the first two rounds, there is no 4th Round Mock Draft so the presumption is that all six players could be available at #119.

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

TROY DONNAY – D
CS: # 122NA —– McK: # 102
THN: # Not Rated —– ISS: # 92 (Not Available)

The 6-foot-7 and 185 pound Donnay definitely needs to hit the weight room and bulk up before he ever contemplates an NHL career. He might be one of the few players who was thrilled to be traded to a last place team. McKeen’s points out that he barely saw any ice time while with London, but received major amounts of ice time (PP time included) once he was traded to Erie. In 50 OHL games, Donnay scored one goal and added seven assists.

ISS: “What [is] most intriguing with Troy is his size and potential if he can improve his feet and skating ability… [he] has the potential for to grow a lot and develop into a force if he can add to his big frame. He displays toughness down low and surprisingly some good instincts on the offensive blueline. Mobility and skating ability could be a factor but the potential he has with his frame, work ethic and power is intriguing for a long term development.”

McK: “Donnay is a rangy skater who can move surprisingly well for a player of his size. He can shift, pivot and change direction effortlessly and has a long stride that swallows up ice. Donnay is a fixture on the first unit power-play due to his shot and lack of options on the Otters back line…. He’s very raw at this point and is more of a project pick who skates well and has a healthy mean streak.”

DILLON FOURNIER – D
CS: # 136NA —– McK: # 114
THN: # 82 (Not Available) —– ISS: # 132 (Not Available)

At 6-foot-2 and 180 pounds, Fournier might not match Donnay as an imposing figure, but he also needs to fill out some before he takes the next step in his hockey career. Fournier was selected by Rouyn-Noranda as part of the dispersal draft when the QMJHL disbanded the Lewiston franchise. In 52 games last season, Fournier scored nine goals and 29 assists as he nearly tripled his offensive output (14 points) in his rookie season.

ISS: “Fournier is an offensive minded high risk/high reward styled defender who likes to get involved and is very active in the offensive side of the game. He possesses good size with the potential to really fill out and get stronger as he develops…. Still working on game to game consistency and is an unpolished long-term project on defense.”

McK: “A quick skater with good explosiveness, Fournier has a controlled stride that can make sharp turns. He doesn’t break stride when handling the puck and marries his puck skills with above-average hockey sense. Although he started the season being a little passive, he elevated his play as the year progressed and started playing a more aggressive game. Challenging opponents offensively and even physically…. Fournier is raw at this point, but with physical maturity he’s an attractive prospect due to the way he processes the game.

THN: THN’s blurb on Fournier says, “First overall pick in ‘Q’ draft skates well, leans towards defense.”

QUENTIN SHORE – C
CS: # 80 NA —– McK: # 104
THN: # Not Rated —– ISS: # 114 (Not Available)

The 6-foot and 180 pound Shore is the brother of Drew (signed with Florida in March) and Nick (LA Kings 2011 third round pick). All three brothers came through the USNTDP and Quentin is set to join Nick at the University of Denver – their hometown school. In 56 games with the Under-18 team, Quentin scored 16 goals and 8 assists.

ISS: “He has a very well rounded skill set that allows him to fit any mold required of him. His faceoff skills and defensive presence were integral in the USA’s run for the Gold during the U18 tournament. More goal scorer than playmaker, decent hands and quick release. A very effective shot-blocker on the PK unit that is adept at getting in the shooting lanes and limiting rebounds. Still working on game to game consistency and in an unpolished long-term project.”

McK: “His hockey sense and shot are arguably his best assets, as his one-timer explodes off his stick and his keen hockey sense allows him to stay in close proximity of the puck. He has the innate ability to turn his body off the puck to make a defenseman go the other way and then executes subtle one-touch passes that help in the transition. Shore needs to work on his skating since he offers little to no explosive power in his stride. He’s a versatile player who meshes well with any set of Linemates due to his work ethic and ability to process the game.”

ZACH STEPAN – C
CS: # 53NA —– McK: # 86
THN: # 86 (Not Available) —– ISS: # 82 (Not Available)

The 6-foot and 170 pound Stepan in the cousin of Rangers center Derek Stepan. Zack played 42 games with Shattuck-St. Mary’s and scored 18 goals and 38 assists – a slip from his 2010/2011 numbers of 25 goals and 39 assists in 54 games. Stepan is not as talented offensively as his famous cousin, but projects out as a two-way forward. Zach is committed to attend Ohio State University.

ISS: “A very good two-way forward with great speed and understanding, Stepan is very strong on the puck, applies great pressure on the forecheck and has very good instincts as well. He is a playmaker with a good shot that he can get off deceptively quick. He plays much bigger than his size and can throw some impactful hits as well.

McK: “Although he struggled to put the puck in the net, Stepan demonstrated his willingness to be a two-way player that can be relied upon heavily in the defensive zone. He uses his agility and persistent movement in his stride…. He has a strong showing in the Under-18 US Nationals, finishing third in scoring and scored the GWG in the finals to clinch the Championship.”

THN: THN’s brief blurb on Stepan says, “Character player wins faceoffs, plays the body.”

FRANKIE VATRANO – LW
CS: # 88NA —– McK: # Not Rated
THN: # 97 (Not Available) —– ISS: # 101 (Not Available)

The 5-foot-10 and 215 pound Vatrano probably stirs images of a fireplug on ice – as long as it is a fireplug with NHL talent that is in shape. “He has an NHL-level shot,” Danton Cole, his coach with the NTDP for the past two years told Bill Keefe of the New England Hockey Journal. “He can really hum a puck.”

“He works his tail off in the weight room and on the ice. He is one of our strongest players. He is very efficient in his skating. He tracks the puck offensively and defensively as well as anyone here. If there’s a race for the puck, he usually wins it.”

According to CS, Vatrano played 53 games and scored 14 goals and 17 assists with the USA’s Under-18 team. Vatrano is committed to attend Boston College.

ISS: “Vatrano is a skilled, offensive minded winger that possesses the size of a power forward but seems to bring a little more offensive creativity to the table…. He displays real speed and is very strong on his skates. He is extremely tough to knock off stride. Was solid throughout Under-18 World Championship helping USA to Gold. He works his tail off in the weight room and on the ice. He is one of the strongest players in his age group. Already has a pro shot. He shows above average awareness in all three zones of the ice and has some very intriguing potential moving forward.”

THN: THN”s brief blurb on Vatrano says, “Rumbling Boston College commit plays in a straight line.”

JIMMY VESEY – LW
CS: # 77NA —– McK: # Not Rated
THN: # Not Rated —– ISS: # 112 (Not Available)

The 6-foot and 180 pound Vesey is another one of those players who was passed over during the 2011 NHL Draft – and given the year he has last year – bad move by the NHL. After finishing prep school, Vesey moved on to South Shore of the EJHL (same team Minnesota prospect Charlie Coyle played for) and lit up the league to the tune of 48 goals and 43 assists in 45 games. Vesey dad, Jim, played 15 NHL games with St. Louis and Boston.

“My goal scoring is my biggest asset and my offensive awareness around the net,” Vesey told Ryan Kennedy of THN. “The biggest thing is my first few strides from a standstill. It’s something I’m going to improve.”

Vesey will join Brian Hart, my second round selection, at Harvard University. Both players were invited to the U.S. National Junior Team Evaluation Camp.

ISS: “Blessed with tremendous hockey IQ, Vesey will continue to develop playing NCAA hockey at Harvard next season. Well-liked by his teammates and possesses a winning attitude. He doesn’t take crap from anybody. He takes a check to make a play. A Good sized forward with soft hands and decent skating abilities. Has good vision and a nose for the net. Jimmy uses his solid frame and good upper body strength effectively. A long term prospect that should develop well.”

It is an interesting, and varied, group of players under consideration for the fourth round pick. For me, the race comes down to Frankie Vatrano and Jimmy Vesey. I like the potential that both players bring to the table and I think the Rangers would win out either way. However, I like the way Vesey stepped up last season in the EJHL – a league that is beginning to draw more and more attention from scouts and NHL teams. The first choice goes to Vesey with Vatrano being a close second.

Players three through five are a close call for me. The sixth choice is an easy one because while Troy Donnay size and ability are intriguing, but he might be too much of a long-term reach to draft in the fourth round. If the Rangers were able to get make a trade for a later draft pick and he were available in the fifth to seventh rounds, I would not hesitate to draft him.

Of the remaining three players, I think I would have to see how the first three rounds shaped up. If the Rangers did not take a defenseman with their first three picks, then Dillon Fournier would be a nice addition at #119. If the Blueshirts did take a defenseman, then I would look to either Quentin Shore or Zach Stepan as the third choice.

While Shore’s style of play and penalty killing fits the Rangers, I think blood might be thicker than water in this case as Stepan would be my third choice. Actually, the fact that he is Derek’s cousin played no part in that decision. It was Zach’s speed and skating that wins him the nod.

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The New York Rangers enter the 2012 NHL Draft with the 28th pick in the first round. It is the latest the Rangers have ever drafted in the first round and represents the second time in franchise history they will be making the 28th overall selection in a draft.

The year was 1985 and the Blueshirts used their first round draft pick to select Ulf Dahlen with the 7th overall pick. In the second round, GM Craig Patrick used the 28th overall selection to draft a Philadelphia-area native from Abingdon Prep – goaltender Mike Richter.

Nine years later, the Rangers were the Stanley Cup champions – in large part thanks to the heroics of Richter. As the NHL’s champions, they drafted 26th and last in the first round. GM Neil Smith used that selection on goaltender Dan Cloutier.

While Cloutier never measured up to heights of Richter, he wasn’t a bad choice when you factor in the rest of the draft. Jose Theodore (#44) and Patrik Elias (#51) where the other big names taken in the second round with the likes of Fredrik Modin and Chris Drury drafted in the third round, Milan Hejduk in the fourth and Daniel Alfredsson in the sixth.

The Rangers have done a fine job in the last couple of years drafting prospects who have been able to make the next step to the NHL (Carl Hagelin, Chris Kreider and Derek Stepan) with the likes of Tim Erixon, Dylan McIlrath and J.T. Miller poised to make their run at the NHL.

However, the Blueshirts run to the Eastern Conference Finals shows the organization still needs to add more offense. Unfortunately, the Rangers may have some problems solving that need with the 28th pick.

The Rangers could decide that their depth is strong enough to gamble and reach for a player who might not have all-around first round talent at forward. Or, the Rangers could go with the strength of the draft and add more help on the blue line or go with a safe two-way forward.

The third draft possibility could be to follow the paths charted by Patrick and Smith and look to draft a goaltender with their first round pick. It is a Catch-22 situation because Henrik Lundqvist is in his prime and drafting a goaltender in the first round might not be the best allocation of resources.

On the other hand, the Rangers do not want run the risk that the New Jersey Devils are running with Martin Brodeur. The Devils face the prospect of a near-future with no Brodeur and no heir apparent to replace him.

The Rangers run of luck drafting goaltenders in the first round has been spotty at
best – given that Cloutier is the most successful of a trio of netminders.

In 2001, Glen Sather drafted Dan Blackburn with the 10th overall pick. Blackburn
played 63 games before a sever shoulder injury derailed his career.

In 2004, the Rangers made Al Montoya (6th overall) the first of their two first
round draft picks, with Lauri Korpikoski selected #19. Montoya never played for
the Rangers and was eventually dealt to Phoenix before finding hone with the New
York Islanders.

In the THN Draft Preview, Adam Proteau pointed out a telling statistic in reference
to goalies drafted in the first round. During the previous 49 drafts, 60 goalies were
drafted in the first round. Of that number, only 30 have played 200 or more NHL
games or are on pace to do so (Cory Schneider was listed as an example.

In an even more incredible stat, you had a better chance of finding a starting goalie
with a 7th, 8th, 9th round draft pick or even with a non-drafted goalie (10 of them
from the 7h round and beyond) as you did getting a starter with a 1st round pick
(only 8 1st round starters).

Under Sather, the Rangers haven’t had much luck drafting goalies on the 2nd
round either. In 2007, Slats used the 48th overall pick of Antoine Lafleur who
never made it beyond Junior hockey.

The Blueshirts have a mixed bag beyond Sather when it comes to drafting goalies in the 2nd round. In 1965, the Rangers used the 6th overall pick (which was actually a second round pick) on George Surmay who never played in the NHL and spent three seasons in the minors. Of course, that was still during the time when NHL teams relied on their Junior sponsored teams for prospects.

It would be 10 years before the Rangers selected a goalie in the second round when they drafted Doug Soetart with the 30th overall pick. Given that Soapy played a total of 287 NHL games, that wasn’t too bad of a pick. Soetart’s only extended playing time with the Rangers happened during the 1980-81 season when he led the team with 39 regular season games. However, Soetart would be benched in favor of Steve Baker who keyed the team’s 14-game run in the 1981 playoffs.

Interestingly enough, Baker was a 3rd round draft pick in 1977. Baker would be the first of four goalies the Rangers would draft in the third round.

In 1985, the Rangers followed their 2nd round pick of Richter by drafting Sam Lindstahl in the 3rd round. Lindstahl played a total of five years in Sweden.

In 1998, the Blueshirts drafted Jason LaBarbera who is still playing in the NHL serving as a backup for the Phoenix Coyotes.

In 1999, the Rangers returned to Sweden to select Johan Asplund in the 3rd round. Like Lindstahl, Asplund never left Europe but did play 11 seasons – including the 2009-10 season in Denmark.

Kind of makes you glad the Rangers didn’t resist returning to Sweden one more time in 200 when they scooped up Lundqvist in the 7th round. Before anyone thinks the Rangers knew what they were getting all along, remember that Lundqvist wasn’t even the first goalie they drafted in 2000.

Union College’s Brandon Snee was drafted in the 5th round by the Rangers. Unlike Lindstahl and Asplund, Snee did play minor league hockey – appearing in 47 games over two years in the UHL, ECHL and WHA2 where his coach was former Ranger Ron Duguay.

The Rangers best course of action might be to look to trade to the pick. They could use the 28th pick as an enticement in a deal for a potential goal scorer (e.g. Rick Nash) or they could trade down and secure extra picks in the second round.

The Tampa Bay Lightning own three picks in the first 20 selections in the 2nd round (Numbers 37, 40 and 50).

By moving down into the 2nd round, the Rangers could take a gamble on an offensive forward and select a goaltending prospect with draft picks acquired in a trade with the Lightning. The Rangers could also move one of those acquired 2nd round picks to fill in the holes later in the draft.

The Rangers own their first four draft picks, bur are without picks in rounds five through seven so any potential trade could also replace one of these lost picks.

The Blueshirts traded their fifth round pick to Chicago in the ill-fated John Scott deal. Their 6th round pick went to Nashville last year for the Predators 6th round pick which the Rangers used to select defenseman Peter Ceresnak. The Rangers 7th round pick went to Toronto for John Mitchell.

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You just do not go out and replace 40-goal scorers at the drop of hat – even if it is the Broadway. However, Glen Sather and John Tortorella will have to work hard to try and do just that with Marian Gaborik facing surgery in New York on June 6 to repair a torn labrum.

The first word of a Gaborik injury filtered out during the Rangers breakup day on Monday. Gaborik was very coy about answering any questions about an injury or potential surgery. The official word did not come today when Gaborik gave an interview with a Slovakian newspaper.

In the interview, Gaborik said he played the last two months of the season with the injury. While medication and pain injections lessened the pain, he did not have full strength in the shoulder.

While Gaborik mentioned being out five to six months, the New York Rangers official press release did not set a timetable for his return, nor did it specify exactly when the injury occurred.

Even if the Blueshirts go outside the organization and sign the likes of Zach Parise as an UFA or trade for the likes of a Jarome Iginla, Rick Nash or Bobby Ryan, the Rangers are still going to need ANOTHER forward to help revive New York’s inconsistent offense.

While a return to form from Brandon Dubinsky and a full season of Chris Kreider will be big steps forward, the Rangers might still have to look inward to find an offensive spark.

One of those inward possibilities will not be Mats Zuccarello – especially after he took to Twitter to thank Rangers fans for the support. All indications are that Zuccarello has a deal lined up in Russia with the KHL.

The stars could be aligning for a dark horse candidate who just signed his first NHL contract. Undrafted Marek Hrivik might be the biggest beneficiary to Gaborik’s injury.

Like Gaborik, the 6-foot-1 and 195 pound Hrivik is a native of Slovakia. He was eligible for the 2010 NHL Draft and was on the radar for various scouting services. The Hockey News ranked him as their 91st best prospect, International Scouting Services rated him as their #104 prospect, and NHL Central Scouting ranked him as the 194th North American skater.

Here is what ISS wrote about the soon to be 20-year-old LW in their 2010 Draft Guide:

“His outstanding play down the stretch coupled with the fact he kept elevating his game throughout the playoffs has secured his ranking here at ISS for the upcoming 2010 NHL draft. Hrivik has good hands and handles the puck well around the perimeter. He has good size and quick shot. He can make plays in confined areas and under pressure but sometimes handles the puck without much determination. Needs to add that willingness to compete and do anything to score to his resume. Would like to see him play more physical and get to the net.”

After spending 2008/2009 with the Slovakian Under-20 team, Hrivik came to North America and played three years in the QMJHL with Moncton – averaging 31 goals and 37 assists. Hrivik was Moncton’s first round pick in the 2009 CHL Import Draft.

During his Junior years, Hrivik represented Slovakia in the 2009 and 2011 World Junior Championships. In 2010, he helped lead Moncton to a Memorial Cup appearance.

Hrivik received two training camp invitations the last two years: Columbus in 2010 and Phoenix in 2011.

Nick Perri wrote the following description on SNY’s Rangers Blog on April 29, “Hrivik possesses an abundance of skills, including his speed, strength, quick-release, and hockey sense in all zones.”

Hrivik signed an Amateur Tryout Agreement with the Rangers AHL affiliate following the completion of Moncton’s season. Hrivik played eight regular season games for the Connecticut Whale, scoring one goal. His play improved dramatically in the playoffs as he scored five goals and 4 assists in nine playoff games.

“He is a versatile guy who came to Connecticut at the end of the year and earned a contract,” Rangers assistant general manager Jeff Gorton said in the team’s official press release. “He has a good skill level, and a really good head for the game.”

Some fans have wondered how good Hrivik really could be given that he went undrafted. Then again, Rangers undrafted All-Star Dan Girardi showed that scouting and drafting is an inexact science at best.

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There will be no repeat of the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals. The fourth time proved to be the downfall of the New York Rangers after they staved off elimination games three previous times. The Rangers descent into playoff abyss was, once again, keyed by their inability to get off to a good start, never mind a great start.

What was the Rangers problem during the first periods of the last two games? Were they not ready for the Devils onslaught or was it a case of the Devils just executing their game plan better than the Rangers?

“No, we know they’re coming. Give them some credit. T hey did it through the whole Playoffs. And they’re a pretty good hockey club. They’re a balanced team. And they were a pretty good team,” Rangers coach John Tortorella explained.

“So we talk about it. We try to get our footing. We struggled a little bit there.”

The easiest, and most simplistic, answer to the Devils big starts in the first period come down to New Jersey playing opportunistic hockey – and that is no knock against them. The Devils seemed to be able to make the Rangers pay for every mistake they made.

The beginning of the end of the Rangers season occurred midway through the first period as the Devils fourth line again proved to be a thorn in the side of the Blueshirts. New Jersey capitalized on Marc Staal’s inability to keep the puck in at the left point.

Ryan Carter eventually converted on the Devils three-on-one rush as New Jersey’s fourth struck for its ninth goal of the playoffs. The most disconcerting thing on the goal was not Staal getting caught flat-footed because he hustled back. The problem was the three Rangers forwards who did not bust it to try and cover/recover on the play.

The Rangers faced a steep uphill climb because the team that scored the first goal in the Rangers previous 13 games won the game. Carter’s goal would eventually stretch that streak to 14 games.

Less than four minutes later that uphill climb got even steeper when Ilya Kovalchuk converted on just the third Devils power play goal of the series. The goal featured undisciplined play all around – from Ruslan Fedotenko taking a tripping penalty in the offensive zone to the Rangers penalty killers who got caught with poor ice balance and defensive zone coverage as they broke their penalty killing box while chasing the puck.

Just like Game 5, the Rangers opened the second period with a renewed purpose and a sense of urgency that was missing in the first period. If there is going to be one lingering question that needs to be answered during the summer it is that – why did the Rangers have to spot the Devils a couple of goals and about 20 minutes of play before playing their game?

Part of the answer might stem from the Rangers fatigue. I know that Tortorella and the players would not buy into the Rangers being a tired team. Physically, they were probably no more tired than the devils or any other team that has to slog their way through the marathon that is the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

However, there has to be a mental fatigue that comes into play – especially the way the Rangers playoff games have been going. Because of the Rangers inconsistent offense, every game becomes three periods of overtime hockey.

I don’t care how much talent a team has, I don’t care how many battle-tested players you have, and I don’t care how physically fit a team is, playing each period as if it was sudden death is going to take a lot out of a team – and might explain the Rangers tentative starts.

Visions of 1994 started dancing in the minds of the Rangers faithful as they erased the two goal deficit in less than four minutes midway through the second period.

The Rangers first goal showed that the Blueshirts underutilized attacking plays from behind the net on Martin Brodeur as Ruslan Fedotenko converted on a pass from behind the net from Ryan McDonagh.

Ryan Callahan knotted the game as the Rangers used some old-fashioned hockey sense. The Blueshirts won a faceoff to the right of Brodeur, moved the puck quickly, and converted when Dan Girardi’s shot deflected in off Callahan’s leg.

For those keeping score, the 2012 Rangers (like the 1994 Rangers) erased a Devils 2-0 lead on goals from a Russian player (Fedotenko and Alexei Kovalev in 1994) and their captain (Callahan and Mark Messier in 1994). Sadly for the Rangers and their fans, that would be the last link to their 1994 comeback.

The most overlooked part of the Rangers comebacks in the last two games is one that is to overlook, but is a critical point that needs to be made. It was imperative that the Rangers not only tie the score, but they needed to get ahead. Teams expend so much energy trying to get back into the game they need a lead in order to combat the inevitable lull that comes after the comeback.

This idea is more prevalent in basketball where big lead swings happen with regularity, but is still valid when you look at the Rangers – especially in Game 5 when they did level out after drawing even.

The Rangers nearly did take that lead midway through the third period while on a power play that nearly became a five-on-three, but the officials ruled that they Devils did not shoot the puck directly into the crowd.

As it was, the Rangers had Game 6 on the stick of Brad Richards who was unable to elevate his rebound shot with 9:15 remaining in regulation.

The Rangers continued to press the action at the start of overtime and caused a scramble in front of Brodeur. Unfortunately, the ensuing scramble at the other end of the ice on the next rush would end the Rangers season as Adam Henrique etched his name next to that of Stephan Matteau.

In addition to scoring the goal that sends the New Jersey Devils to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 2003, it was Henrique who scored the double overtime goal in Game 7 against the Florida Panthers.

While it comes to no comfort to the Rangers or their fans, Devils coach Peter DeBoer recognized just how tough the Devils final step to the Stanley Cup was.

“First, credit to the New York Rangers. For me, from day one of the season through to the end of the Playoffs here, for them, the hardest working team I think in the NHL. And they gave us everything we could handle,” DeBoer admitted. “It was the same story every night. We’d win the first period; they’d win the second. Whoever won the third or the overtime would win the game.”

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Unless the 2012 New York Rangers channel their inner 1994 New York Rangers, the Blueshirts season will end on Friday night at the Prudential Center – on the 18th anniversary of Mark Messier’s Game 6 guarantee game.

As bad as the Rangers start was in Game 4, their Game 5 start was even worse spotting the New Jersey Devils a 3-0 lead less than 10 minutes into the first period – and less than six minutes after coach John Tortorella had to burn his timeout.

If this had been a regular season game, the Rangers could speak of a “moral victory” in reference to how they battled back from their horrendous start to eventually take control of the game. However, that is not the case come playoff time. The only victories you can claim are the ones on the scoreboard.

Much has been made by the media and fans about the Rangers being tired – despite Tortorella’s assurances that they are not. Well, they may not be physically tired but being mentally tired would explain the Rangers inability to get off to even an average start in the last couple of first periods.

With the Rangers playing so many tight games during the playoffs, and having to grind out a pair of seven-game series to start the playoffs, I could see how the Rangers mindset might change. Instead of playing their game, the Blueshirts pay more attention to not making mistakes which, of course, leads to the Rangers making more mistakes.

The one thing you have to give their Devils credit for is their ability to make the Rangers pay for their mistakes – whether they are mental or physical.

Stephen Gionta’s goal just 2:43 into the game was a play that we have seen repeated over and over during the playoffs. The system that got the Rangers this far failed them as they got caught with all of their players down low – leaving the point wide open. To further compound the problem, no one picked up Gionta in front.

I know it has worked all season long, but Tortorella has to adjust it a bit so that two forwards play more towards the defensemen and the third forward can drop back in the slot area.

On the Devils second goal, they made the Rangers pay the price after Mar Stall lost his edge on a pinch deep in the New Jersey zone. As a result, it was forward Artem Anisimov battling Patrik Elias in front of the net. If Staal doesn’t fall and is back to check Elias, perhaps the puck doesn’t pinball past Henrik Lundqvist.

Even with that, the Rangers had a golden chance to cut the lead in half, but Marian Gaborik missed a sure goal about two minutes later when he shot a puck over the net – keeping the Ranger sniper pointless in the series.

The third Devils goal is all on Lundqvist. There is no way to explain how Travis Zajac’s shot eluded Lundqvist – a shot I am sure he would love to have back.

“They were opportunistic — a few seeing-eye pucks,” Brian Boyle said to Dave Lozo of NHL.com. “Sometimes that happens, but we stuck with it, continued to battle and played a pretty good hockey game.”

A funny thing happened on the way to the Devils cakewalk, the Rangers finally began to take advantage of some Devils mistakes.

The Blueshirts got on the board thanks to Bryce Salvador’s inability to get the puck deep and Brandon Prust’s good sense not to keep an eye on the puck. A poorly timed Devils line change later and Prust was able to beat Martin Brodeur on a mini-breakaway.

In the opening 32 seconds of the second period, the Rangers realized that good things happen when you put the puck towards the net and crash the crease as Ryan Callahan cut the deficit to one as the Rangers finally ruled the day on a playoff review involving a “distinct kicking motion” (unlike Game 3 against Buffalo in 2007 when Karel Rachunek’s second period goal was wiped off).

Callahan came within inches of tying the game with the Rangers on the power play as his sharp-angle rebound shot ticked off Anton Volchenkov’s stick and off the post.

The Rangers struck even earlier at the start of the third period as Brodeur got caught unable to play the puck out of the trapezoid. Gaborik threw the puck towards the net and Marty did the rest as Brodeur stumbled his way to Gaborik’s first goal and point of the series.

With the crowd revved up and momentum fully shifted to the Rangers, but a funny thing happened on the way to the Rangers improbable comeback victory – they eased up on the pedal.

“I felt when we tied it, we stopped making plays,” Tortorella admitted after the game. “Whether they picked up – I think we helped them a little bit. Where I thought we did a really good job of making plays and controlling some of the play tonight, and then I just felt we started batting around a little bit and allowed them to gain some forechecking. I didn’t think we were in real trouble. But they score a goal. They make a big play.”

That big play was a result of a team breakdown defensively. It started with four of the five skaters focused solely on the puck and continued when Carl Hagelin was late to picking up his check on Ryan Carter and culminated with Lundqvist not making an attempt to pokecheck Gionta’s centering pass.

“I thought we had the puck and I didn’t see their guy come back door,” Lundqvist told Larry Brooks of the NY Post. “I needed to look around in case something happened, and I didn’t.”

There are two schools of thought. The first says you want to make sure you are beaten by your opponent’s best players. The second says that you should never let the other team’s best players beat you.

I am not sure what is worse; getting beaten because of the play Devils stars like Zach Parise, Ilya Kovalchuk and Elias or getting beaten by the play of Devils “foot soldiers’ like Carter and Gionta?

If the Rangers are going to take anything out of this game as they look forward to a true” must-win” Game 6 it is the idea that when they maintain puck possession and keep their level urgency high, they can match the Devils goal-for-goal.

They need to bring those two aspects of their game to the table right from the opening faceoff so that they can play with a lead. In the Blueshirts last 13 playoff games, the team that has scored first has won all 13 games – so that makes getting off to a fast start on Friday night an imperative.

The Rangers are going to need their best players to step to the forefront. While it is great to get secondary goals, this is the time when your best players must lead the way.

Callahan did his best Mark Messier impersonation and needs to bring that same ferocity to Game 6. Gaborik showed some signs of life as well and his goal, as flukey as it was, could be the start of a streak for him. Derek Stepan needs to get on the scoresheet and find a way to earn his first points of the series.

Quite obviously, the Rangers need Lundqvist to return to being The King. They can’t afford another game where Henrik is just a mere mortal.

Most of all, Brad Richards needs to be a force in this series. When your best chance to score is on your goaltender – as he Richards almost did eight and half minutes into the third period – then something is off.

If Game 5 showed us anything, it is that any shot on goal is dangerous when you get bodies to the front of the net. I still maintain the belief that Brodeur is beatable and susceptible to wraparounds and quick plays from behind the net to the slot.

Most of all, the Rangers must have a long-term memory to reflect back to what they did in the final two games of the Ottawa series and in Game 7 against Washington.

“Sure, you spend some time when you’re struggling in the game and learn from your mistakes. You can also spend some time with some of the good things you’ve done to get ready for our next game,” Tortorella stated.

“We’ve been here before. We were here before earlier in the Playoffs. And so we’ll just take the next game. It’s all we’re looking for is our next game.”

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If I put the same effort into recapping Game 4 as the New York Rangers put into playing it, I would be finished writing. Okay, I might be overdoing the hyperbole, but when Mike Rupp is one of your best players – at least until his third period meltdown – then the Rangers did not exactly bring their “A” game to the table.

As a result of the Rangers 4-1 loss in Game 4, the Blueshirts face their third best-of-three situation.

Normally teams do not face a “must-win” game until they face elimination. However, the Rangers better consider Game 5 to be a “must-win” because they are not going to go into the Prudential Center and win down three games to two like they did in 1994.

Unfortunately, the 2012 Rangers do not have a player like Mark Messier who can take the team on his shoulders and will them to win – no disrespect to Henrik Lundqvist.

For the seventh time in the playoffs, the Blueshirts had an opportunity to take a two-game lead in a series and failed. Last night also marked the third time they lost Game 4. Unlike the previous two fourth games than resulted in 3-2 games, the Rangers were never in this game.

“It was a struggle for a number of our guys. We have to move by it [and] we have to have a short-term memory. I thought we gained some traction as game went on. [We’re] still not making a big offensive play when we need to,” Rangers coach John Tortorella admitted after game.

Give the Devils their due because they came out with a passion, fire and urgency that the Rangers never matched, despite Tortorella believing his team gaining “some traction”.

New Jersey took advantage of a couple of Ranger mistakes about midway through the first period.

For the 12th consecutive Rangers playoff game, the team scoring the first goal won the game.

Bryce Salvador’s innocent shot from the left point found its way through traffic in front and deflected in off of Anton Stralman’s left skate. Once again the Rangers defensive game plan of dropping their forwards deep in the defensive zone came back to haunt them as no Ranger was near Salvador prior to his shot.

Less than four minutes later, the Devils cashed in on a turnover and bad decision by Michael Del Zotto at his own blue line. Del Zotto got caught trying to step up at the blue line, but Devils captain Zach Parise raced past Del Zotto to set up Travis Zajac for a one-timer that Lundqvist never had a chance to stop.

The play pretty much epitomized the horrible game that Del Zotto had – one that is understandable given that he lost his grandmother on Saturday. Normally one of the leaders in terms of ice time, Del Zotto played just 11:39.

“It was a struggle for him,” Tortorella explained. “He hasn’t had many games like that this year. We had an extra defenseman [Stu Bickel] dressed, we figured we’d take a little pressure off of him and let him watch.”

The ironic thing is that Del Zotto probably would not have been on the ice for the Zajac goal had Ryan McDonagh not received a fighting major for his “fight” with Adam Henrique – a tradeoff the Devils will take again and again.

Interestingly, the game could have gone a different way if the Rangers managed to capitalize on a couple of Devils mistakes.

About six and a half minutes into the game, the Devils turned the puck over in their own end and Marian Gaborik shot wide from the right circle.
Less than a minute before Zajac’s goal, Carl Hagelin nearly tied the game when he hit the post following a New Jersey giveaway.

Outside of those two chances and a late flurry on the power play t the end of the first period, the Rangers spent most of their night chasing after the puck as the Devils controlled the puck possession a game – a part of the game that must change moving forward.

“The most important thing is we have to have the puck more,” Tortorella lamented. “Again, it goes back to we have to have to hold on to some pucks, we had opportunities, we had the yips with it, we gave it back to them, they progressed with their forecheck and momentum went there way. It was a struggle for a number of our guys, we have to move by it, have to have short-term memory.”

Tortorella has stressed over and over that being tired is not an excuse for his team. With that said, last night the Rangers looked like a tired team – whether it is a mental fatigue or physical fatigue. If that is not the case, then there are 18 hockey players who need to look in the mirror and figure out why they could never match the Devils level of play.

Whether it was fatigue or frustration, but the Rangers seemed to be fighting the puck as much as they were “fighting” the Devils. It all culminated in an undisciplined game from the Rangers as they played their worst game since the season finale against the Washington Capitals – which was the last time the Blueshirts allowed more than three goals in a game.

Their undisciplined play came to a head during Rupp’s rampage through the Devils zone six minutes into the third period.

Contrary to the conventional wisdom, Rupp’s penalty would not have been called if not for the Rangers 3-0 deficit. One of the NHL Network’s analysts (it might have been Craig Button) said that Rupp did not deserve the initial penalty for the hit on Peter Harrold behind the net.

As for the shove to Martin “Olivier” Brodeur, Rupp deserved everything he got – even though Marty did embellish it.

Tom Gulitti tweeted this morning that the NHL will not be holding any disciplinary hearings for any of the shenanigans that went on last night. As a result, Rupp appears to be getting a pass for his actions, Gaborik will not be called in for his “elbow” to Marek Zidlicky and Ilya Kovalchuk will face no discipline for spearing Ryan Callahan – even though his spear was inexplicably called a slash.

Looking ahead to Game 5, the Rangers must find a way to heed their coach’s desire to win the puck possession battle. To accomplish that feat, they must tighten up their defensive zone coverage and adjust their system so that one or two forwards spend more time shadowing the point men – thus eliminating the free back pass to the defense.

On offense, the Rangers must find a way to give the Devils a taste of their own forechecking medicine. Some of that starts with not being content to dump the puck into the Devils zone. They need to keep Brodeur from doing what he does best – handling the puck. They are going to have to work a lot of cross-ice dumps with hard pressure on the puck.

The Blueshirts need to remember that every playoff game in this series has mirrored every other playoff game they have played. At one point every game could have swung the other way but didn’t because of a key save, a missed check or bad bounce.

Tortorella needs to be able to make a similar statement following Game 5 to the one Peter DeBoer did following Game 4 in terms of his best players.

“Your best players have to be your best players,” DeBoer told Mike G. Morreale of nhl.com. “I know it’s [a] cliché, but it’s critical this time of year and I knew [Parise] would respond. He was playing well, getting opportunities. I thought he had some really good chemistry tonight with [Zajac and Dainius Zubrus].”

The Devils have been in this situation (tied 2-2 in a best-of-seven) 19 times and have posted an 8-11 series record. The Rangers have an 11-11 series record in this same situation.

“Must-win” or “Really-need-to-win” situation aside, Tortorella is confident in his team’s resiliency and ability to bounce back.

“It’s a three game series and this team has been there before. I am very optimistic. I still see some things some guys are close to getting their game. I don’t think all of us are there,” Tortorella offered.

“As I’ve said all year long with this club, when we get in these situations and we’ve been trading all playoff season, they always find a way to find a good game so I’m truly confident we’ll answer the proper way.”

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Sometimes it is better to be lucky than good – and in Game 3 the New York Rangers were lucky. They are lucky that Glen Sather invested a seventh round draft pick in the 2000 NHL Draft on goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. The Blueshirts victory over the New Jersey Devils results on the Shoulder of The King who made 36 saves posting his second 3-0 shutout of the Eastern Conference Finals.

“If you are going to be a step behind slow, you need your goaltender to step up and that is exactly what Henrik Lundqvist did,” NBC analyst Ed Olcyzk opined after the game.

The Rangers victory is tempered somewhat as Brandon Prust will face a hearing with NHL Director of Player Safety Brendan Shanahan on Sunday. Prust will have to channel his inner Clarence Darrow to avoid a suspension for the elbow that connected to Anton Volchenkov’s head in the second period.

Devils Coach Peter DeBoer called the elbow a case of “Headhunting – plain and simple.”

During the course of the replays, I figured Prust would get a one-game suspension. However, after mulling it over for a couple of hours, Shanahan will drop a two-game suspension on Prust and will point to the head being the main target of the hit.

Of course, Chris Neil’s target was Brian Boyle’s head as was Alexander Ovechkin’s hit on Girardi but Shanny hasn’t let logic play into too many of his suspension decisions since the Stanley Cup playoffs started.

Quite frankly, had I been the coach of the Rangers Prust would have been glued to the bench for a couple of shifts because it was really an unnecessary risk to take and could have cost the Rangers a five-minute major penalty.

If Prust is suspended, Tortorella’s options are still a bit limited. While Brandon Dubinsky did return to the ice, it is extremely doubtful he is anywhere near ready to play. Mats Zuccarello could be an option, but he still might be a few days away. Torts could use Stu Bickel as a forward and pretty much play 11 forwards or he could dress Kris Newbury to get an extra forward who could kill penalties if needed.

Getting back to the game, to say that the Rangers were a step behind the Devils in the first period would be an understatement. The Rangers were a day late and dollar short for the entire first period and at the start of the second period until Coach John Tortorella channeled his inner Mike Keenan and called his timeout in the opening minutes of the second period.

In Game 6 of the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals, Keenan called a timeout in the second period to calm down his struggling team. During that timeout, Iron Mike let the players sort of their own troubles.

Torts enacted a different tactic as he was as vocal and intense during this timeout as he has been during any timeout throughout the year.

“I think after Torts called the timeout, we kind of gathered ourselves and tried to play faster and quicker and play more in their end,” Dan Girardi said following the game.

The Rangers first period might have been their worst period of hockey. The Rangers were slow on their rotations to the puck, which became an even bigger problem because their ice balance was so off that the Rangers found themselves playing without focus or purpose.

Even something as simple as dumping the puck into the Devils zone managed to be a problem all game long. With Martin Brodeur being one of the best in the business at handling the puck, the Rangers either have to feather the pucks into the corner or bang them around the boards so Brodeur can’t stop them behind the net. Not only did the Rangers not do that, their strategy of putting easy long-range shots on goal backfired as Brodeur keyed the Devils breakouts.

The Blueshirts also had some problems (again) containing New Jersey’s long breakout passes that turn into either odd-man rushes or mini-breakaways.

Ilya Kovalchuk has a golden chance just 45 seconds into the second period, but Lundqvist managed to turn the shot aside.

Not too long after, Tortorella called the timeout and it seemed to settle the Rangers down. Just past the four minute mark Ryan Callahan was alone to the right side of Brodeur, but the 40-year-old netminder shut the door.

The Devils will still controlling the play, but the Rangers had managed to show some life that was missing in the first period plus.

“We spent too much time in our end zone,” Tortorella explained in his post-game press conference. “That’s due to a little of them and it’s due to us also as far as some of the struggles we’ve had. I thought in the second half of the game we were better.”

While it seemed that Tortorella’s instruction calmed the team down in the second period, his instructions during the second intermission were a game changer as the Rangers opened the third period with an urgency that was missing through the first 40 minutes.

Carl Hagelin’s work behind the Devils net set Brad Richards up for the Rangers best chance of the game, but his shot clanged off the crossbar. Marian Gaborik then followed up with a shot that forced Brodeur to scramble to keep the game scoreless.

The Rangers relentless pressure forced the Devils to ice the puck after a tough shift. Rather than call a timeout to give his gassed team a breather, DeBoer rolled the dice and eventually lost when a tired Bryce Salvador was called for hooking.

The Rangers power play finally clicked thanks to a little mention of my alma mater. Hagelin was on the bench getting both skates worked on by Rangers equipment manager Acacio “Cass” Marques. Mike Emrick mentioned that Marques was a graduate of Iona College (like me).

Richards won the ensuing faceoff and Girardi beat Brodeur for the only goal that Lundqvist would need.

During the regular season, Rangers defensemen scored just 8.6% of the team’s goals. In the playoffs, they have scored near 29.7% of the goals (11 of 37).

Once again the first goal of the game proved to be golden. The Rangers have seen the team that scored first win in their last 11 games. The last time it didn’t happen was in Game 6 against Ottawa. The Blueshirts are now 9-2 when scoring first and the Devils fall to 4-4 when their opponent scores first.

The Rangers have gotten into trouble in the playoffs because they haven’t been able to extend their one-goal leads. In Game 3 they managed that feat less than two minutes later as the fourth line played a huge part in setting up the goal.

After a solid shift from the fourth line, the forwards were going off a line change. John Mitchell stepped up and made a smart play. Rather than simply dump the puck into the Devils end, Mitchell skated into the Devils zone and held the puck as the Rangers finished their change.

With fresh players on the ice, Mitchell dumped the puck deep and went for a change. Thanks to some solid forechecking, the Devils were unable to clear the puck and Ryan McDonagh’s point shot was tipped home by Chris Kreider just 1:57 after Girardi’s goal.

“The thing that impresses me the most [about Kreider] is that he doesn’t play like a rookie,” Captain Ryan Callahan said.

“He plays like he’s been here [all year]. On and off the ice, he handles himself like a professional and that’s a big thing in this moment.”

Callahan put the final nail in the Devils coffin with an empty net goal with 2:13 left in the game. The only question at that point was whether or not Lundqvist and the Rangers would duplicate their Game 1 3-0 shutout.

Despite taking a 2-1 series and regaining home ice advantage, Tortorella knows there is still much work ahead for his team.

“I’m not sure how far we’ll go. I’m not sure what goes on from here, but it’s a team that stays on it,” Tortorella explained. “We still have things to improve on, but there’s no panic. We know who we are [and] we know how we have to play.”

In a crazy calendar quirk that the Mayans could truly appreciate, this series is synching up to the last time these two teams met in the Eastern Conference Finals. On May 19, 1994, the Rangers won Game 3 in New Jersey as Stephan Matteau provided the first of his two double overtime game-winning goals.

If you want more numbers, the Rangers are 15-5 in Best-of-7 series when they are leading 2-1. The Devils numbers are not as good as they are 4-12, but they did manage to turn the trick against Florida ion the first round this year. Overall, teams up 2-1 in a seven-game series win the series about 70% of the time.

However, as we have seen, the numbers don’t always rule the day in the playoffs just like momentum has not carried over from game-to-game in any of the series the Rangers have played. Monday is a new day, a point not lost on the Rangers hero of Game 3.

“I mean, I’m really happy we won. That means so much to me to win every game here and it’s so important to me and to the group. But on Monday it’s not going to mean anything. You have to start over and earn that respect again, and hopefully you say the same thing after that game,” Lundqvist said.

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