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2008-09 Top 12 Prospects: New York Rangers

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Shane Malloy, Prospect Insider
4/27/2009 9:59:52 PM
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The New York Rangers finally have some legitimate players coming through the system that are ready to make the roster in the next couple of seasons. The scouting staff has done a fine job replenishing the stocks and evaluating prospects in trades. If the Rangers expect to become Stanley Cup contenders for a long period of time, the continuing development of their prospects on this list is crucial.

In the past, this organization did not put much stock in the development of prospects and used those assets in trades for a win-now philosophy. When the Rangers were not trading away what little youth they had, many of their other first round picks just never panned out. You can look at first-round flops from 1995 to 1999 such as Christian Dube, Jeff Brown, Stefan Cherneski and Pavel Brendl as examples. In those five years, only Manny Malhotra and Jamie Lundmark played a significant amount of games in the NHL - and both are third line players.

Things certainly didn't improve at the top end when they traded their first-round picks in 2000 and 2002. They did strike gold in 2001 with the selection of goaltender Dan Blackburn – only to see him retire due to injury. The Blueshirts also drafted and developed Peter Prucha and Nigel Dawes, but both have been traded away. To their credit, the 2004 and 2005 NHL drafts could end up being a big part of New York's long term revival.

The talent and depth in the system stem from the backend with Bobby Sanguinetti, Michael Del Zotto, Michael Sauer and Matt Gilroy (recently signed) all bringing unique skills to the table. Sanguinetti, Del Zotto and Gilroy are all capable of playing a significant role in the NHL.

The skill up front should come from Russian Artem Anisimov, while Lauri Korpikoski, Tom Pyatt, Brodie Dupont, and Dane Byers could one day be the lynch pins of defensive responsibility and leadership. 2008 mid-round picks Evgeny Gratchev, Derek Stepan and Derek Weiss have shown some long-term potential, but are both a few years away.

Now that they have traded goalie Al Montoya to Phoenix, the Rangers do not have anyone in goal with NHL potential and it should be a priority in this draft. The Rangers took netminder Antoine Lafleur in the second round of the 2007 draft but he has not developed. Going into the 2009 NHL draft, the Rangers will have to focus skilled wingers and netminders.

1. Bobby Sanguinetti – Defence, 21 (1st round 21st overall 2006)
Currently with Hartford (AHL)

It certainly helps when your favorite childhood team drafts you, but the slick puck moving defenceman needs to prove he deserves to be there. The lanky kid (at 6 foot 2 and 190 pounds) could add a little muscle to his frame, but that will come in time. The reason he was drafted so high is his capacity to create offence from the blue line with his passing skills and offensive hockey sense. His defensive game is improving and his gap control, angling and overall positioning has improved. Sanguinetti is a strong skater with enough quickness and lateral movement to be a solid puck possession defenceman. In his last three seasons in junior, he amassed 188 points in 196 games. He had a standout year as a rookie in the AHL with an impressive 42 points in 72 games. If Sanguinetti works hard this offseason, expect him to have a legitimate shot at a full-time roster spot in the NHL next fall.

2. Michael Del Zotto – Defence, 18 (1st round 20th overall 2008)
Currently with London (OHL)

He's an offensive defenceman who is able to quarterback the power play and be a catalyst when leading the rush. His hockey sense and vision are at an elite level and he can dissect intersecting traffic. He moves the puck quickly, uses his all his options and can complete the long outlet pass. He rarely panics with the puck and can stickhandle to give himself and his defence partner time. He's a strong skater who has the foot speed to lead the rush and the agility to jump into the seams of the defence. His balance on his skates has improved, especially since he added strength and 20 pounds to his frame. His slap shot and wrist shot are both heavy while still being accurate and low which makes them easier to tip and cause rebounds. He has a knack walking the blue line and knows when to shoot, pass and be patient for something to open up. His defence needs some refinement, but he's improving away from the puck and is still learning the finer points of the defensive game. He just needs to be a little more patient and maintain his position and not get caught running around. He does have a quick stick in the lane and breaks to position without hesitating. He has the strength to battle more effectively one-on-one and with a little more time and development, he could be very effective in his own zone. Del Zotto is not a physical player but he does not get pushed around and will battle for his team. He has improved along the boards while being able to hold his ground and take hits. He logs a lot of ice time, sees quality minutes on both specialty teams and is dangerous shorthanded. He is a mature player that works hard, is coachable and could be into a No. 2 defenceman.

3. Artem Anisimov - Centre, 20 (2nd round 54th overall 2006)
Currently with Hartford (AHL)

Anisimov plays a solid two-way game and distributes the puck well. He has good puck skills, can stickhandle to create time and space and uses his passing options and linemates well. His hockey sense and vision are not elite, but he has enough between the ears to potentially centre a second line in the NHL. He is a good overall skater, but he does not have that extra gear to separate from a top defenceman. He has finally changed his tendency to pass and his wrist and slap shot have some zip and accuracy. He was rewarded this season by shooting more, with 37 goals - more than doubling his previous season. Overall, Anisimov had an excellent season with 81 points in 80 games and deserves a legitimate roster spot next season. Defensively, he is above average, shows a decent work ethic and does not shy away from the rough play. The pundits could look back one day and say Anisimov was a steal.

4. Lauri Korpikoski – Left Wing, 22 (1st Round 19th overall 2004)
Currently with New York (AHL)

He's a quick-skating winger with a knack for scoring in bunches and has enough creativity to be a playmaker. He is a smart player who can play a solid defensive game and is responsible despite his young age. Korpikoski works hard along the wall and fights for loose pucks, which the coaches appreciate. He did played two solid seasons in the AHL and managed 88 points in 157 games. At 6-1 and 195 pounds, he still needs to add a little more strength, but he certainly can compete. In his first full year in the NHL, he had 14 points in 68 games. While he didn't exactly shoot the lights out, developing players takes time. Once he finishes his development, expect him to be a solid two-way winger who can contribute offensively from the third line.

5. Evgeny Gratchev – Centre, 19 (3rd round 75th overall 2008)
Currently with Brampton (OHL)

This Russian prospect could either tease Ranger fans or bring them out of their seats screaming. He has the tools to produce offence at an NHL, since he has the hockey sense and puck skills to play a high-tempo game. At times, Gratchev can dominate the offensive zone with his stick-handing ability and poise with the puck. What makes him potentially dangerous is his huge frame and formidable skating ability. To his credit, he does not shy away from the traffic areas and draws defenders to him to open space up for his linemates. His defensive game is improving, as Gratchev realizes he has to make much quicker decisions on a smaller ice surface. He has garnered good experience playing in the OHL and has adjusted to the North American game. The question remains whether Gratchev is willing to pay the price long-term to play in the NHL.

6. Brodie Dupont – Centre, 22 (3rd Round 66th overall 2005)
Currently with Hartford (AHL)

He's a no-nonsense, rugged, two-way hockey player that brings it all to the rink every night. He is the kind of player every organization needs in the playoffs because he is accountable and responsible. He has good skating ability and size and he thrives when the games get ugly and rough. In his last season in Calgary (WHL), he had 70 points in 70 games with the Hitmen and 90 penalty minutes. He played on the top power play and penalty kill units and has a knack for shutting down top lines opponents. Last season, Dupont had a solid and respectable rookie season in the AHL with 22 points in 66 games. This year, Dupont took his game to another level in the AHL offensively and defensively and took greater responsibility. He might have another year in the AHL to round out his game, but I would not be shocked to see him in the Rangers lineup. If the fans like what Ryan Callahan brings to the table, then they will love Dupont! Expect him to develop into a solid third-line checking centre once he finishes developing as a prospect.

7. Matt Gilroy – Defence, 24 (Free Agent 2009)
Previously with Boston University

One of the most sought after free agent prospects to come out of the NCAA this year should make a quick transition to the pro game. Since he is already 24-years-old, his maturity level should be a benefit moving forward. However, because Gilroy has only played an average of 40 games a season for the past four years, expect a second-half slump next season. He is a smart puck-moving defenceman with the ability to make some nice passes. At 6-2 and 205 pounds, Gilroy has the size but he does not use it consistently and tends to be a puck-passionate defenceman. Overall, he is a good skater who should be able to keep up with most of the speedsters in the AHL and NHL. He may need some time to adjust to the speed and tempo of the pro game, along with the physical intensity. The faster he improves his gap control - maintaining body position and taking the proper angles - the quicker he makes the jump to the NHL. Expect Gilroy to play some time in the AHL before making a full-time jump into the NHL.

8. Tom Pyatt – Centre, 22 (4th round 107th overall 2005)
Currently with Harford (AHL)

He could turn out to be a valuable role player for the New York Rangers in the near future. The two-time WJC gold medal winner has proven he has the potential to be an elite defensive forward. He may not be the biggest guy, but he has the skating, hustle and intelligence to effective. In his last season of junior, he had 81 points in 58 games and has an impressive plus-21 rating. He oozes leadership and could be a leader in the Rangers locker room for a long time. In his rookie season as a pro, Pyatt jumped between the AHL and ECHL and did not produce very much offense. But it was the process, not the results, that was important that year. This season in Hartford, he posted a respectable 37 points in 73 games and looked more comfortable as the season moved on. He must continue to get stronger, but Pyatt has the talent to be a good third-line checker if the Rangers are patient. He might need another year or two in the AHL to adjust and find a role for himself in the organization.

9. Derek Stepan – Centre, 18 (2nd round 51st overall 2008)
Currently with Wisconsin (NCAA)

The underappreciated forward had an excellent freshman season in Wisconsin and ended up second overall in team scoring. His 33 points in 40 games gives the Rangers hope Stepan will be able to take his game to another level as he progresses through the college ranks. Now he's not the biggest kid yet, but he should gain the appropriate size in due time. His hockey sense is very good and Stepan processes information quickly and can anticipate the developing play. He shows good overall puck skills, along with an array of shots that he does not use as often as he should. He is a solid skater who will gain another gear once he adds the power to his stride. He has the ability to play both sides of the ice equally well and seems to have intangibles. Stepan is a long term project the Rangers will keep a close eye on.

10. Michael Sauer – Defense, 21 (2nd Round 40th overall 2005)
Currently with Hartford (AHL)
The dependable defensive defenceman has had two solid seasons in the AHL and made consistent improvements in all aspects of his game. At 6-3 and 205 pounds, he has the size and mobility to play at an NHL level. It will be matter of Sauer adjusting to the higher tempo and speed. Sauer is at his best when he makes safe, smart decisions with the puck and takes care of his one zone with a physical presence. He has shown a bit of offensive output, but it's not expected to translate to the next level. He is still young for a defenceman and may need another full season in the AHL before getting a shot at a part-time roster spot in the NHL.

11. Dane Byers – Left Wing, 23 (2nd round 48th overall 2004)
Currently with Hartford (AHL)

He's a big, strapping forward at 6-3 and 200 pounds that works hard, pays the price and is a prototypical North-South winger. He is not afraid to get his nose dirty, which is evident by his penalty minute totals the last two seasons - 397 minutes. He does possess some offensive skills with 93 points in 151 games, but is not projected to play any higher than a fourth-line role at the NHL level at his peak. He is fairly responsible defensively because of his work ethic and is a team player that guys in the dressing room appreciate.

12. Dale Weiss – Right Wing, 20 (4th round 111th overall 2008)
Currently with Harford (AHL)

For a fourth-round draft choice, Weiss has shown decent potential after a solid rookie season in the AHL. A 6-2 and 205 pounds, this North-South winger can bang and crash up and down the wall. He is one of those players that you generally don't notice, but finds a way to contribute in some way. He's a long term project that may have some value down the road as a role player if the Rangers are patient.

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New York Rangers - NHL Entry Draft Record (1997 - 2003)

When looking at the drafting and developing record of a NHL organization it becomes an interesting blend of statistics and circumstances with perhaps some luck thrown in for good measure. Most of the time the General Manager receives kudos for a teams fortunes at the draft table when in reality it is usually never the case in today's NHL. For the most part there are three aspects that make the whole process work; first is the amateur scouting department's ability to evaluate and project talent which may be the most challenging of all. Next the organizations player development department must attempt to mold the prospects by giving the players tools to enhance his talents. Perhaps most importantly is the prospects responsibility to pay the price and sacrifice which generally requires a tremendous work ethic. If one of these aspects fails then the likelihood of a prospect turning into an asset to his organization and having a NHL career becomes remote.

The reason for the analyzing the years from 1997 to 2003 is to first give each NHL organization five years to develop their prospects as players from different leagues evolve differently. Secondly the years from 1997-2003 are the players that should be the building blocks of the core of your team as they will be in the 23-29 year old age range. What makes each organization unique is what they do with the picks they have as management will often trade draft choices for immediate help on their NHL and AHL teams. Now some players may be real late bloomers and eventually make the criteria set in this analysis down the road but at this stage it is fascinating to see the results.

Criteria of NHL games played that deem a player has been drafted and developed successfully.

 

  Forwards - Defenceman Goaltenders
1997-2001 125-200 NHL Games required 51-100 NHL Games Played
2002-2003 100 NHL Games required 25-50 NHL Games Played
Pending Player - Represents a player who has a legitimate chance to make criteria

New York Rangers 1997-2003

Year Draft Picks NHL Players Produced (Round/Pick)
1997 12 : (3) (C) Mike York (6/136), (G) Johan Holmqvist (7/175), (D) Mike Mottau (7/182)
1998 9 (3) (C) Manny Malhotra (1/7), (G) Jason LaBarbera (3/66), (D) Tomas Kloucek (5/131)
1999 11 (1) (C) Jamie Lundmark (1/9)
2000 9 (2) (C) Dominic Moore (3/95), (G) Henrik Lundqvist (7/205)
2001 11 (5) (G) Dan Blackburn (1/10), (D) Fedor Tyutin (2/40), (RW) Garth Murray (3/79), (D) Marek Zidlicky (6/176), (RW) Ryan Hollweg (8/238)
2002 9 (1) (LW) Petr Prucha (8/240)
2003 10 (1) (LW) Nigel Dawes (5/149)

Total: 7 yrs – 71 draft picks – 16 NHL Players = 22.5% success rate

Success in the first three rounds (1997-2003)

1st rnd Draft Choices: 6 total picks
: Stefan Cherneski, Pavel Brendl, Hugh Jessiman
7 yrs – 6 draft picks – 3 NHL Players = 50.0% success rate

2nd rnd Draft Choices: 7 total picks
Ivan Baranka, Lee Falardeau, Filip Novak, David Inman, Randy Copley, Wes Jarvis
7 yrs - 7 draft picks – 1 NHL Players = 14.2% success rate

3rd rnd Choices: 8 total picks
Burke Henry, Patrick Aufiero, Johan Asplund, Marcus Jonasen, Kenny Roche,
7 yrs – 8 draft picks – 3 NHL Players = 37.5% success rate

Total: 7 yrs – 21 draft picks – 7 NHL Players = 33.3 % success rate in first 3 rounds

First Three Rounds - Developed vs. Prospects/NA vs. Euro
Developed players: (6) North American, (1) European
Undeveloped Prospects: (8) North American, (5) European

Success in the last six round (1997-2003)

4th rnd to 9th rnd Choices: 50 total picks
7 yrs – 50 draft picks – 9 NHL Players = 18% success rate

Shane Malloy provides hockey prospect insight and analysis on his Prospect Insider feature on TSN.ca, Canada's leading sports website. Many sports networks, hockey magazines and major newspapers have drawn upon his expertise and knowledge. His passion for the game and involvement in grass roots hockey from the junior hockey to the National Hockey League is evident. He is currently a host and hockey event reporter on XM Sirius Satellite Radio (Home Ice 204) where he co-hosts a hockey radio show on Hockey Prospects and the Business of Hockey.

Prior to joining TSN, Malloy was the columnist-covering prospects for NHL.com for two years and a NHL and prospect columnist Fox Sports.com for six years.

This document is the intellectual property of Shane Malloy and cannot be used or duplicated in anyway without expressed written consent. Any use of this document without the expressed written consent of Shane Malloy will result in public exposure and legal prosecution.

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Michael Del Zotto collides with Nick Foligno (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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