Though it never hurts to add depth to your prospect pool in any position the Rangers had an organizational need of defensemen and goaltending going into yesterday's draft. Gordie Clark admitted as much. For them to then draft three forward with their first three picks indicates that the scouting staff viewed Tambellini, Buchnevich, and Duclair respectively as the clear-cut superior picks to any available defenseman or goaltender at those positions. With 4th and 6th rounders to spare, however, they did address the need with one defenseman and goaltender each.
110th Overall: Ryan Graves, Defenseman, Prince Edward Island Rocket [QMJHL]
Seemingly no relation to Adam Graves, Ryan was the second consecutive player the Rangers selected from the QMJHL, with Anthony Duclair going 80th overall. The first thing that stands out with Graves is his hulk-like stature. Graves measures at 6'4, 220 pounds and, just turning 18 a month ago, could even still have a couple growth spurts left in him.
Graves plays the exact kind of game you hope somebody with his size would. The Vanguard has quotes from a former coach of Graves while he was playing bantam hockey in Canada.
“'One thing I was always so proud of Ryan for was his ability to block shots. He was never afraid to put his body in front of any shot coming from any direction,' says Churchill. 'That is one thing that I always told my other defensemen through the years, that in order to go to the next level you need to be willing to sacrifice your body or whatever it takes to keep the puck out of your net.'"
There's a Tortorella joke to be made here, but no matter which team you play for or who is head coach blocking shots and taking abuse are going to be part of the game. And Churchill's words are accurate. Some defensemen, like Ryan McDonagh, have enough ability to get by. Others do not. Dan Girardi is, aesthetically, a very average defenseman. His complete absence of fear and his willingness to take some significant pain to make a play are what make him such a quality player. Obviously, hockey is far more than a masochism contest and Grabes is going to have to develop the whole of his game, but a willingness to make take pain to make a difference is often the difference between a career AHLer and an NHL defenseman.
As is the case with most big defensemen, Graves is probably going to take a long time to develop. Size means virtually nothing if you can't keep pace with NHL forwards, and so Graves is going to hit some bumps in the road as he works to improve his foot speed as well as learns to compensate for a lack of speed with body positioning and his long reach. Zdeno Chara didn't really stick as a full-time NHLer until he was 24. Adam McQuaid was 23 in his first full season. Matt Greene was 23. And even then, none of these guys were at their peak. Graves is not going to be NHL-relevant for a while, with a 4th round pick, makes sense as a long-term project.
170th Overall: Mackenzie Skapski, Goaltender, Kootenay Ice [WHL]
On June 14th, 1994, the New York Rangers won their first Stanley Cup in 54 years. On June 15th, 1994, Mackenzie Skapski was born. Now, he is a New York Rangers draft pick. What does this mean? Absolutely nothing. But it's a convenient way to start a brief profile of Mackenzie Skapski.
Scott Stajcer (22), Jasson Missiaen (23), and Cam Talbot (25) are the three goaltenders currently in the Rangers' farm system. While all three still could develop into NHL-caliber goaltenders none have done much of anything to allow anyone to feel comfortable about the goaltending situation beyond Lundqvist and Biron. Nineteen-year-old Skapski puts some young, fresh meat in the pipeline. At 6 foot 3, Skapski has more than adequate size, though, like most prospects, will have to add some muscle. Here's a brief profile on Skapski from WHL From Above's Cody Nickolet:
"Skapski is a big, well-structured goalie...He's got great size, uses it to his advantage with good positioning. This was his first full year as a starter and he was a monster in the second half of the season, guiding the Ice to the playoffs. Have to imagine teams show some interest after passing up on him last year, now that he's got a more complete resume."
You can find NHL players in all rounds no matter the position, but this seems to be especially true for goaltenders. A quick look around the league reveals that some of the better goaltenders were not exceptionally high draft picks. Our own Lundqvist went in the 7th round, and others such as Pekka Rinne, Mike Smith, Jonathan Quick, and Braden Holtby are other examples. He can hardly be penciled in as the heir apparent to King Henrik but Skapski gives the Rangers some sorely needed upside in the goaltending department.
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A lot of talk about Cherepanov today... really sad topic. Have to feel for the kid and his family. The NHL did give us a compensatory pick though, 17th in the second round... and what a pick it turned out to be (in a way). That pick got us Oscar Lindberg (well Werek, but we dumped him for Lindberg). We did manage to make lemonade with the lemons we were given is what i am trying to say here...
You know, I heard a lot of talk around the draft to watch how Chicago builds a winner, so I went back to see how they drafted. They started drafting their Cup teams in 2002 with Keith, then they got Seabrook, Crawford, and Byfuglien in 2003, Bollard & Bickell in 2004, Hjalmarsson in 2005, Toews 2006, Kane 2007. Key players each year. Not counting Nash (2002), the Rangers got Duby & Cally in 2004, Staal & Sauer in 2005, Anisimov in 2006, Cherepanov & Hagelin in 2007, MDZ & Stepan in 2008, Kreider in 2009. On the surface, it would appear that there is no Toews or Kane in the Rangers' picks, but it makes you wonder just how much of an affect that Cherepanov death had on the Rangers' pipeline. He could have been their Kane, from the reports about him. But it also makes me look at it from the point of view that the Rangers are probably a few years behind with their prospects, especially since Gordie didn't take over completely until 2007. Despite all the rage over Richards, and Clowe, and all the other stuff, I really think this team is on the verge of something great! Call me an optimist, call me delusional, call me whatever you want, I'm really excited to see this team gel!!!!
Will take a while to find out, unlike NJ who spent a #1 on a guy who couldn't beat out a goalie the whole city wanted replaced. They better work on the Trap again, see if they can get some of those 6 save shutouts Fat Boy specializes in.
Don't know if everyone knows this kid, but Boo is going to end up being a steal. What a freshman year at Michigan... hope he keeps on rolling
Would appear Miller and Kreider are both considered NHL ready. Thought for sure this was the case about Kreider, but interesting to see no Miller this week.
I tell ya the guy who is most intruiging to me is Michael St. Croix. He really put up some big numbers in Juniors the last 2-years. He is on the smallish side but maybe just maybe he can be another Adam Oates or a Martin St. Louis. A late blooming Canadian who was ovelooked in the draft & then developed into a first line player. Or maybe he is a long line of top junior scorers who never made an impact in the NHL.
I have full faith in Benoit Allaire... one of the best goalie coaches in the World. If he cen't make this kid an NHL goalie nobody can. Goalies are always very tricky, so we will just have to see how it plays out... but I like this kid from a first look.
@FREE LINDBERG How bout we let him play in an NHL game before we induct Lindberg to the HOF. Coming from the SEL is not a guarantee of success in the NHL.
@gravey94 No Kane or Toews, but also has to be put into perspective that the Rangers' highest draft place since the (big) lockout was 10th overall. A lot harder to grab a guy like that there. That is the reason for the Nash trade. Doesn't matter how much if screwed up our depth situation for ONE season; we need Nash for the long run to compete with the elite teams. Cherepanov definitely would have changed things, though. He probably wouldn't have been on the elite level but he would have been damn close. Consistent 35 goal scorer with 45 goal potential. What a shame.
@FREE LINDBERG I think Miller is hurt. Remeber they sent him home cause of his wrist.
@ThrSage I've talked to a number of people who watch or scout junior hockey in Canada and the most commonly referenced player when talking about St. Croix is Daniel Briere. Like St. Croix, he's a smallish center but makes up for it with great vision. Of course, that's the ceiling. Like you said, could just as easily be Erik Christensen.
@FREE LINDBERG Allaire might be good but at the end of the day you have to have talent. Allaire couldn't make Talbot or Stacjer into an NHL goalie .
On another note Keith Ballard was placed on waivers. If MDZ is traded you could see Ballard in Ranger Blue.
@Herman_NYRBlog @gravey94 Agreed. Nash is key as he's basically a #1 in the mold of Kane, just not as prolific scoring-wise...yet. There are also a couple of wildcards in Moore (2 picks after Kreider) and Brassard (#6). If they can reach their draft potential now that they're out of Columbus, it could be special! Tragic about Cherapanov. I wonder who the next pick would have been in Gordie's list if it wasn't him? Couple of real nice players in that draft after that pick.
Him not being asked means they don't consider him a prospect anymore in my mind... think the same can be said about Lindberg and Fast, but those two will most likely be in the AHL to start
@Herman_NYRBlog @ThrSage Boy Adam I hope that is true. I have read alot about St. Croix over the past few months cause I wanted to see if he was any good or just as you say another Christensen. The one thing I can tell you is that he is apparently playing at the highest level of juniors. He was also often matched against the other teams top defense pair & he was msotly unstoppable. So lets hope he is another Briere what a find that would be.
@ThrSage @FREE LINDBERG @Herman_NYRBlog If Hags could just find a pair of hands though he would be a star. They basically have the same player-mold in this kid Duclair it would seem (they drafted yesterday). If he has more talent, then Hags would definitely be expendable, but again if hags could get better hands he would be a stud. Remember early this season when he had that 7 game scoring-streak he was a stud, and everyone LOVED him.
@FREE LINDBERG @ThrSage @Herman_NYRBlog I think St. Croix is 5'11 but your right no way u can have those 4-guys on 1-team. i have been an advocate of trading Hags now for some soze & grit. he has one of a kind sped but he is small & I don't think he will ever be a big goal scorer. Doesn't have the touch or shot for it.
@ThrSage @FREE LINDBERG @Herman_NYRBlog would not consider Lindberg a finesse center... He is a two-way guy that loves to hit, and can really make plays... A comparable player would be someone like Krejci in my opinion from what I have seen. I still think Step will be the best out of the 4... He is 22 and look what he is capable of all ready... can't wait to see what he does with AV... but its not just that I LOVE the way Step carries himself... wish he had a letter on his chest, because he is a true winner
@FREE LINDBERG @Herman_NYRBlog @ThrSage To be determined. He needs to work on it for sure if he wants to get it to NHL standards, but it's not as if it's a huge red flag. that reluctance to do things away from the puck was what dropped him into the Rangers' lap in the 4th round and everyone, including his own head coach, has praised him for how much he has improved those aspects of his game; defensively, willingness to battle for pucks and forecheck, etc. A season or two with Gernander will do him well. If they held a redraft for the 2011 draft today he probably wouldn't drop below 45th overall.
@FREE LINDBERG @Herman_NYRBlog @ThrSage I have read alot about him & he goes to the dirty areas. He is most definetly not a perimeter player in Juniors. From what I read he took alot of physical abuse & still stood tall. Now if he can do that on the next level, we will see but man can you imagine if he & Lindberg are the real deal? Think how good we will be down the middle if we have those 2 plus Stepan. Then you play Miller on the wing add in w-Kreider developing into a 30-goal scorer & you have a pretty darn good team.