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In todays writeup I want to address the draft. For the first time since the Rangers picked Al Montoya 6 years ago, the Rangers have a top 10 pick. The important thing here is for the Rangers not to screw up this pick like they screwed up that pick. Luckily the Rangers draft is run by one Gordie Clark. And in the Rangers organization there is not a single person I trust more than him. Clark knows his prospects. He’s responsible for Marc Staal, Michael Del Zotto, Chris Kreider, Derek Stepan, Evgeny Grachev, and a host of other players the Rangers have both on their team and coming up. If I recall correctly, Clark is also responsible for all the great Islander draft picks that Mike Millbury pissed away too. Clearly, he knows what he is doing, so if he picks someone I don’t necessarily agree with, this will be a case of me saying, “wow, was I wrong”, rather than saying, “what the hell are the Rangers doing?!”.

I’m going to break this down fairly simply. Here are the players I want, in order, with us selecting whoever the highest ranked player here assuming they are still on the board.

1)Brett Connolly. Really, the chances of him being on the board at 10 are very slim. If Connolly didn’t have such a major injury this past season, he would be involved in a 3 way dead heat for #1 overall between Seguin, Hall and himself. He is that good. He’s a player that probably will be NHL ready in 1 season, if not sooner. He’s got power, speed, a very hard shot, and a nose for the net. He’s got it all. Assuming he’s healthy, and on the board, the Rangers should draft him and run for the hills in case someone decides to arrest them for larceny. However, they may be smart to trade up to ~7th if he’s still there and not risk one of the teams just in front of them taking him.

2)Alexander Burmistrov. Burmistrov might actually still be available in the 12-15 range, so if the Rangers can trade down to pick up a 2nd or 3rd, they probably should do it, assuming Connolly is off the board. I love the way Burmistrov plays. Much like Artem Anisimov, Burmistrov plays in all situations, and plays extremely well in all situations. He’s a fabulous puck distributor who actually might be the 3rd or 4th most offensively talented kid in this draft if he didn’t focus so much on playing the defensive side of the puck. He’s drawing comparisons to Pavel Datsyuk, and I wholeheartedly agree.

3)Ryan Johansen. Johansen is a late bloomer, and still may have a whole hell of a lot of blooming left in him. Kid has size and sweet hands, a combination you don’t see all that often. He still needs to fill out a bit but has the makings of becoming an absolute monster. However he may be a risky pick. Players like him, with his size, and his hands, can sometimes head in the other direction, and that is a bit of a concern. He’s not as sure a thing as you’d like at 10, but has the potential to be a #1 center.

4)Nino Niederreiter. El Nino is the flavor of the day. He’s everyone darling pick, and most people would have him listed #1 on this. Leslie Treff, who I have spoken with a few times, even calls him her hands down choice for the Rangers to pick at #10. She goes as far as to say the Rangers should trade up for him. I usually agree with Leslie, but in this one, I don’t. Nino reminds me a lot of Ryan Callahan. That’s not a bad thing mind you. Cally is a balls to the wall, do anything to make a play, great player. But, he’s not a first line player. Really, he’s a 3rd line player who plays out of position on the 2nd line. That is what Nino is to me, he probably would end up as a 2nd liner, but might be better off being a 3rd liner. In the WJC, a lot of his goals were very flukey goals that you can really point to shoddy goaltending rather than his pure ability. Goals that would not be scored in the NHL. I like Nino, I love his all out effort and heart, and I wouldn’t be upset with another Ryan Callahan on this team. But he’s not my first choice. He’s not even my 2nd or 3rd choice.

5)Vladimir Tarasenko. Tarasenko reminds me a lot of Nikolai Zherdev. All the talent in the world, but he often disappears on the ice for large stretches. I didn’t really care for his play in the world juniors despite his goal total because he should have given you so much more. People say that Tarasenko is probably the most talented player in the entire draft. The fact that he’s my 5th choice on here should tell you what I think of his heart. He also already plays in the KHL and is signed for at least another year if not more. It’s tough to ignore the magnitude of that. Especially after Filatov ran for the KHL as soon as the going got a little tough. You’d find it tough to invest a top pick in a player that doesn’t want to leave his home country. Especially when he will get paid a lot more over there.

6)Jeff Skinner. Skinner scored more goals last year than Tyler Seguin or Taylor Hall. Think about what I just said. He scored more goals than 2 guys almost universally thought to be the 2 best players in this draft. Skinner is an offensive dynamo, however he has skating issues. Skating issues are 2 very scary words when talking about moving up to the NHL. If you can’t skate, you can’t keep up. Period. If Skinner can work on his skating, he might very well be the biggest steal in the draft for whatever team takes him. If he doesn’t he may never make it to the next level.

After the 10th overall pick, the Rangers have 1 2nd round pick, and no 3rd round picks. The first 3 rounds are usually when a team earns it’s money. If the Rangers can’t draft Connolly at #10, I think we should trade down to the 13-15 range and hope that Burmistrov is still on the board. We then should take Kiril Kabanov with our 2nd round pick. A kid who was considered one of the top 3 picks this year until he had a rapid decline in his stock thanks to some questions about his character. If the Rangers can get out of this draft with Connolly and Kabanov they may have drafted 2 of the 4 most talented players in the entire draft. I would call that a huge win. Even if they both strike out, it’s a risk you have to be willing to take.

Part 3 will be up in the next few days.

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