Friday, June 24, 2011

Rangers Enter 2011 Draft Guaranteed One Top Talent, Searching Through Options For Another

Other than the team that selects number one in the draft, it is rare that a team goes into a draft knowing which first round talent they will come out with.  Beyond the fact that they do not know exactly who will be on the board when they select, there is uncertainty in exactly what that prospect will turn into as they continue to develop from draft day on.  The New York Rangers have both those luxuries tomorrow despite the fact they pick at 15.  The acquisition of Tim Erixon allows the Rangers to know they will both acquire an elite talent and know how the early stages of his development will turn out.  They walk into the first round knowing that  regardless of how the first round plays out tomorrow they will walk away with an impact player from the this draft.  The deal for Erixon gives the Rangers a player that was widely considered to be a top-10 pick if he had re-entered the draft this year and someone who is ready for the NHL right now, which can only be said for a few this year.  Getting that kind of player for two second rounders and prospect Roman Horak, in a seemingly weak draft, is what gives the Rangers a leg up on much of their competition.

There are still plenty of questions regarding which player the Rangers will get at 15 and much of that will depend on what happens starting with the Flyers at 8.  The top 7 guys are roughly agreed on, though orders may change, but after that much of the talent is seen as interchangeable.  The breakdown of defense versus forwards that go in the 8-14 range is likely to determine which forward is there for New York to take.  The forwards most discussed around that area of the draft are: Mika Zibanejad, Sven Baertschi, Joel Armia, Mark McNeill, Mark Scheifele, and Zack Phillips.  Each of those players fit the Rangers in different ways and which ones are on the board will determine what New York eventually does.

If one of the higher projected players falls or the guy the Rangers want is still there at 15, then they will obviously utilitize the pick to take him. If their key guys are off the board they could look to trade down and look at other forwards who could be out there while acquiring more picks.  In that scenario you would likely see players like Nicklas Jensen and Matt Puempel be targets along with Tyler Biggs.

It is unknown which player the Rangers will select in the first round of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft or if it will be at 15, where they are slated to pick, but the likelihood is that pick will be a forward because of the defensive depth.  While some may view the trade for Tim Erixon as taking away some flexibility for the Rangers within the draft because of the loss of the two second rounders, in actuality it created flexibility in knowing they are walking out with an NHL ready player before it even begins.

Beyond the 15th selection the Rangers also currently hold pick 105, 133, 135.