Friday, June 24, 2011

Rangers select J.T. Miller

With the 15th overall pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, the New York Rangers have picked forward J.T. Miller out of the U.S. National Development program. The fact that the Rangers went forward with their first pick is not a surprise given the depth of their defense corps. The fact that they selected Miler is somewhat of a surprise given that Joel Armia and Mark McNeill were still on the board. That said, Gordie, Clark had earned the trust of Rangers fans so they should withhold any negative thoughts.

Miler has good size at 6-foot-1, 198 pounds. He is scheduled to attend North Dakota next season, but he could go to the Ontario Hockey League where the Plymouth Whalers own his rights.
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The New York Rangers First Round Pick Should Be...

Over the course of the past month I have done previews of 10 different prospects: Mark Scheifele, Mark McNeill, Zack Phillips, Joel Armia, Sven Bartschi, Ty Rattie, Matt Peumpel, Vladislav Namestnikov, Rocco Grimaldi and Tyler Biggs. The looks at these players was to find out more about them individually, along with how they might fit with the Rangers.
As I said earlier this morning, the Rangers are likely to go for a forward in tonight’s first round.  The names that seem to be most popular around the Rangers fans are Mark McNeill, Joel Armia and some for Tyler Biggs. If the selection were up to me it would not be any of those three, rather I would take center Mark Scheifele.  Despite playing on a poor Barrie team Scheifele managed to score 22 goals and add 53 assists in 66 games.
Beyond the statistics Scheifele has a reputation as an excellent two-way player that is where he is because of dedication and work ethic.  Arguably the most complete forward available in this portion of the draft, Scheifele has excellent playmaking ability, good vision and hands and plays both sides of the puck.  Physically he has the frame that you look for standing 6-foot-3, though he must add muscle and mass to his 177-pound body in order to maximize his potential. 
Everything I have seen written about him tells me he would fit into the type of players the Rangers want in their organization from both a hockey IQ and character standpoint.  The two-way style and willingness to go to the net would make him a natural fit for the system on the ice while having skill and upside.
Scheifele was way off the radar coming into this season, but has continued to climb the rankings and has been ranked 12 in Bob McKenzie’s final rankings as well as Red Line Report.  There have been a lot of comparison’s to Ryan Johansen who went number 4 last year to Columbus.  One that is closer to home for Rangers’ fans might be Derek Stepan with more height.
Other Options:
Mark McNeill: Bruising forward from Prince Albert that also put up good numbers with a less than stellar supporting cast.  Has more size than Scheifele, but possibly not the offensive upside down the road.  Likely to be off the board by 15.
Joel Armia: Tremendous sniper from Finland who at 6-foot-3 would be an intriguing winger to take, but concerns over his work ethic and one-way play could scare off the Rangers, if he is even available.
Trade Down: Scheifele or McNeill are the only players, unless Bartschi surprisingly slips, that I would stay at 15 to draft.  If both are off the board the team can move down to 20 with PHX or 25 with Toronto and still have similar players available.  At the later spots the main targets should be Matt Puempel, Nicklas Jensen or Tyler Biggs.

Richards Rumors: Seeking Eight-Year Deal; Rangers Prepared To Go All-In

As the NHL gets closer to free agency beginning there are more and more reports on what Brad Richards apparently wants in his next contract and sometimes conflicting reports on whether the New York Rangers will give it to him.  Today there is a combination of reporting on his demands and a take on just how willing the Rangers are to meet them.  According to Larry Brooks of the New York Post, Richards is seeking an eight-year contract worth from $50-$55 million.
Multiple sources have told The Post that the 31-year-old, 2004 Conn Smythe Trophy winner is seeking an eight-year contract in the range of $50M to $55M, a number that could escalate in a triangular bidding war between revenue powerhouses in Manhattan, Philadelphia and Toronto.
At those kind of figures the Rangers should run away from the discussions as fast as possible.  More from Brooks…
It's unknown just how far the Rangers, who have a disastrous track record relating to long-term, pricey free-agent signings, will extend themselves to get Richards. It is known, however, that Tortorella is aggressively pushing for the addition of the only potential difference-maker on the open market, one with whom he has a marvelous relationship.
While Brooks is reporting that it is unknown how far the Rangers will go to get Richards, Jesse Spector of the New York Daily News is reporting that the Rangers are all in with Richards and have no plan B.
Sources have told the Daily News that the Rangers plan to go all-out to get their man, who had 28 goals and 49 assists for the Dallas Stars in the final season of a five-year, $39 million contract. Nobody seems to know what Plan B is for the Rangers, and one source indicated that the reason is that they are so confident they will land Richards, they don't need a fall-back option.
There is little to no way to read that reporting with taking it as the Rangers are willing to meet his demands and will overpay him.  There has been a lot of talk about how Richards does or does not compare to the signings of Scott Gomez and Chris Drury.  Richards is a superior offensive player to either one of those and should not have the precipitous drop they had because he is a more qualified elite player at this stage.  Where he will compare however is 3-4 years down the line when his play does tail off, even if not as far, and he is still being paid for his elite past for potentially another four seasons.

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.