Monday, August 24, 2009

2009-2010 New York Rangers Season Preview and Predictions

In an offseason that has seen the likes of Scott Gomez, Paul Mara, Nikolai Zherdev, Markus Naslund, Nik Antropov, Colton Orr, and Blair Betts leave, it has become obvious that this is now John Tortorella’s team. After being hired after the release of Tom Renney, Tortorella has implemented a new, up tempo system of play into an otherwise defensive minded squad. However, given the personnel Torts had to work with, he could not maximize the full benefits that his system of play can yield, and therefore resulted in a lackluster showing in the second half of the first round playoff series against Washington. Entering his first full season as Rangers head coach, Tortorella has promised better results with a revamped squad of players.

One of the main problems the team had last season, as many Rangers fans know, was a lack of scorers. Glen Sather fixed that, but not without making a few moves first. The first casualty of the Tortorella Era was Scott Gomez, when on June 30, 2009, it was announced that he was shipped to Montreal for Chris Higgins and Ryan McDonagh. Although Higgins had an injury riddled year, he is very happy to be in New York and is determined more than ever to take his play to the next level.

Just one day later, with Gomez’s $7.3 million dollar cap hit off the books, the New York Rangers signed superstar winger Marian Gaborik to a 5 year contract worth $7.5 million dollars with a NTC. Although Gaborik has a history of nagging injuries, his ability to get behind the defense and finish his opportunities should help the Rangers’ scoring woes in a big way. His wrist shot and lightning fast release should also yield a high number of power play goals, which would surely help a Rangers power play that was ranked 29th in the NHL last season.
In addition to the big-ticket signing of Gaborik, Donald Brashear, Brian Boyle, Ales Kotalik, Enver Lisin, and most recently, Vaclav Prospal, have been added to the team via free agency and trades. With the exception of Brashear that was signed as an enforcer to replace Colton Orr, all of these players should help jump-start the offense and provide a strong supporting cast around the core of Drury, Dubinsky, Higgins, Avery, Gaborik, and Callahan.

I will get to more detailed predictions on the offense later, but now, I would like to discuss the state of the Rangers’ defense for the coming season. After being signed to a ludicrous 6 year, $6.5 million/year contract, Wade Redden has quickly become a scapegoat for the Rangers’ fanbase for his untimely turnovers and apparent nonchalant attitude. Once Tortorella took over for Renney, Redden seemed to turn it around, playing a solid second half of the season. Returning to the Rangers defense are Rozsival, Staal, and Girardi.

The next two spots, however, are open for the team’s defensive prospects for the taking. With the departures of Paul Mara and Derek Morris to other teams via free agency, how these two spots are going to be filled is anyone’s guess. Hobey Baker award winner Matt Gilroy, Michael Del Zotto, Bobby Sanguinetti, Finnish import Illkka Heikkenen, Michael Sauer, and Corey Potter will all make strong cases in training camp to be inserted into the Rangers’ defensive corps. There have been rumors that the Rangers are attempting to sign either of Francis Boullion or Dennis Seidenberg to fill one of the slots in order to not rush a young defenseman into the NHL. Although finding a veteran to play on the bottom pairing makes sense, both players are seeking multi- year deals, something the Rangers should not give out to an aging defenseman with a lot of defensive prospects knocking on the NHL’s door in the near future.

This officially concludes the journalistic part of the article, and instead, this begins the part of the article that I will write my personal predictions for this upcoming season. Let’s start with the roster on opening night. I expect the lines to look something like this:

Prospal-Dubinsky- Gaborik



I’m not expecting many surprises in training camp outside of these line combinations in terms of personnel, other than a couple of players being juggled between lines here and there. Although the skills of Boyle and Lisin are more suited for the top 9, their place on the depth chart sets them on the 4th line to start out, although I would not be surprised to see one or both promoted to the 3rd or even 2nd line during the course of the season. The burning question, however, is who moves down to the 4th line when a player earns a promotion.

The biggest surprise to some reading this may be the inclusion of Gilroy in the Rangers’ defensive corps. Some may say that the gap between the NCAA and NHL is vast, and that it would be difficult for him to adjust to the rigors of an 82 game schedule. In my opinion, however, I don’t see Gilroy having those problems. Simply put, players like him do not grow on trees. His poise with the puck, passing abilities, speed, agility, and sound defensive play should allow him to adjust to the NHL quite easily, as I believe these particular skills are vital to be a successful player in the NHL. Although I think THN’s prediction of him scoring 45 points in his first season in the NHL are very generous, to put it lightly, I think he’ll do just fine for himself in his rookie season.

With the full implementation of Tortorella’s up tempo system, look for Ryan Callahan, Chris Higgins, and Marian Gaborik (if he stays healthy) to have excellent seasons. Look out also for Brandon Dubinsky to continue to follow the Mike Richards curve of development. Centering Gaborik is part of the recipe that will allow Brandon to have a break-out season. Kotalik will bring Drury’s offensive game back from dormancy, and will add a few goals of his own blasting howitzers from the left circle on the power play.

On the defensive side of things, look for Wade Redden to play himself out of scapegoat status. Redden has reportedly been undergoing a rigorous training program in the offseason to prepare for this coming season. As one of the premier puck moving defensemen in the league pre-lockout, a physically fit Redden can be a force to be reckoned with this coming season. Staal will continue to improve, especially on the offensive side of the puck. Look, however, for Girardi to disappoint this season, as he seems to go through a stretch when he slumps for games at a time at least once during the season. It is only a matter of time before the Garden Faithful start to get on his case.

As for goaltending, we all know what we’re getting. However, look for Valiquette to get more starts this season with Lundqvist playing for Team Sweden during the Olympics and the fatigue that is sure to result from it.

I will end this article with some point predictions for each player this upcoming season, along with a prediction for how the team will fare this upcoming season.

With a solid offensive supporting cast around Gaborik under Tortorella, this new Rangers team will no longer struggle to score goals. In turn, however, expect the Rangers to give up a few more goals this season, and for Lundqvist’s GAA stat to increase slightly. The success of the defense will be hinged on whether or not Marc Staal establishes himself as a premier shut down defenseman in the NHL, along with steady play from Rozsival and Redden. Like previous seasons, the success of the team will be based on how their star players perform. If both Gaborik and Lundqvist meet expectations, the Rangers will finish 2nd in the division and 4th in the East. If one of these players gets hurt and misses a significant chunk of time, expect the Rangers to be a bubble playoff team. If both get hurt, well, I don’t even want to think about it. My prediction? Gaborik plays, 72 games, Lundqvist plays 65, and the Rangers finish 3rd in the Atlantic.

Joe’s Prediction: 6th in the East (47-30-5)

Now, as promised, I will end the article with my point predictions for each player for this upcoming season.

Anisimov: G: 9 A: 22 P: 33
Avery: G: 12 A: 26 P: 38
Brashear: G: 3 A: 2 P: 5
Boyle: G: 14 A: 12 P: 26
Callahan: G: 25 A: 23 P: 48
Drury: G: 31 A: 33 P: 64
Dubinsky: G: 17 A: 42 P: 59
Gaborik: G: 47 A: 44 P: 91
Gilroy: G: 6 A: 19 P: 25
Girardi: G: 8 A: 16 P: 24
Higgins: G: 28 A: 24 P: 52
Kotalik: G: 21 A: 22 P: 43
Lisin: G: 11 A: 13 P: 24
Potter: G: 2 A: 11 P: 13
Prospal: G: 18 A: 40 P: 58
Redden: G: 9 A: 38 P: 47
Rozsival: G: 11 A: 22 P: 33
Staal: G: 5 A: 21 P: 26

Lundqvist: GP: 65 GAA: 2.46 SV %: .921 W: 39
Valiquette: GP: 17 GAA: 2.65 SV %: .909 W: 8

Friday, June 19, 2009

2009 NHL Mock Draft

Welcome everybody, and thank you for reading. The 2009 NHL Draft is promising to be one that is very deep in top end talent that will extend to roughly the top eight picks. After that, the talent level drops off a bit, and that level of talent lasts until about pick number twenty two. After that, however, there is not that huge of a drop off in talent until the end of the second round. Teams such as the Toronto Maple Leafs and New York Islanders that have multiple picks in the first three rounds are going to come away with a lot of high level talent. Compared to last year, I do not see as many trades involving first round picks. However, that does not mean that they will not happen. Expect the normal one or two spots trade ups/trade downs, with maybe one or two teams trading a few spots up from their original slot. Given the talent available in the top 10 picks, the teams possessing those picks will probably not want to part with them unless they are offered a deal that the GM simply can’t refuse. With only a week away until the draft, I hope you are as anxious as I am for what should be another exciting and interesting draft. Enjoy guys!

1. New York Islanders- John Tavares (C)

There has been a lot of controversy and hype about the top two prospects in the draft. Tavares has been touted as one of the top prospects for his age group since he entered the OHL as a 15 year old. However, Swedish phenom Victor Hedman, the towering 6’6” defenseman has also made a decent claim to be selected first overall. My opinion? The Islanders cannot afford to not take Tavares. Although I am personally a believer in building a successful team from the goal out, the organization needs a face for the franchise that will put people in the seats. Tavares can do just that. Although Tavares’ skating and agility have been criticized, his great hockey sense, superb stickhandling, and lethal shot do more than make up for his shortcomings. The bust factor exists, but I believe Tavares has what it takes to be a great player in this league.

Comparable: Mike Bossy

2. Tampa Bay Lightning- Victor Hedman (D)

This one is a no brainer. The guy can skate like Bouwmeester, has the on-ice presence of Pronger, and oh yeah, he can play some defense too. Victor Hedman, at 18 years old, is 6’6” and 220 pounds; I’m scared to think about what kind of player he will be 10, or even 5 years from now. The only knock on Hedman is that he can stand to use his body to his benefit more. His defensive awareness is top notch, and his skating and agility are tailor-made for the modern NHL. If he comes over from Sweden to play in the NHL next season, Hedman will instantly become the second best defenseman on the team, and could perhaps finish the season as the best when all is said and done. Not bad for an 18 year old defenseman.

Comparable: Chris Pronger

3. Colorado Avalanche- Matt Duchene (C)

Brampton Battalion forward Matt Duchene has seen his stock rise substantially in the past year. He is perhaps the best all around player in this draft. He really can do it all; skate, stickhandle, shoot, and play defense. Duchene may need to fill out a bit more from his 5’11” 185 pound frame, but I feel his explosiveness more than makes up for his lanky body. He is my personal pick to become one of the best players picked in this draft, and I believe that the Avalanche organization and their fans should be ecstatic to have him.

Comparable: Marian Gaborik

4. Atlanta Thrashers- Evander Kane (C/LW)

GM Don Waddell has publicly stated that Atlanta will pick either Duchene, Kane, or Schenn with their 4th overall pick. With Duchene likely off the board, Kane seems like the best option. After a rather average rookie season in the WHL as a member of the Vancouver Giants, Evander Kane saw his draft stock skyrocket as he nearly doubled his point total between the 2007-2008 and 2008-2009 seasons, scoring 96 points. Although Kane is listed as a center, I feel he has more potential as a franchise winger than a center due to his size. This pick would surely appease Ilya Kovalchuk, whom is set to become an unrestricted free agent after next season. His speed and stickhandling are his greatest assets, but out of all of the potential 1st round picks, I feel Kane has the largest bust factor of them all. It still remains to be seen if whether or not his type of play will translate well enough to the NHL. If it does, watch out.

Comparable: Eric Staal

5. Los Angeles Kings- Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson

Things can get interesting if the rumored deal sending Chris Pronger to LA is finalized in time for the draft. The preliminary reports are suggesting that LA would send Jack Johnson and the 5th overall to Anaheim in exchange for Pronger. If Anaheim indeed gets the 5th overall, I see them taking a defenseman. If LA holds onto the pick, however, I expect the pick to be Paajarvi. After the 2008 draft that saw LA take Doughty, Teubert, and Voinov, I don’t expect to see LA needing any big time defensive prospects any time soon. MPS has great speed, a good shot, and a hard, gritty style of play that makes him a very tempting prospect. Drawing comparisons to Markus Naslund and even the great Peter Forsberg, MPS has the potential to become the best forward to come out of Sweden since Henrik Zetterberg.

Comparable: Markus Naslund

6. Phoenix Coyotes- Jared Cowen (D)

Let’s face it Phoenix fans, the Coyotes are stacked with offensive prospects. With that said, the defensive prospect cupboard is very dusty and in need of some polish. Despite a devastating knee injury this past season, Cowen has a lot of tools to be a great defenseman. At 6’5”, he has a big frame, skates fluidly, and plays a sound positional game. In part to his knee injury, he is perhaps the riskiest pick so far in the draft. A couple of teams that have already picked may be kicking themselves for not picking this guy if he can come back strong.

Comparable: Ed Jovanovski

7. Toronto Maple Leafs- Brayden Schenn (RW)

Toronto would have already traded up to grab this guy, but I see very few assets that they could use to move up other than draft picks that they would be wise to keep. However, Burke may get his guy at 7 if he is patient. A hard working, two-way forward, Burke would love the opportunity to unite the Schenn brothers and have them play on the same team. It is obvious that a smart, gritty game runs in the family. Brayden has the same grit and intensity as his brother Luke, except he brings it on the forecheck rather than the defensive zone. I have heard comparisons to Jarome Iginla in reference to Schenn; if he can translate his scoring prowess to the NHL, those comparisons may not be too far off.

Comparable: Jarome Iginla

8. Dallas Stars- Dimitri Kulikov (D)

Recently, there have been trade winds regarding this pick, but I don’t see Dallas moving this pick. With Sergei Zubov poised for retirement, Dallas will go ahead and a defenseman that certainly has the potential to be a player like Zubov. Kulikov’s Drummondville coach in the QMJHL has stated that Dimitri is one of the best all around players he has ever coached. This is very high praise from a coach that has coached Sidney Crosby, among others. Kulikov is the prototypical puck moving defenseman that sees the game well and can make that breakout pass out of the zone very accurately. While Kulikov may not have the “superstar” flair associated with him, he certainly has the tools to be a very good player in this league for years to come.

Comparable: Sergei Zubov

9. Ottawa Senators- Nazem Kadri (C)

In my web surfing, I have encountered many opinions from hockey fans on message boards and mock drafts stating that the Senators will take Oliver Ekman-Larsson or another defenseman with their 1st round pick. I say WHY? Erik Karlsson was picked 15th overall last year and is a very good offensive defenseman prospect. Outside of the top line of Spezza, Alfredsson, and with the rumors of Heatley being shipped out of town as per his request to be traded, Ottawa lacks offensive prospects that can one day play on the top line. Although Kadri is a man’s hockey player in a boy’s body, he will grow into his skill set eventually. Playing for the London Knights, Kadri’s passing and speed are top notch, and was often a catalyst for the team’s offense before John Tavares was traded there mid-season. Similar to Kane, Kadri also possesses the bust factor, but I see him to be a very effective 2nd line center one day in the mold of Scott Gomez.

Comparable: Marc Savard

10. Edmonton Oilers- Zach Kassian (C/RW)

This is the point in the draft when I will say things will start to get very interesting. The Oilers have a very steady and rather crowded prospect cupboard in all positions. One thing that they lack, however, is a bonafide power forward prospect. Although some may consider this pick to be a little off the board, Kassian fills a void in the Oiler’s organization that has been absent since Ryan Smyth got traded. The only knock against Kassian is that he goes for the big hit more than he should, bringing himself out of position on the transition. If he pans out, he could be a very scary player to play against.

Comparable: Todd Bertuzzi (pre-incident)

11. Nashville Predators- Jordan Schroeder (RW)

This speedy and shifty player would ordinarily be a top 5 draft pick in the average draft, but I feel his 5’8” frame is scaring some GM’s away from taking him sooner. He is very smooth, skilled, and quick with the puck on his stick, and he has a high hockey IQ that allows him to know where to be in the defensive zone and away from the puck. More of a playmaker than a sniper, Schroeder would be a very nice addition to a Predators organization in need of offensive prospects. The million dollar question is how much longer Schroeder stays a Golden Gopher or if he decides to jump ship from the NCAA to the NHL. My bet is that he’ll play one more year in the NCAA, so I believe he’ll be with the NHL club sooner rather than later.

Comparable: Martin St. Louis

12. Minnesota Wild- Jacob Josefson (C)

Having played in the Swedish Elite League this past season, Josefson has an advantage in the sense that he has played against grown men in perhaps the second most competitive league in the world. Josefson had an average WJC tournament, but don’t let that fool you. Notching 16 points in his rookie campaign in the SEL, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a breakout campaign from him in the SEL as soon as next season. Although Josefson is listed as a center, he will likely make the NHL as a winger that will complement young centers Koivu and Sheppard quite nicely.

Comparable: Michael Nylander

13. Buffalo Sabres- John Moore (D)

Another fast riser in the draft, John Moore’s skating has many scouts drooling over this puck moving defenseman. Labeled by some scouts as the best pure skater in the draft, Buffalo continues to build from the goal out after taking Tyler Myers last year in the draft. Drawing comparisons to Scott Niedermayer for his seemingly effortless skating stride, Moore has a lot of promise if paired with a stay at home type of defenseman that will allow him to explore his untapped offensive potential. Whatever team drafts this young defenseman will have drafted a potential gem.

Comparable: Duncan Keith

14. Florida Panthers- Scott Glennie (C)

Although Florida is rather thin on defensive prospects, I expect Florida to go the BPA (best player available) route. Glennie’s speed, shot, and slickness with the puck, along with a 6’1” frame make him a very attractive top 15 pick, despite suffering from a broken arm that forced him to miss the last half of this past season with the Brandon Wheat Kings. Although Glennie was often overshadowed by teammate Brayden Schenn, he is a very good player in his own right. Don’t be surprised to see Glennie fall a few spots due to the aforementioned injury that he sustained this past season.

Comparable: Milan Hejduk

15. Anaheim Ducks- Oliver Ekman Larsson (D)

With an aging defensive group, Anaheim is surprised to see Larsson still on the board and takes him without much hesitation. Once considered to be the best defensive prospect in the draft behind Hedman around the mid-season rankings, the hype machine for OEL seems to have lost some of its steam in recent weeks. However, it does not take away from the fact that OEL is a good, mobile defenseman that is sound positionally and calm with the puck on his stick. His quick stick and awareness in the defensive zone make him especially exceptional at taking away the passing lanes for opposing forwards. This guy is a few years away from the NHL, but if he is not rushed and allowed to develop at his own pace, he may pan out very nicely. However, he is also not a sure fire hit to make the NHL; the bust factor is once again rearing its ugly head for this prospect, not for his talent level (I expect him to be a serviceable NHL’er at least), but for the fact that some scouts and GM’s are praising him to be a defenseman in the mold of Lidstrom, not exactly a small pair of shoes to fill.

Comparable: Nick Lidstrom if everything goes right, Marc-Andre Bergeron if not

16. Columbus Blue Jackets- Ryan Ellis (D)

I have thought year after year that Columbus was going to take a defenseman in the first round in the draft, and for two years in a row, I have been wrong. However, I think this is finally the year that they do it. Although Ellis is a supremely talented player with the puck on his stick in the offensive zone, his 5’10” lanky frame and positioning in the defensive zone have raised a few questions about if he will be able to use these skills in the NHL of get pushed around. Ellis is definitely a Brian Rafalski type of puck moving defenseman that is excellent in the offensive end, but he will have to bulk up and improve his defensive play if he wants to cut it in the NHL as more than a power play specialist.

Comparable: Brian Rafalski

17. St. Louis Blues- Carter Ashton (LW)

Although Ashton is a good all around player, there is no single defining characteristic in his game that separates himself from the other prospects other than his big 6’3” frame. He seems to have a good nose for the net; it’s just a matter of getting there. To no surprise due to his size, he isn’t exactly the best skater in the draft. St. Louis has a handful of excellent prospects either waiting in the wings or that have made their debuts with the club this season, so they can afford to let a prospect like Ashton develop and take the “wait and see” approach.

Comparable: Dustin Penner

18. Montreal Canadiens- Louis LeBlanc (C)

The 2009 NHL Draft is taking place in Montreal. After the rollercoaster ride that the centennial season was for the Canadiens franchise, the pressure will be on Bob Gainey to make a good pick for the benefit for the franchise. Recent drafting history has shown that Montreal has been partial towards players heading for the NCAA and those that have French Canadian blood lines. Look no further than Louis LeBlanc. This Harvard bound player that scored at a point-per game pace in the USHL has good wheels, good hockey sense, and plays very hard. No other characteristics of his game, similar to Ashton, particularly stand out to me. With that said, his ceiling is limited, but he is a safe pick to make the NHL in at least a checking line role.

Comparable: Michael Handzus

19. New York Rangers- Chris Kreider(C)

This Rangers fan initially had Peter Holland going to the Rangers in the 19 spot, but I reconsidered after reading that although Holland is a bright kid, he did not interview very well at the combine. In recent years, the Rangers have drafted players with good character that have fallen in the rankings to their draft slot. Kreider, on the other hand, interviewed very well, and seems like a very focused and leveled person. His 6’2”, 200 pound frame is a very nice feature, although a knock on him is that he could stand to use it to his advantage more. By all accounts, Kreider has an excellent shot, and according to one scout, if he were to enter the NHL today, Kreider, along with John Moore, would be among the best skaters in the league. However, since he has been playing with his high school prep team, he is untested against high level competition. Rumor has it that he is going to graduate high school a year early and head to BC in the fall. Since the Rangers scouts have reportedly gone to watch Kreider over six times, I have a suspicion that he will be the pick if he is still on the board at 19. The Rangers have done a good job for the most part drafting guys out of BC, one comes to mind; his name was Brian something…

Comparable: A bigger Paul Kariya

20. Calgary Flames- Peter Holland (C)

Calgary goes BPA here. With no real outstanding farm needs, Calgary takes the 6’2” quick center that is very slick with the puck on his stick. A very intelligent and calculated person and player, Holland can set up plays and also finish them. One knock on him is that he sometimes does not go into the high traffic areas as much as he should with the frame that he has. Holland also possesses some pretty dangles, but consistency is also an issue with this pick. This pick can pay out big time; he can be the Jeff Carter of this draft, but Holland can just as easily fizzle out. My prediction? He’s too smart of a player not to become at least a good 3rd line center.

Comparable: Poor man’s Jason Spezza

21. Philadelphia Flyers- David Rundblad (D)

The Flyers most pressing need right now is defense. After drafting Sbisa in the draft last season, the Flyers keep up with the trend of drafting quick, puck moving defenseman. Right now, puck moving defensemen are a hot commodity in the NHL. Being well equipped on the back end with quick moving players with a good outlet pass will be essential for future success. Rundblad is just that. He has the upside to be a team’s power play quarterback at the point, but how he plays in the defensive zone will determine how he pans out as a prospect.

Comparable: Francois Beauchemin

22. Vancouver Canucks- Landon Ferraro (C/RW)

The Canucks take son of former NHL star Ray Ferraro and hope that he can one day be as good as his father. Ferraro has a great shot, and although he is a relative lightweight at 6 feet and 177 pounds, he is very gritty and willing to stick up for his teammates. His skating is above average, but his upside at the NHL level is widely considered to be very limited. A project for sure.

Comparable: Ryan Callahan

23. New Jersey Devils- Calvin de Haan (D)

The Devils need a defenseman. One of the most pressing needs for the franchise has been a good offensive defenseman ever since Scott Niedermayer and Brian Rafalski left via free agency. In order to try and fill this void, the Devils take de Haan, a mobile offensive defenseman that has potential to the level that one scout described as “limitless”. Many things need to be worked out, such as his positioning in the defensive zone, and competitiveness. This guy can turn out to be a good one in the end. With that said, I would not be surprised to see a team picking in the teens take a flyer on him. When thinking of a potential ceiling for this guy, think Andrei Markov. If the Devils go with a forward, expect Kyle Palmieri to be the pick.

Comparable: Andrei Markov if everything goes right

24. Washington Capitals- Tim Erixon (D)
Considered to be the best defenseman for Team Sweden at the U18 WJC’s this past winter, Tim Erixon has both the bloodlines and talent of a 1st round pick. Son of former Rangers forward Jan Erixon, this very mobile and agile defenseman is a very good player in his own zone with unseen offensive potential. Washington always seems to find great value when drafting late in the first round, and I believe Erixon would be another solid pick that will continue this streak of good drafting.

Comparable: Mathias Ohlund

25. Boston Bruins- Stefan Elliot (D)

With a glut of offensive prospects in the system, Boston shores up their defensive cupboard with this pick. Another offensive defenseman similar to Calvin de Haan in playing style, Elliot is a very mobile offensive defenseman that has a great shot from the point that has the tendency to end up in the back of the net. His steady play in the defensive zone makes him a good value pick, but I feel that Elliot does not have the same upside that de Haan does.

Comparable: Kim Johnsson

26. New York Islanders- Zach Budish (C)

After drafting the face for the franchise in Tavares earlier in the draft, the Islanders can afford to take a risk with their second first round pick in the draft acquired from Ottawa in the Comrie/Campoli trade. You want to talk about a risk? Zach Budish fits the bill. The hulking 6’3” 220 pound forward has been widely touted as a top 15 pick in the draft if not for a football sustained injury that forced him out of action this past season. Budish is your prototypical power forward prospect. He is strong on the puck, uses and takes the body very well, and has a nice shot to go along with it. With a guy his size, skating is always a question, and it most definitely will be given he is coming off a serious injury.

Comparable: Corey Perry if he recovers from injury

27. Carolina Hurricanes- Dylan Olsen (D)

This mobile, puck moving defenseman is a good addition to the Carolina Hurricanes organization in need of defensive prospects. Olsen fits the bill of the typical Hurricanes defenseman that is able to play an up-tempo, quick, and “in your face” type of game. A player like Olsen that is fast and strong on his skates is sure to thrive on a team like Carolina if he develops according to plan.

Comparable: Tom Gilbert

28. Chicago Blackhawks- Drew Shore (RW)

Out of all of the US Under-18 prospects, Shore is probably the safest. Shore has a great all around skill set, though he is not spectacular in one specific category. This is sure to guarantee him success at the next level, though with that said, his upside is very limited, and is more likely to be used in a checking line or 4th line role based on the current developmental path that he is on.

Comparable: Mike Peca

29. Detroit Red Wings- Kyle Palmieri (RW)

After a good combine, Palmieri has seen his draft stock rise. A lot of character issues have been asked since Palmieri was allegedly kicked off of the US Developmental Team for off-ice activities, but his talent is something too good for Detroit to pass up. He works hard, has great offensive instincts, and plays well in the defensive zone. Sounds like a prototypical Detroit Red Wing to me.

Comparable: Dustin Brown

30. Pittsburgh Penguins- Jeremy Morin (LW)

During the past couple seasons, we have seen a revolving door of wingers being signed and used to play on the Penguins to play with Crosby and Malkin. I believe the Penguins are going to draft the first winger mainstay the team has had in a while. Morin has a deadly shot that he likes to use from almost anywhere in the offensive zone, and although questions of character and work ethic have been raised, he is too talented to not be picked by Pittsburgh at this spot. As a Rangers fan, it’s going to make me cringe seeing Crosby feed pucks to Morin and having him bury them in the back of the net.

Comparable: Poor man’s Thomas Vanek

After looking at least year’s mock draft, I almost got none of my 2nd round picks right, so I decided to forego the specific team picks for the 2nd round for this year. Instead, here is a list of players to look out for in the 2nd round, in no particular order:

Robin Lehner
Richard Panik
Toni Rajala
Tomas Tatar
Richard Panik
Olivier Roy
Ryan O’Reilly
Chris Brown
Jordan Caron
Nick Leddy
Ethan Werek
Ben Hanowski
Carl Klingberg
Erik Haula
Ryan Button
Matt Clark
Matthew Hackett
Edward Pasquale
Joonas Nattinen
Dmitri Orlov
Marcus Johansson
Simon Bertilsson
Anton Burdasov
Anton Rodin
Phillipe Paradis
Cody Eakin
Tomas Vincour
Brayden McNabb
Michael Lee
Alex Chiasson

Sleeper Specials

Andrei Kuchin (4th-5th round)
Alexander Fallstrom (3rd-5th round)
Jaroslav Janus (3rd-4th round)
Philip Samuelsson (3rd round)
Cassidy Mappin (4th round)
Tommi Kivisto (4th-5th round)
Henrik Bjorkland (3rd round)
Nikita Dvurechensky (4th round)
Eddie Larsson (3rd-5th round)

If you read all of this, congrats! Thanks for reading!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

2009 NHL Draft Power Rankings

Hello everyone, finals are over and I'm home for the summer, and that means a very long four months until preseason starts. Until then, there is the NHL draft that takes place in June, and this one is looking to be full of high end talent that will make an immediate impact on the teams that these particular players are drafted to. Since the playoffs are still going on, the draft order is not yet set. For now, enjoy my top 30 player power rankings for the 2009 NHL Draft.

Note: This is not a mock draft. This is just my personal assessment on where each prospect stands in relation to the others factoring in talent level, potential, and competition.

Power Rankings: 5/10/09

1. Hedman
2. Tavares
3. Duchene
4. Paajarvi-Svensson
5. Schenn
6. Kane
7. Schroeder
8. Kulikov
9. Cowen
10. Kadri
11. Moore
12. Ekman-Larssson
13. Glennie
14. Josefson
15. Ellis
16. Ashton
17. Holland
18. Kassian
19. Despres
20. Ferraro
21. Leblanc
22. Rundblad
23. Palmieri
24. Morin
25. Kreider
26. Elliot
27. Budish
28. Shore
29. Klingberg
30. De Haan

Be sure to keep an eye out for my mock draft that will be posted within the next couple weeks or so.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

How to Fix the New York Rangers: A Realistic Approach

Hey everyone, I haven't written on here in a while since I've been back in school and busy doing my work and going to the hospital for clincals. Although I did not watch the massacre of the Rangers last night courtesy of the Dallas Stars, it has been obvious to me for a while that this team has major problems that need to be addressed. However, you can say that the Rangers need a scoring winger more than anything, but thanks to our good 'ol buddy Glen Sather signing Gomez, Drury, Redden, and Rozsival to lucrative, long term deals, the Rangers front office is facing the challenge of having no cap room to work with mostly in part to giving the above players over-inflated contracts.

Upon reading HFBoards when I turned in for the evening early this morning, everyone makes mention that changes need to be made, but no one offers a concrete solution to the Rangers' cap woes. Without further delay, I contructed a long, thought out proposition of how to fix this mess and, believe it or not, remain competitive for a playoff spot. Enjoy, and be sure to leave a word or two of your thoughts on the subject.

Current Cap Hit: 55.3 million
Cap Space: 600 K

Players that are safe:

Players That Will Go Via Trade/Free Agency:
Naslund (2010 deadline)

Gomez to MTL for Higgins, Plekanec, 3rd 2010 (2009 offseason)

Redden to DAL for Daley, rights to Avery) (-2.3 million)

Voros to anywhere for a bag of pucks (Seriously, a 3rd or 4th rounder, -1 million)

Prucha to LA for 3rd 2009 (-1.6 million)

Dawes to NSH for Cody Franson

After 2008-2009 Trades:
Cap Hit: 50.5 million
Cap Space: 5.7 million

Betts let go during free agency (-615K)
Kalinin let go via free agency (-2.1 million)
Zherdev re-signed: 4 years, 16 million (+4 million)
Korpikoski resigned: 1 year, 800K (arbitration, -300K)
Sjostrom not tendered an offer (-840K)
Dubinsky re-signed: 3 years, 4.5 million (+867K)
Callahan re-signed: 2 years, 2 million (+425 K)
Orr re-signed: 1 year, 650 K (+100K)
Mara re-signed: 3 years, 7 million (+433K)

After Signings:
Cap Hit: 54.5 million

Fallout of Gomez trade:
Gomez traded (-7.3 million)
Higgins re-signed: 3 years, 10 million (+3.33 million)
Plekanec re-signed: 2 years, 7.5 million (+3.75 million)

Cap Hit: 54.2 million
Anticipated cap rise to 58 million
Cap Space: 3.8 million

2009-2010 Opening Night Roster:



NOTE: Don’t forget, Grachev, Kveton (?), Byers, Del Zotto, Sauer, Stepan are all waiting in the wings; all will most likely be NHL ready within 3 years

Saturday, January 3, 2009

A Ranger Fan's Plea

Hey all, I haven't written on here in a while, but I figured that I'd sound off on the whole "Fire Renney" sentiment that many Ranger fans seem to be sharing lately.

Being 25th in the league on the power play, amounting to 25 PP goals scored, and 12, YES TWELVE, shorthanded goals against so far this season. That's almost a 2:1 ratio of PP goals scored and SH goals against. This is unacceptable.

This team needs a shakeup. The parts needed to land a prime time scorer are those that most that are reading this and a semi-competent GM would not want to part with and because of this should be kept in order to stay away from depleting the pool of NHL prospects that the team has at the present time. This is why I think that a trade is not the answer at this point and time, also taking into account the four albatrosses that are Drury, Gomez, Redden, and Rozsival.

What's the next best thing for a shakeup of the team? Some heads need to start rolling. I don't have to tell any of you reading this that what the team is doing now, most specifically in the power play and overall utilization of players on the team, is not working. If a coach's system of play and utilization of his players is not working, a change needs to be made. I have not, and never will doubt Renney's credibility as a coach, I just simply think that he is the wrong guy to be at the helm with the team the way it is. I would love to keep Renney in the organization as long as he is in scouting or in a front office job. However, his methods behind the bench simply have not been working with this group of players.

My opinion, in short, is very simple. Fire Pearn, and "remove" Renney from the head coaching position.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Rangers Look To Turn It Around Against the Lightning Tonight

After two less than stellar performances this past Saturday and Tuesday night against the Leafs and Islanders, respectively, the Garden faithful have already managed to find a new scapegoat to replace Marek Malik (who, by the way, makes his triumphant return to the Garden as a member of the Lightning tonight). It now appears that Michal Rozsival is the new target of the boo birds. Rozy has earned the jeers not only for his horrific play, namely in the most recent game Tuesday night against the Islanders, but also for the amount that he is being paid after signing a 4 year extension worth $20 million with the Rangers in the offseason. With the signing of Redden for six years at $39 million, signing both of these defensemen was not a smart move on Sather's part to begin with.

For the record, I did not like the signing in the offseason when it was first made public. With contract extensions due for Dubinsky and Zherdev this offseason and for Staal and Girardi next offseason, the Rangers are in for a very tricky financial future where the cap will most likely not increase substantially when the players I listed above are due for raises.

In regards to Rozsival's most recent play, I will be the first to defend him and say that while in the defensive zone, he makes the smart play and clears the puck out of the zone in a very swift manner. However, when it comes to the power play in the offensive zone, it is a complete different story. Rozy has a rocket of a shot, but instantly holds off on the shot and passes it off if a penalty killer on the opposing team even breathes into his shooting lane. Also, as evidenced by the most recent game, I would say that Rozsival is among the worst point men in the Eastern Conference in terms of puck control and positioning. I will go on record and say that he was directly responsible for both goals that the Islanders scored on Tuesday night. Giveaways at the blue line that lead to odd man rushes for the shorthanded team are inexcusable. These giveaways were caused most in part due to poor positioning, and could have easily been prevented.

This leads me to my next point. The power play for the Rangers has been abysmal. Guys such as Dubinsky and Voros that are comfortable crashing the net for rebounds and working in the corners become useless when anyone out on the ice refuses to shoot. Although it may be due to an elbow injury, Redden has all of a sudden stopped firing hard shots from the point. I described the situation with Rozsival above, and while Mara has intentions of shooting, his shots have not been hitting the net recently and have often led to the opposing team clearing the puck out of the zone. You may ask me why a guy like Voros has gone on a multiple game dry streak for points. This is mostly due to the fact that not many quality shots are getting to the opposing team's goalie where a guy like Voros, Callahan, or Dubinsky could knock in a rebound. Start shooting on the power play guys, you're almost making me miss the days of Jagr running the power play from the right half boards.

However, the ultimate problem that I feel has contributed to the team's poor play as of late is a complete 180 in terms of style of game played. This team went from a free wheeling, hard working, aggressive forechecking team in the first 5 games to reverting to the old trap system employed the past couple of years when the old guard of Jagr, Shanahan, Straka, and Nylander were still on the team. The days of being that type of team are older. I feel that the talents of guys like Redden, Drury, Gomez, and Zherdev are being wasted to an extent because of this relapse in team philosophy. The type of game that these players play will thrive more in a system of a quick North-South game that allows defensemen to join the fast breakout and rushes that a guy like Gomez is notorious for. Believe me, it is no coincidence that the Rangers were 5-0 during the stretch of time where they played this system.

Perhaps playing Tampa Bay again tonight will revive old memories of how the Rangers played this style of game earlier this season. We as a fanbase just need to have faith that our Blueshirts will turn things around before things start to get ugly.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Rissmiller Waived by the Rangers

As per, Rissmiller has been waived by the New York Rangers. All I have to say is that it's about damn time. His signing has been a head-scratcher from the start, as it took place right after Aaros Voros was signed to a 3 year deal by the Rangers. I'm not saying that he is a bad player, but the $1 million cap hit that he carries is a very tough pill to swallow given the Rangers' tight salary cap situation.

Best of luck Pat!