Michael Del Zotto Oshawa

Mixed Bag For Rangers In The Draft

If you expecting a memorable day for the Rangers at the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, then you’re no doubt disappointed. There were plenty of trades on day one of the draft, though the Rangers ultimately ended up staying in the 20th position to select blueliner Michael Del Zotto.

On day two, the Rangers made two trades, acquiring a second pick in the third round (90th overall) from Phoenix in exchange for Alex Bourret and reacquiring their fourth round pick (111th overall) from Nashville, after St Louis had traded it to the Predators for goaltender Chris Mason. The 111th overall pick was traded to St Louis for Christian Backman at the trade deadline last season, and ultimately cost the Rangers a 4th round pick next year, plus this year’s 7th round pick (201st overall).

Overall the Rangers picked up a group of prospects with a variety of questions. Del Zotto, Evgeni Gravchev (75th) and Kundratek (90th) all dropped further than they were expected to go, while second round pick Derek Stepan was universally ranked much lower in the various rating agencies than the Rangers 51st pick that they used to draft him.

Dale Weise (111th) was the only 19 year old chosen, and looks potentially to be a late bloomer, and Chris Doyle no doubt got noticed because he played with fellow Rangers prospect Antoine LaFleur on the P.E.I. Rocket. With their last pick (171st – 6th round) they took a flyer on Mitch Gaulton, a player who seems to have greater potential than your usual sixth rounder, but missed all but 20 games last year with an elbow injury.

Overall there were no homeruns in this year’s draft, but once again the Rangers did balance a few risky picks, with what they consider to be value picks. It’ll be at least two years before we have a better idea of how this draft turned out, not altogether surprising considering their draft position.

Michael Del Zotto – Defense (Oshawa Generals)
Height: 6-0
Weight: 211
Shot: Left
Born: January 24th, 1990
2007-08: 64 games 16-47-63 82 PIM

It’s the third time in four years that the Rangers have drafted an OHL defenseman who saw his stock drop in his draft year/draft day. Del Zotto was initially projected to be a top 5-10 pick, but only managed a six point improvement over his rookie season despite playing once again with 2009 wunderkind John Tavares. On draft day, he was projected to go anywhere from 15-32 and perhaps was considered a modest bargain at the 20th spot.

At 6 foot, 211 pounds he has the size to play in the NHL, he has more size than the Rangers’ 2006 first rounder Bobby Sanguinetti. Sanguinetti had 70 points in the OHL last year , but Del Zotto was not far behind, finishing with 63 albeit in three more appearances.

A forward earlier in his hockey career, Del Zotto clearly has offensive instinct and is not shy about jumping into the play (5 of his 16 goals this year were shorthanded), but his decisions can often cause him to be caught out of position. Likewise he has been known to take himself out of the play to hit an opponent, though that type of thing can generally be corrected with some coaching.

Some have also questioned his maturity, going so far to say that he didn’t handle his falling stock well. At a relatively young 17, Del Zotto still has plenty of time to stick it to the teams who passed him up, and the Rangers will have plenty of opportunity to try and polish their prospect and hopefully find a diamond in the rough.

Scouting Reports
in order to fully develop at the pro level, he must improve his defensive-zone coverage – Forecaster

Highly skilled, offensive blueliner is tied for the league lead in shorthanded markers with five, highlighting the propensity to not just jump into the rush, but lead, regardless of the on-ice situation…rushes like a forward, following tight in lanes instead of supporting, or jumping in as the late man, which is a blessing and detriment, as his defensive game…a first round selection based on offensive skills, but may not turn into a complete enough player to display them at higher levels .. risky pick at that middle spot in the first round, and more suited for an early second round selection – McKeens Hockey

No one questions whether there’s a high end to this defenceman’s game, but Del Zotto has yet to put it all together to the satisfaction of the scouts who have been left wanting more. That said, if he were taken higher than 15, it wouldn’t be a huge surprise, because he has great offensive potential. But it would not be a shock either if he slipped a little. Scouts believe there’s an immaturity to his game, that he’s been negatively affected by the (rightful) perception that his stock has dipped over the last two years. Back then, it was assumed Del Zotto would be in the same class as Doughty, Bogosian, Pietrangelo and Schenn but a gap has developed between them and him and the sense is he’s been bothered by that and is still working through it – TSN

More to follow later…

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