Bobby Sanguinetti

Risky Business

‘m not sure how others feel, but I always seem to get a flat feeling after sitting through the Rangers draft.  This year was no certainly no different, although for sure it appears that this year the Rangers went all out to try and find players who might have that top end talent that the system requires.

When you look at the seven picks the Rangers ended up making, there was definitely a theme.  Players who are a long way from becoming NHLers, who generally lacked in the strength or size department and who all had potentially above average offensive skills.  Time will tell whether the gambit pays off, but with the new rules and the need for more top end players, one could argue that it was worth a try.  One could also argue however that the Rangers might have been better served acquiring more picks, particularly in the first couple of rounds.

Prior to their selection, the Rangers reportedly had looked at moving up, but found the price to secure a top pick in the draft too expensive for serious consideration.

So with their first pick in hand they selected Bob Sanguinetti (6-1 180) at #21, a defenseman playing for the Owen Sound Attack of the OHL.  Ranked in the 15-20 range by most pre-draft rankings, the New Jersey native is a life-long Rangers fan and considers Brian Leetch his hero.  Many observers were surprised that Sanguinetti fell to #21, but the Rangers were happy to make the selection and add a potential top line offensive blueliner to their stable of prospects.  Maloney noted after the selection that Sanguinetti is likely 2-4 years away from serious NHL consideration and the scouting reports appear to support that assessment.  After electing to forego his original route through the NCAA, the 18 year old defenseman joined Owen Sound in the 2004-05 season and had a break out season last year with 51 assists in 68 games.  The biggest drawback appears to be his strength and lack of physical play, which will be hopefully be less of an issue as he matures and certainly less so if his offensive game continues to develop.  Also of note is that he plays right handed, something the Rangers have little of in their system on the blueline.

At #54, the Blueshirts made their second selection Artem Anisimov (6-3 187) of Yaroslavl in the Russian Super League.  The 6′ 3″ Russian had been ranked as high as the low 20s in some guides, and is considered a potential second line center by some scouts, but has a lot of work to do to get there.  Another relatively lightly built player, Anisimov has questions around his desire and consistency, which while not uncommon for many 18 year olds, was enough to drop him deep into the second round.  The Rangers challenge may now be to get him to North America to play either in the pros, or in Canadian Juniors…no word yet on what might happen there.

In the third round, they went back to the QMJHL and to Halifax, where they picked another project in Ryan Hillier (5-11 1/2 179).  The 18 year old forward who plays for his hometown Mooseheads, was the second slightly built forward who has shown promise at the offensive end of the ice.  While he doesn’t necessarily have the desire issues that were highlighted with Anisimov, Hillier has struggled with consistency and again will need at least 3-4 years to mature and add strength and body mass.

With their fourth pick, the Rangers perhaps made an unnecessary move to secure the rights for Czech forward David Kveton (5-11 180).  The Rangers traded their 4th and 5th round picks to the Kings, and moved up the ten spots they felt they needed to in order to secure the talented yet risky proposition.  One scout noted his seeming unwillingness to play against larger opponents, and it is this reason that Kveton dropped to the fourth round.  The hope with this pick is that Kveton’s might be another Prucha type player, though like the other Ranger selections to this point, it will likely be some time before we’ll know what they got from this pick.

Without a fifth round pick, New York made their second trade of the day, picking up Vancouver’s 5th round pick from Washington in exchange for next year’s fourth rounder.  Certainly another risk, but apparently it was done at the behest of Jan Gajdosik, the scout generally credited with the discovery of Petr Prucha.  Gajdosik’s enthusiam for Slovak native Tomas Zaborsky (5-11 180) was enough for the Rangers and they made him the 137th player selected in the draft.  Zaborsky appears to be another offensively talented, undersized forward who managed 44 goals in 46 games in the U-18 league in his native Slovakia back in 2004-05, and appeared in four games for Trencin of the Slovak Extraliga last year.

Players who re-enter the draft typically aren’t known for being successful in the league, but the Rangers decided to take a shot with their sixth round pick and re-drafted Eric Hunter (6-1 194) of the Prince George Cougars.  The 19 year old (20 in August) was drafted in 2004 by the Chicago Blackhawks in the 8th round, but was not tendered an offer.  Hunter had somewhat of a breakout season last year, with 40 goals and 72 points in 71 games for the Cougars, and represented Canada on their U-18 National side.

For their final selection, they went back to Slovakia and drafted undersized forward Lukas Zeliska (5-11 176).  Zeliska has played the last three seasons in the junior leagues of the Czech Republic, and appeared in a single game for Trinec of the Extraliga last year.  Zeliska also represented his homeland in the U-18 World Juniors this year and registered a goal and an assist in six games.

Overall this year’s draft appears to be much more a work in progress than some of the more recent selections.  There does not appear to be a Marc Staal, or even a Brandon Dubinsky type player who will perhaps press for an early call up to the Rangers.  Perhaps as a result the Rangers commentary on their official site was a little more muted than in recent years, and there was less talk of “home-runs” and “getting the guys they wanted”.

It certainly would have been nice to have a few extra picks in which to fill out their prospect base, but after the purge of 2004, and a run to their first playoff appearance since 1997, there was little apparent room to trade off veterans in exchange for a younger look.  Perhaps Glen Sather could have taken a page out of Brian Burke’s newly named Anaheim Ducks, or even Bob Clarke’s Flyers in recent years, and still find ways to sell assets at the deadline while remaining competitive.

At any rate, the 2006 NHL Entry Draft is now complete and we will now turn attention to the July 1st free agency period and see what the next steps for the Rangers organization will be.

Draft Notes
The Rangers went to Russia for the first time since they drafted Fedor Tyutin and Leonid Zhvachkin in 2001.  They did not draft a player from the US high school or college systems, the first time since 1976.  Philadelphia Flyers GM Bob Clarke reportedly forgot who the Flyers were drafting (Claude Giroux), as a result of the Rangers selecting Bob Sanguinetti with the previous pick in the first round.

The seven selections were the fewest by the Rangers organization on draft day since 1979 when they had just five selections.

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