I’m not even going to pretend to have any expertise on the prospects for next weekend’s draft. You guys probably all know more than I do. So I’d need a shinebox if I was going to pontificate.
However, just got off a conference call with Rangers director of player personnel Gordie Clark and assistant Jeff Gorton. Here’s some highlights:
“The best way to characterize (the draft) is it may not be deep in real top end players, but it’s very deep in players who will end up playing in the NHL. … Lots of guys who are going to play on top three lines and top six defense.”
He said the Rangers have a list of “A” rated players and that whichever of those is still available at No. 10 is the player they will pick. Also said this draft could offer the opportunity to move up or down, but that any trade would likely happen as the first round unfolds, on the draft floor.
Gorton on the draft after Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin:
“There’s a bit of a falloff. … Sometimes you say there’s four, five, maybe seven guys, and then it falls off. This year I’d say there’s two guys clearly better than everybody else, then depending on who you’re talking to, which is us, there’s another 10 guys you could probably throw a blanket over.”
They said that in the top 20 of this draft, a guy you have rated 19th could go sixth, and vice versa.
On Vladimir Tarasenko, whom many believe could be their pick, and about whom a question would be whether he will leave Russia and sign, they said that they have had scouts talking to him, and that their scouts have been right on in such discussions with Anisimov, Grachev and the late Cherepanov. So they will know about Tarasenko’s intentions before the draft.
Some comments on other projected picks:
On Brett Connolly: “Highly skilled guy as an underage player, in the same conversation as Hall and Seguin. Unfortunately for him he’s had some injuries and played less than 20 games, so somebody’s probably going to be pretty fortunate that he falls here with that kind of skill”
On Nino Neiderreiter: “From Switzerland, one of those few guys who have come over and played in the Western Hockey League and had a great year. He’s a goal scorer and a big body and he’s going to be a good player.”
On Nick Bjudstad: “A big specimen type kid who has a lot of skill, a lot of talent. A Minnesota high school kid, which always makes a little harder evaluation on people, so it’s a tougher projection. But by all accounts, he’s got a lot of skill and a great skater and a bright future.”
On Jeff Skinner: “He’s a goal scorer who had a great career in junior and had a great year. If you add it all up he had between 70-80 goals including playoffs and the tournament in August … he’s a very good player. He’s a little bit undersized but he’s got pure offensive talent. Maybe one of the best natural scorers in the draft. He’s going to be a pretty high pick.”
They were also asked about the Hobbit, Mats Zuccarello-Aasen.
“Very, very talented kid. We saw him do the same thing last year in Switzerland. I went over with Anders Hedberg and saw him do his thing over there, and he duplicated it again this year. Jim Schoenfeld and Glen Sather were able to come over with me, and obviously Mark Messier was with Team Canada, so we’ve had a lot of eyes watch him in the worlds and Anders watched him during the season in Modo …
“A very, very talented guy with his head and his hands. To be a guy his size … he has three very special things. His head, his hands and he’s got a great heart, because he competes. He has the things you need to be a smaller player trying to make it in the National Hockey League.”
On the controversial Kirill Kabanov and his maturity issues: “Obviously he’s had a bunch of incidents happen to him. He’s at Moncton and it didn’t go well in a playoff game and he ended up flying home. We were there for that game and basically he was on the bench, he got yelled at by his teammates and he never came back out for the third period and a few days later he’s on a plane back to Russia. There’s a lot of talent there. Like all kids in the draft we have to do our due diligence about their character. I know we always here about the Russians’ character issues. It’s the same for some other kids in this draft and we have to know that too. For sure, Kabanov has some issues that you’d better do your homework before pulling the trigger and drafting a guy like that.”
AFTERNOON UPDATE, 5 p.m.: (or is that evening?) The Rangers just announced they re-signed Kris Newbury. Here’s part of the release:
Newbury, 28, skated in 18 games with the Hartford Wolf Pack of the American Hockey League (AHL) this season, registering four goals and 14 assists for 18 points, along with 61 penalty minutes. He tied for the Wolf Pack lead in scoring with 18 points in 18 games after joining the team on March 6 at Hamilton, following his trade to the Rangers from Detroit, in exchange for Jordan Owens, on March 3. Newbury, who ranked 11th in the AHL with 205 penalty minutes, registered 10 multi-point performances on the season, including five as a member of the Wolf Pack. He also posted a season-high, eight-game point streak from March 21 vs. Providence to April 7 vs. Worcester, registering 11 points (one goal and 10 assists) over the span. Prior to his trade, Newbury appeared in 52 games with the Grand Rapids Griffins of the American Hockey League (AHL) this season, registering 11 goals and 22 assists for 33 points, along with 144 penalty minutes. He led the Griffins in penalty minutes at the time of his trade, and ranked third on the team in points, tied for third in assists, fifth in power play goals (three) and ranked eighth in goals. In addition, Newbury registered one goal in four NHL games with the Detroit Red Wings this season, tallying a goal in his season debut on December 14 vs. Phoenix.
The 5-10, 205-pounder has skated in 48 career NHL contests with the Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings, registering four goals and three assists, along with 64 penalty minutes. He made his NHL debut with Toronto on December 23, 2006 vs. Washington, and notched his first NHL point with a goal in his fifth game on January 1, 2007 vs. Boston. Newbury has also appeared in 395 career AHL contests with Hartford, St. John’s Maple Leafs/Toronto Marlies and Grand Rapids Griffins, recording 80 goals and 172 assists for 252 points, along with 936 penalty minutes. He established AHL career-highs in games played (74), goals (22), assists (38), points (60) and penalty minutes (215) during the 2005-06 season.
Prior to turning professional, Newbury appeared in 306 games over five seasons with the Belleville Bulls and Sarnia Sting of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), registering 122 goals and 184 assists for 306 points, along with 621 penalty minutes. He enjoyed his best OHL season in 2001-02, leading Sarnia with 62 assists, 104 points and 141 penalty minutes and finishing second on the Sting with 42 goals en route to being named as an OHL Second Team All-Star.
The Brampton, Ontario native was originally selected as San Jose’s fifth round pick, 139th overall, in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft.