With the Rangers sitting in the middle-to-late first round once again, it will be interesting to see if management decides to roll the dice and attempt to move up the board in a draft where the talent pool is not lacking forwards (23 of the latest ISS Top 30 are forwards). Are this year's players worth trading up for? Only time will tell, but this is where Rangers management must decide whether they want to take the best available player or to fill their prospect depth chart by choosing the best player in a certain position.
According to Hockey's Future (NYR page), the Rangers as an organization have the following strengths in their farm system:
1. Depth in third/fourth line forwards
2. Two excellent offensive defensemen prospects
3. Strong goaltending prospects
The great thing about having depth in third and fourth line prospect material is that they are very easy trade bait. One team could value one of the Rangers prospect in that group, and thus offer a nice pick for the player. The Rangers do indeed have two great offensive defensemen prospects in Bobby Sanguinetti and Michael Del Zotto, and behind them are two to four guys who also will be in training camp come September. With these strengths I would like to see the Rangers try to fill the gaps with some of their weaknesses in their farm system come draft day. Here are the weaknesses according to Hockey's Future:
1. Need top six power forward prospects
2. Lack top defensive defensemen prospects
3. Lack of no. 1 center prospect
The first weakness would be the reason why the Rangers attempt to move up some spots in this year's draft. Looking at the prospect depth chartt on Hockey's Future for the Rangers, they list 9 Left Wings, 13 Centers, and 3 Right Wings. Because of this, I would like to amend the first weakness to "Need top six power winger prospect(s)." With the loss of Alexi Cherepanov, Dane Byers is arguably the Rangers top winger prospect, and he is a long shot to make an impact in the NHL at any point.
So who will fill the Power Winger void the Rangers have in their farm system?
Two names stick out like a broken thumb in the first round; RW Zack Kassian (6 foot 3 inches, 209 pounds) from the Peterborough Petes of the OHL and LW Carter Ashton (6 foot 2 inches, 190 pounds) from the Lethbridge Hurricanes of the WHL. Kassian is almost guaranteed to go in the Top 15 picks, while Ashton could range anywhere from 12 to 20. Both are described as players who play hard every shift with enthusiasm and do not shy away from the corners or net. Either one of these players would be a great prospect for the system, and either one would definitely become the top or second best winger prospect to the Rangers.
To acquire either one of these players would mean that the Rangers would have to either move up three to five spaces, which would require at least a prospect or two and possibly a later-in-the-draft pick. Do I think the Rangers will try to move up? In all honesty, no. I think management will try to sit back and cross their fingers that a player like Carter Ashton drops to 19, but when it comes down to it I think the Blueshirts should draft a sizeable winger, and stay away from drafting another Center to an organization that honestly has too many of them to begin with at every level.
So what do you guys think of drafting a Power Winger? Do you believe in the "best player available" strategy when drafting in any sport regardless of the teams needs? Should the Rangers draft a player based on the quality of their nickname (Cally, Dubi, Korpedo)? Let's hear it.