by Patrick Hoffman on 06/14/11 at 12:07 PM ET
Jess Rubenstein, a prospects expert and creator of the New York Rangers’/New York Islanders’ propsect site The Prospect Park, was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to tell us about what the Rangers should be doing at the draft as well as how the Blueshirts have treated the prospects in general.
PH: Not too long ago, the New York Rangers used to be terrible at handling prospects. Tell us how you think Rangers’ GM Glen Sather and the coaching staff have improved in that area?
JR: It is funny as Glen Sather can not sign a free agent to save his life but he did hire Gordie Clark in 2002 and then promoed Clark to Director of Player Personnel when Tom Renney was named Head Coach. You can look at it like the row of dominos as Clark has brought in Jeff Gorton (former Asst GM of Boston), Danny Dore (Boston), Tom Thompson (Former Wild Asst. GM) to bolster what was already a very experienced scouting staff.
Give Sather some credit for doing some of the things that most people will not notice like having Adam Graves and Mark Messier to go look at the draft picks and offer them advice. Want to talk about how to get someone’s attention, what kid is not going to take advice from a Messier?
But it also goes into prospect development as well as that the post draft camps the Rangers run for the prospects. They are not photo ops but rather chances for the entire Ranger staff to work with each of the prospects in attendance. Having John Tortorella run the camp sets the tone for the prospect as what is going to be asked of them to further their development. Then you have the training staff who send each prospect home with a guide on how to train, how to improve their diet and tips on improving weak areas of their game.
PH: How do you think the improvement in this area has benefited the Rangers’ organization as a whole?
JR: It comes down to one word: credibility. Prospects, junior teams and even those over in Europe are seeing that the Rangers are for real in opening doors and giving players chances to make the NHL. You saw it when the Rangers won the bidding for a Zuccarrello or when they financially covered medical treatment for a Andrew Yogan. It may not be seen by the fans but the hockey world is seeing that the Rangers are now serious about developing younger players
PH: Going into this year’s draft, what kind of player do you think the Blueshirts should be targeting? Why?
JR: People are going to think I am crazy but I did an interview with Gordie Clark for the Blueshirt Bulletin and one phrase keeps repeating itself over and over, “Options are Limitless”
I think Clark with just one pick to find that player is going to finish off filling out the Kreider/Stepan duo. Clark is an old school guy who looks for players who compliment each other so I think he finishes building the first line with 15.
PH: When it is time for the Rangers to make their selection, who do you think they are going to take? How would this particular prospect fit into the Rangers’ organization?
JR: I like Tyler Biggs. I know I am in the minority but I look at how well Biggs played for the USA Under-18 team in earning his second straight gold medal.
Biggs is a 6’2 righ winger with better offensive skills than he is given credit for. It was his overtime goal in the semi-finals that knocked out Canada and put the USA in the gold medal game. Biggs is a big game performer.
His critics say he takes too many penalties but I ask what kind of penalties is he taking? He is standing up for his smaller teammates protecting them.
I also like Biggs because he has a good and smart head on him. Nothing is going to rattle him and he is seriously strong. Toss in that he is heading to Miami of the CCHA to play for one of the very best coaches in all of the NCAA Enrico Blasi. With Blasi, you either play both sides of the ice or you are not playing period. I think Biggs will have all his rough edges polished by Blasi.
Biggs gives you the guy who is going to set up in the slot and tie up the defensemen, which in turn frees up the ice for skaters/playmakers like Stepan and Kreider.
PH: Quickly looking ahead to next season, which prospects, in your opinion, have the best chance of cracking the Rangers’ roster next season? Why?
JR: Carl Hagelin I think is going to earn a spot out of training camp because he has been playing the Tortorella system the last four years at Michigan. Hagelin is a very smooth skater with excellent on-ice vision and decision making skills. As a skater, he is Stepan’s equal when it comes to speed which is saying a lot.
I think that Grachev is going to be given a chance to earn a spot. I think he is almost there but still has a bit to go as they (Rangers) have turned him into more of a role player than just a goal scorer.
The player I think that is in a really tough spot is going to be Dale Weise. Right now, he inherits the Boogaard roster spot but the big question is can he keep it.
I think they may have to start Tim Erixon in the AHL. He is a lot like McDonagh and just needs some fine tuning before being NHL ready.
The guy I think might be a dark horse is Jason Wilson. He is a smart guy who understands what he needs to do to stay in the NHL. Wilson was the bodyguard for Ryan Strome at Niagara but became a lot more than that as the season went on. Wilson is a tough kid who might surprise you.
PH: Anything else you’d like to share with Kukla’s Korner readers regarding prospects/NHL draft?
JR: I freely admit that I have a bias for the Portland Winterhawks since they are my “home team” and I really like Sven Bartschi going before Ryan Strome. When it was crunch time for Portland in the WHL Playoffs, Bartschi was their best player which is saying a lot since you had a Ryan Johansen (#4 last year) and Nino Niederreiter (#5 last year). Bartschi may be on the smaller side but is a lot tougher than he gets credit for.
I say while people are talking about Saint John with four first round prospects, Portland is going to have three of their own with Bartschi, Ty Rattie and Joe Morrow who is going up the draft charts with a bullet after a great playoff and combine.
Speaking of Strome, I see him as this year’s Cam Fowler as his play against Mississauga was not very good as they shut him down by keeping a body on him at all times.
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Patrick has a tremendous passion for hockey. Besides covering the Rangers and the NHL for Kukla's Korner, you can also find Patrick's work over at Sportsnet.ca, The Red Light District Hockey Blog, NHL Home Ice, and Liam Maguire's Ultimate Hockey web site.
Prior to writing for the above mentioned outlets, you could find Patrick's musings at hockey web sites/outlets such as TheHockeyNews.com, TheFourthPeriod.com, Spector's Hockey, Hokeja Vestnesis, Blueshirt Bulletin, SNYRangersBlog.com and many more.
For questions, comments and hip checks, feel free to e-mail Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org.