One area that many see the Rangers avoiding on Friday is defense. Despite some solid mid-round options, it would be a surprise to see the Blueshirts going D given their strong pool of defensive talent and need for a game-breaking forward.
Director of player personnel Gordie Clark was quoted by Rangers beatwriter Andrew Gross as saying the team had no definitive plan heading in to Friday’s first-round, something which could suggest a BPA approach as opposed to drafting for need. In terms of their options, Jamieson Oleksiak and Oscar Klefbom are probably the most likely.
Join me after the jump to take a look at two defensive options that could yet become part of the Rangers’ future…
Jamieson Oleksiak, D, Northeastern.
Oleksiak is without question one of the most intriguing prospects likely to go in the first round. At 6’7 and 244lbs Oleksiak is, to put it bluntly, a monster. With a vast reach and huge frame, the Northeastern University defenseman is one that could potentially dominate an NHL blueline for the next decade.
But that’s the crunch word, ‘potentially’. Of course it’s tough to get a handle on most prospects at this point merely for the fact that they are just that, prospects. Oleksiak however is one that’s split opinion due to the nagging question as to whether he has the kind of game that can successfully complement his vast size.
In 2010-11, Oleksiak skated for Northeastern University, posting a team-best +13 rating while marking second among defenseman with 12 points (3-9) in 34 games. His large frame makes comparisons to Bruins cup-winning captain Zdeno Chara and the Sabres’ Tyler Myers all too easy, though at this point he lacks the offensive clout of either.
Oleksiak was compared to Myers by an NHL scout speaking to ESPN.com;
A player with that sort of frame needs to build strength and fill out. It’s hard for major junior kids to do the gym work in season but college kids can with just games on weekends. The Northeastern program is good for getting kids to the gym year-round. You can see that (Oleksiak) has made real progress from one year (in the USHL) to the next (as a freshman) on conditioning.
The key questions you have to make for a player like this are: Can he turn? How does he handle speed? At this stage Oleksiak is probably a little behind where Myers was on that count — Myers was painfully skinny but he was a good if not fluid skater — but Oleksiak isn’t that far behind. Myers will probably have an advantage in the north-south speed but that’s not the big part of this evaluation. This kid will be a first-rounder and Myers’s success will help him. How much? If you said the second ten (of the draft) you’d have a good chance of him being in that range.
The curious thing when talking about Oleksiak is to ask how exactly teams perceive him at this point. With size a non-issue, does a team in the mid-to-late first round see him as someone they can mould in a number of directions or simply a big body with little else to offer. He’s a complete wildcard in that respect.
Oleksiak uses his size well at this point and doesn’t hesitate to join the offense. His skating and reading of the game will improve in time, as will his use of his own physical frame. The fact he is so big at the age of 18 is what will intrigue teams the most as it gives them something to work with that isn’t talent-dependant. Most scouts see Oleksiak as a player that will be able to work on the offensive side of his game as well as dwarfing opposing forwards in his own end. In reality, he seems like someone the Rangers would absolutely take a swing on if particular forwards were off the board.
Oscar Klefbom, D, Farjestads.
At 6’4 and 200lbs, Oscar Klefbom is another blueliner with attractive size that could hover around the Rangers’ 15th overall selection.
Klefbom played for Elitserien champions Farjestads in 2010-11, posting two points (1-1) in 23 games. He also captained the Swedish Under-18 team at the World Championships in Germany.
In contrast to Oleksiak, Klefbom is regarded as a smooth, slick skater that makes sensible decisions on the puck and presents untapped offensive potential. Sounds like a certain top-pairing defenseman in New York, huh?
Klefbom is an impressive athlete who has a strong package of skills that should allow him to be a physical presence at the NHL level. The Swede is a very mobile player who has a nice technical stride and has the strength to fight through checks with his combination of speed and power. With the puck, Klefbom has a calming presence on the ice and makes good decisions with the puck. Is a capable puck mover when he has the opportunity but also knows when to use the glass or the boards to clear the puck out. (per The Scouting Report)
Yeah, just a bit.
As with all prospects it’s tough to predict ceilings and be certain of anything, but Klefbom does have the tools and mindset to be an excellent defenseman in the NHL. He has the size but also possesses the offensive skills to be a future powerplay specialist. He plays with passion and grit, so much so that scouts have touched on occasional ill-discipline as a minor negative but have also said that toning him down may negate that side of his game.
The great thing about Klefbom is that he provides two things that make a mid-round selection extremely appealing. He has the size and plays a physical game, but also has the skillset to be much more than a rugged, tough-nosed blueliner. There perhaps isn’t as much space to mould Klefbom as there is with Oleksiak, but that’s the beauty of knowing what you’re getting, at least to an extent.
Were Klefbom and Oleksiak to be available at 15 then I’d be dissapointed to see the Rangers not go with the former. Of course, I’m very much against the Rangers going defense at all, but Klefbom provides something very intriguing were the “better” forward picks to be off the board.