Previewing The 2012 NHL Entry Draft

With the 2012 NHL Entry Draft from Pittsburgh just two days away, it’s time for Blue Line Station to take an in-depth look at some of the options that may be available to Gordie Clark and the Rangers with their first-round pick this year.

Mock draft results have ranged from forwards Tanner Pearson and Stefan Matteau to Russian goaltender Andrey Vasilevskiy and big Canadian defenseman Slater Koekkoek. In short, nobody really knows where Clark and Co. will go this year. But then again, do we ever?

Will they even have their pick come Friday’s first round? Who knows. Anaheim’s Bobby Ryan is believed to be available again, and you know Glen Sather will continue to try and chip away at Scott Howson’s demands for Columbus captain Rick Nash over the next 48 hours. However successfully.

But for now, and for the sake of this article, let’s assume the Rangers are picking on Friday night.

Goalies Andrey Vasilevskiy and Oscar Dansk are intriguing possibilities. For the first time in a long time, it isn’t inconceivable to believe that the Rangers may use their first-rounder on a goaltender. Most mocks have Malcolm Subban off the board midway through the round, though both Vasilevskiy and Dansk are expected to be there or thereabouts when the Blueshirts take the podium.

Hockey’s Future believes Vasilevskiy to be 4-5 years away from playing in the NHL. So while talk of a replacement for Henrik Lundqvist may well be very premature at this time, it’s a timeline that fits with the Rangers long-term needs. Vasilevskiy had a tremendous 2011-12, representing his country in four tournaments at three different age levels. He skated in 27 games for second-placed Tolpar, posting three shutouts and an impressive .931 save percentage.

Dansk, second only to Vasilevskiy in Central Scouting’s final European goalie rankings, is another player the Rangers may choose to select. He represented Brynas at Under-18 and Under-20 levels last season, starting 29 games in all. The 18-year old’s size and style has been compared to Lundqvist by some, and a strong performance as part of Sweden’s silver-winning World Under-18 Championship team is sure to have reinforced his draft-day value.

Defensively there are a number of options that may drop to the Rangers at 28. Saskatoon’s Dalton Thrower and Barrie’s Slater Koekkoek are two very intriguing possibilities for New York if they fall 3/4 places past their likely selection, while Wisconsin-born puck-mover Jordan Schmaltz and Michael Matheson, committed to Boston College this fall, both offer attractive offensive upside.

Koekkoek, initially projected to be a banker top-10/15 pick this season, saw his draft year decimated by injury. If he falls to the Rangers, and it’s a big if, I’d love to see Clark take him. Thrower’s less likely to slip by Boston and Philadelphia among others, but again, if he does, it’s hard to look past him in that situation.

Despite the possibilities on the blueline and in goal, you’d imagine Clark’s initial aim will be at forward. And there are options. Tanner Pearson, the Rangers pick in this year’s Fansided mock draft, is one that sticks out after a strong 2011-12 season. 19-year old Pearson (soon to be 20), passed over in both the 2010 and 2011 Entry Drafts, posted 91 points in 60 games for the OHL’s Barrie Colts. He’s considered to be a smart player with good on-ice vision, speed and an underrated shot. If he’s there, he’s a player Clark may well pick based on his all-round game.

Plymouth’s Tom Wilson would be a tremendous addition at 28. The big, gritty right-winger plays a power forwards game and has been compared to Boston’s Milan Lucic. Goalscoring isn’t his strongest suit, but his size and style would make him an attractive proposition to most sides at the tail-end of the first round.

University of Wisconsin commit Nicolas Kerdiles is another player that perfectly fits the mould of a Gordie Clark selection. The Scouting Report compared Kerdiles to 2011 first-rounder J.T. Miller, and a strong 2011-12 campaign with the US National Under-18 squad has only increased his stock. Left-winger Kerdiles led all skaters with 42 points and seven powerplay goals, while ranking second with four game-winners.

Cristoval Nieves and Mike Winther were both mock draft selections by recently, while Mark Jankowski may just be the round’s biggest risk-reward pick following a tremendous season with Stanstead College. Scouts have touched on Jankowski’s superb natural athleticism, deadly accurate shot, quick hands, agile skating and high-end hockey sense as plus-points, though he is considered a raw prospect at this time. Would I like to see the Rangers take a risk this late in the round? Absolutely.

In fact, I hope Clark takes the best player available on Friday. If that’s Vasilevskiy then so be it. The Rangers will have options, some considerably safer than others. Players will drop for varying reasons, while I’m sure we’ll see some surprise picks ahead of time.

So, put yourself in Gordie Clark’s shoes. Who would you pick?


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Tags: 2012 NHL Entry Draft Andrey Vasilevskiy Barrie Colts Cristoval Nieves Dalton Thrower Entry Draft Gordie Clark Jordan Schmaltz Mark Jankowski Martin Frk Michael Matheson Mike Winther New York Rangers NHL Entry Draft Nicolas Kerdiles NYR Oscar Dansk Peterborough Petes Plymouth Whalers Slater Koekkoek Stefan Matteau Tanner Pearson Tom Wilson

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