With the Stanley Cup final over and another NHL season confined to the history books, attention will now turn to next weekends Entry Draft in St. Paul, Minnesota. Over the next week or so, we will be analysing some of the options likely to be available to the Rangers come their #15 first-round selection. I have to stress ‘likely’ because, as we all know, all manner of prediction and estimation can go out of the window on draft day. Dylan McIlrath says hey.
Join me after the jump to discuss our first two potential candidates…
Mark McNeill, C, Prince Albert Raiders.
Where better to start than with Blue Line Station’s selection from the Fansided mock draft last month.
McNeill is a player that many expect to be off the board by the time the Rangers hit the podium, though it’s hardly inconceivable that he falls one or two spots from the ballpark guesstimate of 12/13 that many have projected recently.
At 6’2 and 210lbs, the rugged center is tailor-made to the Rangers needs and system. He’s previously compared his own style to that of Anaheim’s Ryan Getzlaf, while others have noted similarities to Ryan Kesler and the Rangers own Brandon Dubinsky. McNeill isn’t afraid to get his nose dirty either. Whether it’s driving hard to the net or working hard against the boards, he’s the kind of power forward the Rangers lack outside of Evgeny Grachev.
Here’s what Port McNeil GM Bruno Campese had to say about McNeill;
"He’s one of those kids that has the ability to do so many different things, he’s got so much upside to him. He’s a powerful skater and has great hockey sense. He’s got very good basic skills and he’s got the ability to be a real tough person to play against. He’s got the mental capabilities to understand the game as well. I really believe he has all the attributes. He’s got certain gifts that other players just don’t have. That really bodes well for playing in the NHL."
Strong in the face-off circle and attentive at both ends of the ice, McNeill’s stock has continued to rise since mid-season where he was listed 22nd by Central Scouting. His 81 points (32 goals, 49 assists) in 2010-11 helped the Raiders reach the post-season for the first time since 2006-7. There he notched 2-3-5 in a six-game loss to Saskatoon before representing Canada at the Under-18 World Championships.
While McNeill’s stock has risen, most mocks still have him floating around the 12-15 bracket, enough to make him a realistic option for the Rangers on draft day. Strong and versatile, McNeill would be an excellent selection and one that we at Blue Line Station have already endorsed.
Though few have suggested a ‘swing for the fences’ approach with a mid-round pick, McNeill represents a safe investment, a sensible fit for a team with so few picks in the early rounds. He ticks plenty of boxes and could perhaps be seen as the most complete option available come the Rangers selection.
Mark Scheifele, C, Barrie Colts.
Scheifele is an entirely different proposition to McNeill, but one that many expect to be available mid-round. His success on a struggling Colts side – 22 goals and 75 points in 66 games – coupled with his infectious attitude on the ice makes him an excellent potential pick for a host of teams.
Scheifele lacks the bulk of a McNeill, but stands tall at 6’3 and has tremendous offensive potential. Success in spite of team failings is always something to take note of and Scheifele’s 2010-11 season is no exception. His Barrie Colts side picked up a mere 34 points in 68 games but that didn’t stop Scheifele leading all rookies in assists with 53.
His height is something that will intrigue many, but it’s his potential to fill out that frame that will excite most. Columbus’ 2010 first-rounder Ryan Johansen makes for a solid comparison when comparing build with skillset; like Johansen, Scheifele has a good head on his shoulders and is an excellent playmaker with tremendous on-ice vision.
Central Scouting’s Chris Edwards had this to say about Scheifele:
"Mark protects the puck very well and will take it to the net while fighting through checks. He’s got a great work ethic. His Barrie Colts have struggled this season and he has been relied upon to provide offense. He sees the ice very well and his playmaking ability is very good. He gets back quickly and works hard defensively."
Scheifele’s work ethic is another trait that would make him appealing to the Rangers, a team that doesn’t allow its players to shirk responsibility in the defensive end. He uses his long reach to his advantage at both ends of the ice and is adept at manoeuvring through traffic with the puck. His face-off numbers improved over the course of the season too, something else of note to a team sorely lacking winners in the circle.
There’s no doubt that Scheifele will need to bulk up over the next few seasons and though he’d be seen as a project pick in comparison to a guy like McNeill, there’s little doubting his offensive upside and already ingrained compete level. Like McNeill, Scheifele represented Canada at the recent Under-18 World Championships, posting 6-2-8 in seven games while scoring three times on the powerplay (!).
Most mocks and scouting reports have Scheifele as a likely option at #15, and though I’m not entirely sure that he’d be the Rangers first choice, he’d doubtless be an excellent addition to the prospect pool if taken.
Check back between now and next Friday for further assessment of some of the Rangers’ potential picks on draft day.