It’s always difficult to assess a draft class three days after the fact purely because a) most of us won’t have watched a majority of the picks in-depth before the draft, and b) it’s a pretty fair estimation to say most of them – if not all – won’t be making an impact in New York for at least three years, if at all.
With that said, we can assess how the team drafted and at least touch upon the merits of the newest players to filter in to the organisation. With the Rangers’ Prospect Development Camp taking place this week, we should be able to get a far better idea of exactly how the Rangers see the likes of JT Miller, Steven Fogarty, Michael St. Croix and Shane McColgan, all of whom are in attendance.
Join me after the jump as we recap the 2011 Entry Draft and look at who the Rangers selected in a little more depth…
With the 15th overall pick in the draft the Rangers selected J.T. Miller from the US National Team Development Program, one of eight players that we previewed prior to the draft.
Miller is a prototypical Gordie Clark selection; tough, versatile and strong on both sides of the puck. His offensive upside isn’t as high as that of Mark McNeill and Joel Armia, two notable players the Rangers passed on, though it’s hard to look past his work-rate, character game and strong skating and not be pleased with the pick. The 6’1, 198lb C/LW’er will attend the Univerity of North Dakota in the fall having already put a strong 2010/11 season behind him as part of the Under-18 side in the USHL.
Miller may not have been everyone’s first choice given who was on the board at the time, but his selection makes perfect sense when looking at the wider picture. Miller’s a huge character player and that’s something the Rangers are clearly looking for in both their current and future roster. He’s yet another addition to the North American core (‘addition’ in the loosest sense at this point) on Broadway and will be given every chance to operate on the second or third lines in a few years time.
Here’s what Miller had to say after the first-round on Friday evening;
"I’m not going to lie, I was a little bit shocked. I had one meeting with the Rangers so I wasn’t really expecting this. But hearing my name called was the best feeling in the world. I thought the Rangers liked me, but other teams had shown more interest it seemed. So it was a bit of a shock, breathtaking really. The best feeling."
"I think I’m a pretty competitive kid. I always am willing to compete and I am always hard to play against. And I had a good post-season tournament in Germany, and I think that really helped to push me over the top."
The first quote from Miller leads you to believe one of two things; either the Rangers were that confident that he was their guy that they didn’t feel the need to speak to him further or there was perhaps a change of thought somewhere down the line. Miller’s name was stitched to the back of his jersey, but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything.
With no second or third round picks in the draft following the Tim Erixon trade last month, the Rangers were always going to have to make a move in order to get in before their next pick in the fourth round. And move they did, sending Evgeny Grachev to St Louis for their 72nd overall pick which they used to select Edina, Minnesota high-schooler Steven Fogarty.
Fogarty is another big North American center with offensive skills and a strong hockey sense. Skating isn’t his strongest asset, as he himself admits, but that’s something that can be worked on over the next few years. The Rangers were clearly very keen on Fogarty, having spoken to him beforehand and expressed their interest in the 6’2 forward.
Fogarty spoke to Blueshirts United after his selection;
"This is exciting, for sure, being it’s my hometown. I didn’t see myself being drafted this high, but it’s certainly exciting to be drafted by a great team like New York. And it’s awesome to be in (same organization as Marian Gaborik) because he is someone I definitely idolized growing up right here in Minnesota. To possibly have the chance to play with him down the road is really exciting."
Of course, the Rangers have struck gold over the past season with Minnesota natives Derek Stepan and Ryan McDonagh cementing spots on the roster in New York with equally tremendous rookie seasons. Though it’s a stretch to expect the same of Fogarty at this point, there are definitely aspects of his game that should transition well to the NHL with a bit more work.
Edmonton center Michael St. Croix was the Blueshirts’ fourth-round selection on Saturday, the third straight centerman the Rangers took through the first half of the draft.
St. Croix may just be the most intriguing of this years draftees given his skillset and scoring record in the WHL. At only 5’11, St. Croix is perhaps a surprise pick for the Rangers given their penchant for taking big forwards over 6ft, but as I mentioned in the initial selection post on Saturday, his skillset may just have been too good to ignore at this point of the draft.
With a 27 goal, 75-point season behind him in 2010-11, particularly as a small(ish) forward in the WHL, St. Croix’s the kind of kid you can afford to take a flyer on in the fourth round. He was listed 59th among North American skaters prior to the draft, considerably higher than third-round pick Steven Fogarty at 90th.
With two fifth-round selections the Rangers picked Kelowna Rockets right-winger Shane McColgan and big Baie-Comeau Drakkar defenseman Samuel Noreau at 134th and 136th respectively.
Given the depth of prospects on the blueline it’s no surprise to see the Rangers wait until the fifth round to draft a defenseman. Even less surprising is the sheer size of Noreau at 6’5 and 215lbs, another monster blueliner hot on the heels of last years first-rounder Dylan McIlrath and fellow 2010 draftee Randy McNaught. Of course, there won’t be the same expectation levels placed on Noreau as there will (loosely) on 2010’s 10th overall selection. If he makes the roster somewhere down the line and shows he can throw his weight around at the NHL level, great. And if not, no big deal.
McColgan doesn’t seem to be so much of a question mark as a player with solid offensive skills and a responsible game. He finished second in rookie scoring during the 2009-10 season behind only this years’ first overall selection Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and has since posted a PPG season of 66 in 67 and a playoff record of 19 points in 10 games with the Rockets in 2010-11. Notably, McColgan was one of the early standouts at scrimmages today, posting a goal and creating numerous chances.
"Per Jim Cerny on twitter: very impressed with skating and skill of #NYR 5th rounder Shane McColgan, who scored once, but created many chances."
It’s always good to see a young player, let alone one just drafted, making an early impression like that. Hopefully that bodes well for the future, both the near and far.
The sixth round saw the Rangers draft their second big blueliner and customary late-round European, Peter Ceresnak. The Slovak is seen to be a major project player, one that fell off after initially being projected within the first three rounds. Scouting reports perceive him as a largely one-dimensional defensive blueliner that can use the body but has issues in open ice. Adam made a comparison to the Sharks’ Douglas Murray (linked above) in the initial selection post; suffice to say the Rangers will have done pretty well for themselves if Ceresnak evolves into that type of player.
It should be added that the Rangers didn’t originally hold a pick in this round, they subsequently made a trade with the Nashville Predators sending their 2012 sixth-rounder to the Preds for their sixth-rounder this year. A big, big project pick, but one that Clark and Co obviously felt like taking a chance on.
Overall, and as I said at the beginning, it’s tough to really assess a draft class in terms of their futures so soon after the fact. J.T. Miller is very much a New York Rangers selection while the likes of Michael St. Croix and Shane McColgan project to be very intriguing, long-term project pieces from the mid-rounds. There are strengths to like about all of the Rangers selections this year, and if there’s one team that’s insistent on making the most of its youth it’s ours. These guys will all be given an opportunity to prove themselves and show what they can do — this weeks prospect development camp being the starting point.