The 2011 draft is a little more than a month away, and we all know that Gordie Clark, Glen Sather, and the collection of Rangers scouts are holding many meetings to discuss potential players on their draft boards. The Rangers have the 15th overall pick in this year’s draft, and while most of the prospects on people’s lists will be gone (Nugent-Hopkins, Larsson, Courturier, etc), there are a good amount of prospects that would help the Rangers in the long run. Initially, we looked at Niklas Jensen, who I think would be a great fit for the Rangers. Yesterday, we looked at Jensen’s teammate Boone Jenner. Today, we look at a player that is likely to be gone by the time the Rangers select, but is still high on everyone’s list in Sven Bartschi of the Portland Winterhawks of the WHL.
When looking at Bartschi’s stats, it’s easy to see why everyone is so enamoured with the Swiss winger. In his rookie season with the Winterhawks, the 5’10″, 185 lb LW put together a phenominal season. He scored 34 goals and added 51 assists for 85 points in 66 regular season games. In the playoffs, which is a true test for rookies, he showed he was able to continue his production in a high stress environment, putting together a line of 10-17-27 in just 21 games. Playing with with 2010 lottery picks Ryan Johansen (4th overall - Columbus) and Nino Niederreiter (5th overall – Islanders), Bartschi fit in perfectly and showed that he has the talent to keep up with those two skilled players.
Bartschi’s offensive talent is very apparent. The kid has almost everything necessary to become an offensive force in the NHL. The kid is just a pure sniper with an innate ability to put the puck in the twine. He has a pure shot, possibly one of the best in the draft, great hockey sense, and a great attitude. He’s more of a finesse player, shooting from the outside. He has great speed as well. Bruins Draft Watch noted that the kid is always smiling, and just loves to play the game of hockey. He’s a good character kid, something that the Rangers have been looking at during the draft. He has a very high ceiling, which could lead to his getting drafted higher than expected.
There are two factors that may hold Bartschi out of the top ten, and may help him slide ot the Rangers at #15 overall. The first is the obvious one, his size. At 5’10″ and 185 lbs, Bartschi is a very small hockey player. He will always be viewed as small, despite the fact that small and skilled is becoming the norm in the NHL. However, his size does play a role in his style, as he is not very strong on the boards like some of the other smaller forwards in the draft, and tends to avoid the high traffic areas. The second, and possibly most glaring hole, is that he is not the best skater for someone of his talent level (Note: speed does not correlate to skating ability). Skating is something that can easily improve (see: Boyle, Brian), and it should be noted that the kid is just 18 years old, there is plenty of time to develop his skating while playing for a strong program in Portland. But, that is why they call them prospects, and not sure-things.
Like most prospects in the draft, there are a lot of things to like about Bartschi, and a few things to be wary of. Bartschi is a great kid, and definitely has the attitude and work ethic to succeed at the NHL level. However, his reluctance to go to high traffic areas does worry me more than his skating issues. He can get by at the lower levels by playing his perimeter game, but NHL goalies are likely to stop his perimeter shots. He will need to adjust and start going to high traffic areas, which means getting significantly stronger. If he can do that, he is going to have a long, successful NHL career. I think he will be drafted in the top-ten, and while Bartschi is high on my list, he is definitely more of a project pick than a Jensen or a Jenner.