In an effort to bring you all the best and the brightest opinions on Rangers prospects and the coming NHL draft, we decided to reach out to friend of the blog Jess Rubenstein. For those of you who aren’t familiar, Jess runs a highly regarded draft/prospect analysis website called The Prospect Park. Unlike most websites that track this aspect of hockey, Jess actually writes his own scouting reports and takes the time to go watch many of these young men play. I know, what a concept!
Anyway, we asked him about the Rangers farm system and the upcoming draft. See what Jess had to say and don’t forget to check out his site!
Q. Do you think the Rangers trade up/down at the draft, or do they stay where they’re at?
Jess: I would be shocked if they traded up, but I would actually urge them to trade down from 28. Once you get past the 10th spot in the 1st rd then there really is not much difference in talent level. NYR only have 4 picks (28, 59th, 89th and 119th) as of right now, so trade down because you will find strong prospects even at the end of the 2nd rd. You could drop 10 spots and still get someone like a Henrik Samuelsson or a Jordan Schmaltz.
Q. With Kreider likely on the roster next season and prospect tag removed, who do you think the next Rangers prospect is to make the roster (lets exclude Erixon)?
Jess: That is a tough one because I am seeing a gap in the prospect pipeline for about a year because Kreider and Hagelin actually arrived a year ahead of schedule. I think people might be surprised, but I think Cam Talbot needs to be the next prospect to become ready. Knock on wood that Lundqvist has not been hurt, but IMO every NHL franchise needs to have 3 NHL ready goalies playing for them.
Q. Which Rangers prospect do you think has the biggest offensive upside?
Jess: Actually I see 3 different prospects doing 3 different things. First I like Michael St. Croix and Christian Thomas for overall goal scoring both having NHL quality shots. Second Jesper Fast is going to be popular because of his “smarts” and I can see him as a playmaker. Steven Forgarty is going to be the big game goal scorer, as he loves the pressure of the big game.
Q. Which seldom talked about Rangers prospect do you think deserves more coverage and could snag a roster spot in the coming seasons?
Jess: Steven Fogarty without question, people don’t realize that the BCHL has produced a ton of NHL players. Fogarty as I just said is a big game player. Of his 33 regular season goals, 10 were game winners, 4 shorthand and 6 power play. In the playoffs, he was used as defensive stopper and he was excellent at it. He is built like a linebacker (6’3 215 at 18), but might be the smartest prospect the NYR have (next year attending Notre Dame).
Q (from Dave). Do the Rangers draft for need or for best player available? Can you draft for need this late in the first round?
Dave at 28 you really have to go for best player because you can always trade down for need. This year’s draft is overloaded with quality defenders and I think because of that it increases the chances of a solid forward dropping down to 28. I would say look at how Gordie Clark has drafted the last couple of years and I would say he will take someone who has size and plays physical no matter which position.
Q (from Kevin). Thoughts on the trio with Rangers ties, Matteau, Stepan and Samuelson.
Jess: Samuelsson has the best upside, as he has good size (6’2 195), while he is better known for playing with the same kind of chip that his dad did. Henrik has twice the talent. He needs to grow into his body, but I would not be shocked if he goes in the 1st rd. He needs to improve his skating, which is almost automatic these days.
Stefan Matteau depending on the day will be a 1st or 2nd rd pick. I think he made a mistake choosing the QMJHL because he is one of those players who the NCAA route would have helped his development. He has skill, but when scouts are in such a disagreement over your potential (some have him at 27 others at 45) college is the best route because you are playing against older players all the time.
Zach Stepan is at best a 3rd-4th rder. He has skill, but unlike cousin Derek, doesn’t have the ability to read the ice as fast. Think he is making right move playing in USHL (I would have urged BCHL) before going to college at Ohio State (not a strong program).
Q. Any highly ranked prospect that you think could fall to us?
Jess: Not this year. If anything the Rangers are in a better position to trade down this year because other teams gave away their 1st round picks (Nahsville, Colorado) in bad/earlier trades. If NYR can add a couple of extras picks by trading down then do it. I see this draft as a strong one 3 rounds deep.
If anyone has any additional questions, feel free to drop them in the comments section.