The draft is creeping ever closer and so far there have been no clues as to whom the Rangers will pick. In typical Gordie Clark fashion, the Blueshirts have kept things close to the vest, so it’s hard to say who is on their radar. These three forwards are consistently rated in the 20-to-35 range, so they could be realistic targets with the 28th pick.
Position: LW Height: 6’0″ Weight: 183
To some, Bozon is the best pure goal-scorer in the draft. The son of former St. Louis Blues forward Philippe Bozon put up lofty totals in 2011-2012, but for rookie that tallied a point-per-game (36-35-71) in his debut season with the Kamloops Blazers, Bozon has gotten relatively little attention. Perhaps Bozon’s Swiss/French background has something to do with that, but Bozon could just be one of those under the radar guys. He’s got the ability to control the puck at impressive speeds and possesses strong offensive tools and playmaking ability. Though Bozon stands at a reasonable 6-0, 183 lbs he is currently more of a perimeter player. Bozon is unafraid to launch his wicked wrist shot from the circles, but he’s not a guy that will be found in traffic often at this point. Bozon has plenty of work to do on his defensive game, but he certainly has the ability to become a big producer at the NHL level. Speed and skating have been coveted traits by the Blueshirts at the draft in recent years, so Bozon could hold some appeal.
Position: C/RW Height: 6’2″ Weight: 192
You know him as Ulf’s son, but Henrik Samuelsson is an intriguing prospect regardless of his bloodline. The 6-foot-2, 192-pounder joined his third team in the last year when he linked up with Michael St. Croix in Edmonton in January after playing the first part of the season with MoDo of the Swedish Elite. Again Samuelsson fit in seamlessly, aiding the Oil Kings’ championship-bound squad by posting 23 points in 28 regular season games and 14 in Edmonton’s 17-game playoff run. A bit like Tom Wilson, Samuelsson plays an extremely physical game. He has a history of pushing things too far though, as he’s already been suspended several times. Samuelsson has demonstrated more pure offensive ability than Wilson, but there’s reason for concern with the power forward. The knock on Samuelsson, as it is on most big men at his age, is that he’s not a good skater. Improving that could be critical, as it’s often foot speed that separates average power forwards from stars. Samuelsson is comparable to guys like Milan Lucic that have been drafted in recent years, but he’ll need to improve his stride dramatically to have a similar NHL career. He does have the potential to be the space-creating third forward with ability around the net that can complete deadly top lines in the NHL today. One of the major ingredients the Rangers may be lacking is a true power forward with skill, so Samuelsson could be considered more of a “need” pick than others.
Position: C Height: 6’2″ Weight: 168
Right off the bat you should known that Jankowski would be a long-term investment. He’s a wispy 168 pounds right now and hasn’t begun to fill out his 6’2” frame. A couple of years ago Jankowski wasn’t even appealing to junior teams and was relegated to hockey’s version of Siberia, a boarding school called Stanstead College. But a sudden growth spurt that saw him jump six inches over the last year and a half has done as much for him as his impressive goal-scoring totals. 53 goals and 40 assists in 57 games didn’t hurt him either though. Jankowski, a late riser, is known for being a solid skater with excellent hockey sense and vision. His physical game is still lacking, partially because he’s still adjusting to not being one of the smallest guys on the ice. Jankowski is appealing because of his potential, but he’s got a lot of work to do to actually reach it, a process that could take several years. Two of his family members were NHLers, if that’s reassuring. He’s tentatively scheduled to play for Providence College next year, but he could also end up in the USHL or suiting up for the OHL’s Sarnia Sting (the junior club that manufactured Nail Yakupov and Alex Galchenyuk).
Players like Jankowski that dominated against weak competition have paid major dividends as first-rounders in recent years. Chris Kreider was picked by the Blueshirts 19th overall out of the prep school Phillips Academy in 2009 and one of Florida’s elite-looking youngsters, Nick Bjugstad, was selected 19th overall in 2010 out of Blaine High School. Whether picking these types of untested and undeveloped prospects will become trendy over the next few drafts or not is still unclear, but Jankowski could be the latest to pave the way. This is clearly a high-risk, high-reward guy.