With a new coach on board, the next order of business this offseason will be the NHL Draft, coming up on June 30th. The Rangers don’t have first or second round choices thanks to trades for Rick Nash and Ryane Clowe, but they do have three third round picks. The good news is that the 2013 draft is considered extremely deep, but by the third round there won’t be any sure things. Here’s a look at three guys that could interest the Rangers, but are definitely high-risk, high reward players.
Position: D Height: 5-8 Weight: 170
Subban is a guy most NHL fans will be watching closely come June 30th thanks to his bloodline. Older brother P.K. was just awarded the Norris Trophy and Jordan’s other sibling, Malcolm, was selected 24th overall a year ago. Jordan has similar talent to his brothers, but the big concern is his size. There just aren’t a ton of 5-8 defenders in the NHL and though there are occasional exceptions to the rule – 5-9 Torey Krug has been a breakout star during the playoffs – generally it’s even more difficult for undersized defensemen to make it to the NHL than it is for undersized forwards.
Jordan’s draft year numbers – 15-36-51 – are actually nearly identical to P.K.’s – 15-41-56. The elder Subban broke out two years later with 76 points and never looked back, a pattern that scouts can’t help noticing. Like P.K., Jordan is an elite skater, possesses a rocket of a shot and has demonstrated an ability to run a power play in the OHL. Offensively, Jordan could be a real weapon, but it’s hard to see how he won’t be bullied down low. Jordan relies heavily on his stickwork to contain opposing forwards, but that may not be enough. He has been compared to Marc-Andre Bergeron because of his size and because many see him becoming a specialist and nothing more. But for the Rangers, who have longed for that point general forever, that may be enough.
Position: C Height: 6-2 Weight: 204
Kujawinski’s OHL career has been uneven to this point. He scored just once in his first 29 games with the Sarnia Sting last year, but after a midseason trade to Kingston he became a point-a-game player and notched 15 goals in his final 30 matches. Big things were expected this year, but Kujawinski failed to deliver, with just 48 points (17 goals, 31 assists) in 66 games. Kujawinski has developed a reputation for being inconsistent even within games; he’ll dominate on one shift and then disappear for a period. Still, there’s still a lot to like from the 18-year-old.
Kujawinski is a great skater and is a trusted player at both ends of the ice. He’s a better distributor than a scorer, but obviously has shown that he can get red hot. Kujawinski is also very strong at the faceoff dots. As you’d expect from a projected third-rounder, Kujawinski has major boom or bust potential. If he can put it all together, some believe that Kujawinski has the talent to become a very solid second liner. But the inconsistency he’s already become known for could prevent Kujawinski from ever reaching the NHL.
Position: C Height: 6-0 Weight: 181
Like Tanner Pearson last year, Lipon was passed over completely in his first two chances at the NHL Draft. But like Pearson, Lipon exploded in his final draft eligible season with 89 points (36 goals, 53 assists), good for 11th in the WHL. The soon-to-be 20-year-old is a hard working agitator that has finally begun to add some offense to his arsenal. He doesn’t have the pure skills of many of his classmates and it might not be reasonable to expect him to be a big producer at the next level, but Lipon is one of those guys that won’t be denied his dream. Lipon did whatever it took to get noticed in Kamloops and turned himself into a power forward unafraid to drop his gloves before discovering his scoring touch over the last two seasons. Lipon’s skating has improved, and is now one of his strengths.
Like another high scoring WHLer Rangers fans are familiar with, Michael St. Croix, Lipon’s defense is very much a work in progress. Lipon doesn’t really stand out in any one department, but he has a major chip on his shoulder and seems willing to do whatever it takes. He’s definitely the type of player the Rangers have had success developing in the past.