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: 6-1 Weight: 189
Professional sports teams that put too much stock in draft combines rather than evaluating a player’s actual abilities are often proven to be fools. That said, scouts can’t help but notice when a relatively highly regarded prospect blows away his competition in fitness tests. This year, that guy was Lewington. The 18-year-old finished first in the bench press (16 reps at 150 pounds), push-ups (42), push strength (341 pounds) and pull strength (296 pounds). He was the only prospect to lead the pack in more than one test. CSS had him ranked 66th before the combine, but it’s likely that Lewington has bumped his stock significantly after his extraordinary display of upper-body strength.
Medicine Hat gradually increased Lewington’s responsibilities throughout the season and he really took off in the second half of the year. Lewington is known for being solid positionally with great gap control. And, in music to the ears of Rangers fans, Lewington plays a physical game and is a willing combatant. Lewington’s offensive game is still raw, but he seems to be gaining confidence as a passer.
After Dylan McIlrath and Brady Skjei, New York is woefully thin on blueliners in the system. Expect them to reload in that department on June 30th and if Lewington is still on the board, he’d be a very logical choice.
Position: D Height: 6-4 Weight: 191
Lewington’s teammate is the second of three Medicine Hat Tigers defensemen that fall in the third round range, Ty Stanton being the other. The thing that stands out about Jensen is obviously his size and he’s starting to show signs of using his long reach to be a shutdown defender. Jensen has been slowly growing into his considerable frame and as might be expected with a teenager his size, puck skills have been slow to follow. Jensen isn’t expected to be of much help moving the puck as he progresses, but he projects as a very solid player in his own zone.
Jensen skates reasonably well for his size and is willing to use his body, but he’s not man-strong yet. Jensen doesn’t play with a ton of nastiness, but, like his teammate, Jensen has been known to drop his gloves. Jensen is pretty raw and has a lot of growing to do before it’ll be possible to make a reasonable assessment of his potential, but his size and sound defensive game make him an intriguing prospect.
Position: RW Height: 6-0 Weight: 186
Houck was trapped on a bad Vancouver Giants squad this season, but he was far and away the team’s best player and really busted out in the second half, with 18 goals in his final 36 games. Houck’s skating needs a lot of work – he takes way too long to reach his modest top speed – but there are a lot of other things to like about his game. Houck is an enthusiastic and punishing hitter, has a very high motor and has recently begun to showcase some offensive skills.
Players like Houck tend to be overlooked at times thanks to the struggles of their teams, but that can cause unnecessary drops in the draft. Houck has several valuable tools, but the Rangers will surely be wary of his skating. That’s been the one characteristic the team has valued above all others in recent years, so if they do look in Houck’s direction it will be because they fell in love with his physicality and compete level.