Friday, February 15, 2013

Rangers Draft Focus: 2nd Round

In last week's introduction, we discussed past Rangers first round picks. The organization has moved in the right direction after years of failure. Drafting and development are two vital areas that determine whether a team made the right selection. For kids Chris Kreider and J.T. Miller, they're still in the developmental stage. Blueshirt fans should be paying close attention.

One area the Rangers have had success is drafting in the second round. Dating back to 2001, five former No.2 picks are still in the NHL and have had good careers. Let's break them down:

Player                        Year          Overall          Team(s)       GP      G      A     Pts    PIM  
Fedor Tyutin            2001          40th              NYR CBJ   571     43    152   195    376
Brandon Dubinsky   2004          60th              NYR CBJ   402     82    138   220    494
*Mike Sauer             2005          40th              NYR            98       4      14     18      96
Artem Anisimov       2006          54th              NYR CBJ   257     50     64   114      94
Derek Stepan            2008           51st              NYR           177     40     62   102      46

*LTI for post concussion syndrome

All five were part of the club's turnaround. Tyutin played on the '07 team that pushed the Sabres six games in the Eastern Conference Semis. Following a second round defeat to the Pens, Glen Sather traded him to Columbus for Nikolai Zherdev. A gamble that didn't work out. While Zherdev stars for Atlant of the KHL, Tyutin remains the Jackets' best defenseman at 29.

Dubinsky and Anisimov were on last year's team that had the East's top record. Along with Stepan, who's currently centering the No.1 line, they helped get the Rangers to the Conference Finals. In the offseason, Slats packaged Dubinsky and Anisimov with Tim Erixon and a No.1 pick to the Blue Jackets for Rick Nash. He used assets to acquire a need. Nash is a top power forward who is an upgrade offensively. Depth has come into question. Always the risk when you make such a move.

If Mike Sauer ever returns, it would be a big boost for the Rangers blueline. Sauer was the most underrated defenseman on the team. He played with an edge that's severely lacking since he went down. Sather has failed to address this hole. Instead, John Tortorella is forced to play Matt Gilroy, who he doesn't trust enough to use in third periods. Stu Bickel is basically a goon and Steve Eminger is serving a two week conditioning assignment. Former No.1 pick Dylan McIlrath remains a year away.

Overall, the Blueshirts have done an admirable job drafting in Round Two. Dubinsky and Anisimov were solid core players who brought Nash. Stepan is currently centering the top line with Nash and sixth round gem Carl Hagelin. Stepan's improvement is crucial to the club's success. He must improve on his playoff goal total. A paltry one over 25 games. He is unselfish to a fault. Shooting more would make him a better player. The coaching staff has encouraged it. Maybe playing with Nash will bring out his best.

The Rangers are hoping Christian Thomas is part of the future. Taken 40th overall by the club in 2010, the 20-year old son of former NHLer Steve Thomas is in his second pro year with Connecticut. He's tallied 10 goals and 11 assists for 21 points in 48 games. He's in the second year of a three-year entry level contract. It's do or die for Thomas next year.

Cristoval "Boo" Nieves was selected 59th last June. Most observers liked the pick. In his freshman year playing for Red Berenson at Michigan, Nieves has 23 points (8-15-23) in 30 games. A nice start to his collegiate career.


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