Before we go anywhere we need to correct where the Rangers will select as it is not the 19th pick but rather they are going to pick at 20 so we apologize for the confusion.
Guess there are reasons for everything and our interrupted look at possible prospects for the Rangers to select got some additional help as today our friends at the NHL also released a website for the draft for us to use and use it we will.
Before we start throwing out European names we need to also do some disclaimers because we believe that by the time the draft day rolls along that some things might make selecting European prospects not such a good idea.
We have to start with the all too typical hockey politics as the NHL, the IIHF and their European members all want changes to the the current Player Transfer Agreement or PTA. The Russian Federation is also no longer alone is disliking the transfer fee that the NHL currently pays so they just might find 2 other "friends" who choose to opt out of this agreement but more on that in a moment.
Where to begin as to what are the sticking points, several IIHF members and the IIHF itself are unhappy that the NHL teams are signing European players only to have them play in the AHL or ECHL. They want European players to either play in the NHL or be returned to their European teams.
The NHL would more than likely seem some changes to that agreement but that might require changes to the current Collective Bargaining Agreement which would also require the support of the NHLPA. The only problem is that the NHLPA would like something in return for their agreeing to changes but that is for another time.
The Russians still have no interest in agreeing to the PTA because they think 200,000 per player is not enough. Now the Swedish Federation and the Czech Republic are making noises that they too are wanting to opt out.
Any wonder why the NHL selected Sweden and the Czech Republic for season opening games next fall? Anyone think the term "tossing them a bone" comes into play here?
We also need to express our own view that we would prefer the Rangers take full advantage of this year's crop of North American prospects as we firmly believe that the Rangers need to add size, skill but also at least a bit of a mean streak as well.
We think the Rangers while they have done a very good job in recent years in drafting quality players except for one thing. Most of them are finesse style players and the Rangers in our eyes need to add some Chris Pronger/Jerome Iginla types to the system.
However if trends continue and there is no changes to the PTA then it will also be a very good chance that some talented Europeans will be passed over by the rest of the NHL opening the door for the Rangers to perhaps as they did last season steal a top 5 player like they did with Cherepanov.
Nikita Filatov is a 6' 175 lb left winger who was the leading scorer for the Russian Under 20 team at the Under 20 Championships. He is an extremely talented offensive machine who has all the right tools .
Despite his smallish size we are talking about a rare Russian who will take the attack to the other team not afraid to play a physical style but we are concerned about what happens when he tries to hit the 6'5 240 defenders?
Last season everyone was shocked that Cherepanov dropped to the Rangers but Cherepanov had some knocks on him that Filatov does not have. We would be shocked if once again NHL teams let him drop.
If he is there at 20 then the Rangers would have a tough decision to make as it would be almost next to impossible to let the top ranked European prospect pass by and despite our our personal preferences for a North American; we would grab him too.
If we stick to our requirements of size and skill but the prospect does not have the mean streak, then we could say 2 out of 3 is not bad and say Anton Gustafsson is someone we could live with.
This 6'2 195 2nd generation prospect (father is current Swedish National team head coach/former Capital Bengt-ake Gustafsson) is playing for Henrik Lundqvist's former team Frolunda Jr which alone gets our attention.
What really draws us to him is his Hockey IQ as our own European source tells us that the best thing about Gustafsson is how smart he is with his decision making process as Gustafsson is so fundamentally sound that it is big news when he does make a mistake.
We also like that Gustafsson will go into traffic to make a play even if it means he is going to take a hit. He does not lose many battles long the board and when he fills out his frame we project him to be close to 22o.
In many ways we even like Gustafsson more than Filatov.
We are going to go against the grain and include Evgeny Grachev in our prospect list because we saw him in a couple of Under 18 games where he did not play badly. Grachev is 6' 3 200 at age 18 so we already like his size.
Others have been downgrading him but when we watched Grachev play on a North American sized rink he actually looked a lot more comfortable than some of his teammates. Grachev already has power forward size and if one can get him to mold his body and unleash a mean streak then this might be a player to strongly consider.
Any of those 3 prospects we could live with but at the same time our first preference is in fact a North American. There are also some prospects who expect people to ask us about so let us go ahead and say why we are not too high on them
Kirill Petrov is a 6'3 Right Winger but to be honest our own radar kicked in and started screaming "A Russian Jessiman". We are talking a prospect who is rising out of nowhere, reportedly has size and a willingness to play a physical game.
Had Petrov had a more on his resume than what we have seen then we would not have a problem selecting him but again we look at him and while we could be dead wrong when our gut says "Russian Jessiman" then we say pass.
Mattias Tedenby is a smallish left winger (5-10) who plays hard but we simply do not believe has the body or the willingness to play the North American style. The Rangers already have several prospects his size but play bigger.
Erik Karlsson is a very talented offensive weapon but at 5'11 would get run over trying to play in front of his own net. With the Rangers already having Bobby Sanguinetti in the system then there is no need for him.
Viktor Tikhonov is someone we know others will be asking about since this is the grandson of the Russian coaching legend of the same name. His father was an assistant coach with the Sharks so while nobody is going to question his Hockey IQ we will question his potential.
Yes Tikhonov has some size (6'2) but unlike so many others, it seems as if he labors when he plays. What we mean is that his skating is weak, his speed suspect and while his work ethic is first rate; Tikhonov in our eyes is a project player that we believe the Rangers should also pass on.
Tomorrow we go back to being a fantasy GM and continue to project the 2008 Entry draft.
(All Pictures are courtesy of www.nhlentrydraft2008.com)
15 hours ago