OK guess the very first thing we need to do is clear the air, we do not dislike Michael Del Zotto at all and our disappointment over his selection is not because we do not like him.
Our disappointment is because once again we sit and we watch the Rangers fail to fill the hole left by the loss of Jeff Beukeboom a decade ago that still has not been filled. Our disappointment is because after 82 regular season games and 10 playoff games that we still do not see the stay at home physical defenseman in the Ranger system.
This has nothing at all to do with Del Zotto because he is an innocent bystander here. Del Zotto is an offensive weapon who does have an upside but what makes us question the pick is not Del Zotto but where the kid fits in.
Last we looked the Rangers play a defensive minded system but the holes are huge when it comes to having someone who can clear the crease, who can anchor the penalty kill and who will punish someone with crushing body checks.
The Rangers were either unable to trade up for a Colton Teubert or Luke Schenn or they did not try to. They had a chance to take a John Carlson and passed upon it. Normally we have a lot of faith in the Ranger's scouting and developmental staff but it is shaken by this selection.
We watched as we saw teams set up shop in the crease and the Rangers did not move them out. How often did we see teams out muscle Ranger defenders for the puck in their defensive zone?
How often did Ranger fans complain about the soft Ranger defense? We see it but yet the Rangers continue to turn a blind eye to it and fail to address it. If anything not picking a stay at home physical defender actually puts more pressure on a kid like Del Zotto.
Our hope is that the Rangers will use one or more of their remaining picks on their needs like the defensive defenseman or the power forward. This draft may be deep but the further they go in the draft the less talented the prospects get.
As for Del Zotto, yes this is a player who's stock fell and the Rangers were able to take advantage of that situation. The question though is was the expectations on Del Zotto too high or was it simply a bad year for Del Zotto?
We are going to offer a different theory as we believe what happened to Del Zotto is a story we have seen and heard before when it comes to young prospects in their draft season. Over the years we have watched too many prospects read the criticisms of their game and decide to concentrate on improving them.
Too often the kids spend their off-season working on their "weaknesses" and forget what made them who they were. At this stage of their career the prospects tend to get little off-season coaching and/or supervision to help guide them.
If you doubt us take a long look at the player most like Del Zotto in Bobby Sanguinetti and compare Sanguinetti now to where he was when the Rangers first drafted him. The two prospects are mirror images when you compare scouting reports before they were drafted.
Recall how Sanguinetti was a defensive liability, how so many were so down on this creative, puck moving defender? 2 years of working with Ranger coaches and scouts and while Sanguinetti is not a stopper; we tell you that he is no longer a major liability either.
Everything we have seen about Del Zotto talks about how the kid was trying to improve his defense. Of course we believe that what happened was that his offense suffered and then Del Zotto over compensated and made things worse for himself.
So then the question is how coachable is Del Zotto (who will turn 18 next Tuesday) and how bad does he want to be a Ranger? IF Del Zotto is coachable then the Rangers will be able to fix what messed up Del Zotto's game last season.
The first lesson they will have to teach Del Zotto is to remember to be himself not Bobby Orr (his idol) or try to change everything overnight. Del Zotto needs to take baby steps not try to either rush or force the change as it will take time.
Sanguinetti's defense improved over an 18 month period as he improved his entire developmental path from diet to workout routines to gym work. The smartest thing the Rangers can do is to pair up Del Zotto with Sanguinetti so he can show Del Zotto how he was able to improve his own game.
There is however a side of Del Zotto which we know that nobody else will address and that is his junior team the Oshawa Generals. We feel where a prospect plays and for whom he plays is just as important to a prospect's development as what the prospect does for himself.
Del Zotto plays for the Oshawa Generals in the OHL, they are coming off a pretty solid season finishing 5th overall in the OHL and making it to the OHL Eastern Conference Finals where they fell to the Belleville Bulls.
We have some very serious concerns here as the Generals are a franchise in transition to put it nicely having fired long time General Manager Brad Selwood in May. In addition to Selwood's termination came the resignations of the General's scouting staff but not without some very harsh words for the co-owner of the team Rocco Tullio from former head scout Rob Honighan.
When we read something like this we get very nervous about how a prospect will be handled:
"Basically in six short months, Mr. Tullio has become an expert in all areas of the hockey team," Honighan said. "He wants to be the president, he wants to be the head coach, he wants to be the director of scouting, so I've decided I'm going to step aside and give him the opportunity to play Superman. Mark my words, Rocco Tullio will be the next general manager of the Oshawa Generals."
The Generals we believe will be coached next season by Chris Dipiero who was given the head coaching position on Feb 17th in a surprising move by then GM Selwood. Dipiero is a younger coach at 39 so the key is going to be who the Generals hire as General Manager.
But wait this soap opera gets better as this past week we heard rumors that someone has made an offer to purchase the Generals so now despite Coach Dipiero's statement that the kids do not care we know from experience that is not true.
We have watched a couple of prospect's development get retarded or damaged by issues involving the coaching and management of a prospect. This is not a good sign for Del Zotto's development as the Generals were built (in their eyes) to win a OHL championship last season. They do not have a full team to repeat the run next season in our eyes.
We are seeing all the signs of a bad soap opera in the making as the Generals as it is have John Tavares on their roster and the entire world will be watching the prospect expected to be the first pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.
Having watched Ranger prospects who's game suffered during coaching changes, off-ice drama and trades, there are concerns about Del Zotto's development next season. We want to see the prospect being used in a positive environment where his skills are used to their strengths and his weaknesses are worked on as the season progresses.
The Ranger's best prospects are those who got to play on winning teams, a trend that we are hoping will continue here but we have to watch how the off-ice drama plays out.
The Rangers have picks 51 (2nd), 75 (3rd), 141 (5th), 171 (6th) and 201 (7th) so the needs remain the same stay at home defender, power forward, depth at goalie.
It will be interesting to see how all of this plays out because we think the Rangers should get 2 more for sure NHLers and then project players. We believe that the Rangers will use either the 6th or 7th rounder on a European prospect because they will be able to let that prospect sit in Europe for several seasons.
We seriously doubt the Rangers will try to move up in the 2nd or 3rd round but will try to regain the lost 4th round pick.
No offense but we are not going to get up at 6:30 AM to watch the draft not when it is already 2:30 here so we will do things different tomorrow as we will see who is picked and then talk to people before reporting back.
Del Zotto pic courtesy of the OHL
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