This Year Picking 28th Could Be Good, Maybe Even Another Blueshirt Named Matteau!



When he was running the Islanders back in the 1970s, Bill Torrey described the Entry Draft as “a crap shoot.”

All things considered Bowtie Bill knew how to roll the dice. Thanks to his annual pickings Torrey landed Hall of Famers Denis Potvin, Bryan Trottier and Mike Bossy among others. An unprecedented — for an American team — four straight Stanley Cups were Torrey’s rewards.

The Rangers are eyeing a Stanley Cup in 2013 and recent selections have steered them in the right direction. How about Chris Kreider, 2012 playoff hero, who was picked 19th overall in 2009.

Over the past seven years from the Draft, Glen Sather has been able to pluck Marc Staal (2005), Artem Anisimov (2006), Carl Hagelin (2007), rounding it out in 2008 with Michael Del Zotto and Derek Stepan.

Proving that higher picks can be winners, Hagelin had to wait until 168th before getting the call while Anisimov went at number 54 and Stepan, 51st. Nabbed in the first round, Staal was 12 and Del Zotto, 20.

Bottom Line: Torrey was right.

Since the Blueshirts have the 28th pick in Pittsburgh this weekend, and scoring is a prime need — as the 2012 playoffs proved beyond a shadow of a doubt — it stands to reason that Sather’s first call will be for a forward.

That being the case, The Maven believes that Chicago-bon 18-year-old Stefan Matteau is a likely choice. Apart from the fact that his dad, Stephane — Matteau!  Matteau! Matteau! — remains a Rangers icon, the lad has more than a famous pop for credentials.

The International Scouting Service rates him as high as a 24th pick while The Hockey News Draft Preview lists him at 30th. Either way, young Matteau is within the Rangers range.

What’s so good about the Stefan version of Matteau? For starters, he’s 6-1, 210 pounds and still growing. He’s a power forward who plays on the edge. One description is “energetic” but he still must learn to control what has been termed his “edgy” play.

Speaking of ex-Rangers who have offspring available for the big club, there’s Ulf Samuelsson’s son, Henrik, an 18-year-old center. At 6-2, 195 pounds, Samuellson has already enjoyed experience with Modo of the Swedish League as well as the Edmonton Oil Kings of the Western Junior Hockey League.

Another potential pick worth watching is Tanner Pearson, a Kitchener, Ontario native who played left wing for the Barrie (Ontario) Colts. International Scouting Services lists him at 33 while The Hockey News has the left wing at 36. A late-bloomer, Pearson will be 20 in August. He totaled 91 points for Barrie, more than twice his output the previous season. Add six points in six games for Canada at the World Juniors and you have a “sleeper” there if ever there was one!

Pearson has size (6-0, 198 pounds) and added jump to his scoring touch; plus he still has the ability to improve and adapt to higher levels. Rangers might have a steal there if they nab Tanner. Scouts rave about his smarts — one describes his hockey I.Q. as “awesome” — but questions prevail about Henrik’s foot speed. Maybe a Summer at Laura Stamm’s famed power skating school would answer that issue.

This Spring in particular a large asterisk hangs over New York’s selections and it’s all because of a much-bruited-about Rick Nash trade to Seventh Avenue. Columbus Blue Jackets g.m. Scott Howson has made it abundantly clear that he must receive a healthy return for Nash and that could very well include Sather’s first pick even though it’s way down in the pack. That said, it’s well-known that many NHL clubs are interested in Nash which means the bidding will be fascinating to watch, if nothing else.

The Rangers director of player personnel Gordie Clark will be evaluating club prospects from both a short-term (offense) and long-term (goaltending) viewpoint. Like John Tortorella, everyone at New York’s table of general staffers will be choosing a player who fits Torts well-known give-it-your-all demands.

On defense, no problem. Ryan McDonagh — best of a solid bunch — heads a pack that includes Dan Girardi, Staal, Del Zotto and, perhaps, Michael Sauer, assuming he fully recovers from his concussion symptoms. Then again —  I like Del Zotto — there are some who believe adding a power play quarterback-defenseman would be a help. One answer would be for Sather to nab free agent defenseman Justin Schultz of Wisconsin; assuming that the Anaheim Ducks 2008 second-rounder selection decides to test the market rather than sign on in California.

Ex-Wisconsin aces McDonagh and Stepan might persuade the Badger that Broadway should be his future home.

For further D-men, look no farther than former first-rounders Tim Erixon and Dylan McIlrath, each of whom will audition at training camp in September.

Goaltending will not be an issue now nor in the foreseeable future but at age 30, Henrik Lundqvist is aware that he’s at the peak of his career; and so is the high command. Clark and Sather also know that finding goaltending insurance should be a “now” priority. As The Hockey News sagely notes: “New York would do well to put a plan in place” for a long-range successor to Lundqvist. “Scott Stajcer is the Rangers top goaltending prospect.”

Who knows, there could be a netminding gem far down the pack. After all, The King was nabbed 205th overall in the 2000 Draft!

Based on the Rangers 2011-2012 offensive shortfall, scoring depth on the wings must be bolstered and with Free Agency just around the calendar a deal or two could solve that problem just like that.

The following are three other Draft possibilities for Sather & Co.

JORDAN SCHMALTZ: Ranked 34th by The Hockey News, the Verona, Wisconsin native is an offensive defenseman who starred in the Junior United States Hockey League for both Sioux City and Green Bay. He’s developing into a nifty power play quarterback who, according to one scout, “had the puck for half of one game.”

PHILLIP DI GIUSEPPE: Maple, Ontario’s gift to the University of Michigan Wolverines is a left wing who matured faster than most for a college freshman. The more he played, the more the coaching staff wanted to give him added ice time. Not that it matters that much, but Phil’s family is buddies with another Italian-Canadian from the Toronto area; Mike Cammalleri.

NICOLAS KERDILES: The Maven has birddogs for a reason and my main man, Bill Martin favors this left wing who has been trained by the USA Hockey instructors. “Nick is an intriguing power forward,” advises Martin. “At the moment he’s committed to the University of Wisconsin.” The Hockey News analysts like what they call Kerdiles “pro-style game.” He has size and speed. Hmmm. Reminds me of a lad called Kreider!

A crapshoot, the Draft is, but as the Lundqvist pick has proven, you still can win big with a low grab!