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Surprise, Surprise
Rangers do solid job at 2014 NHL Entry Draft

Brandon Halverson (Aaron Bell/OHL Images)

Brandon Halverson (Aaron Bell/OHL Images)

After being quiet during Friday’s first round of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, the New York Rangers very much made up for it on Saturday taking what was only expected to be 5 draft picks and turning them into 7 draft picks total. Give Glen Sather, Gordie Clark and the scouting staff a lot of credit for turning what was supposed to be a very weak draft into a very productive one,

The only pick that actually belonged to the Rangers was their 2nd round pick (59th) and the Rangers used it to select perhaps the successor to Henrik Lundqvist when they selected Brandon Halverson a goalie who plays for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL). Halverson is a 6’4 180 lb. goalie who just finished his rookie season with the Soo.

Halverson is a butterfly style goalie who can handle the puck well and does a very good job communicating with his defensemen in the defensive zone. A smart young player who will catch opposing teams napping by getting the puck up ice when his team is on the power play.

Halverson had back to back shutouts while making his debut with the Greyhounds last season. He is expected to take over as the starter for the Greyhounds this season and was invited to take part in Team USA’s summer evaluation camp. Halverson earned CHL goalie of the week honors for the week ending on March 9th, 2014.

Halverson finished the season 12-6-1 with a 2.96 goals against and a 0.904 save percentage. Considering he was playing backup behind a 4 year veteran, Halverson’s numbers were pretty good for a guy who didn’t play a whole lot during the season.

Very athletic and plays with a solid confidence, Halverson needs to grow into his body and watch himself as he has a tendency to overcommit on plays. Figure Halverson will play 2 seasons for the Greyhounds before turning pro, then 2-3 more seasons in the minors before making the Ranger roster first as the backup then very likely as the successor to Henrik Lundqvist.

Halverson is coached in Sault Ste, Marie by former NHLer Sheldon Keefe.

The Rangers sent Derek Dorsett to the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for a 3rd round pick (85th) which in turn the Rangers used it on Keegan Iverson of the Portland Winterhawks (WHL). This is a player who I am very familiar having watched him develop over the last 2 years.

Iverson a 6’2 220 lb. center was a steady performer for the Winterhawks coming off a career best 22-20-42 all the while being asked by his former coach Mike Johnson to go up against the other team’s best line every night. Iverson is a grinder who will get in your face and drop his gloves if need be.

Good hands, can handle the puck into and out of traffic, Iverson likes to set camp in the crease and once there he is almost impossible to move out. Needs work on his skating and improved accuracy on his shot but he will become an almost instant fan favorite of the Rangers fans with his physical play.  Iverson is a work in progress as he is expected to take on a Top 6 role next season with the Winterhawks.

The Rangers took their own 3rd round pick (89th) and traded it to the Washington Capitals for the Cap’s 4th round pick and one they got from the Chicago Blackhawks (118th). With the 104th pick the Rangers selected 6’4 225 lb. defenseman Ryan Mantha of the Indiana Ice (USHL). Mantha uses his size quite well to defend, has good hands and is a pretty good passer.

Mantha despite his size doesn’t play a very physical game which he needs to work on as well as his mobility which at times can leave him looking a little awkward on the ice. Not originally a defenseman so he is still learning how to play the position.

Kind of quiet as a player which some people misread saying he lack intensity but step in front of one of his shots and then ask if he isn’t driven on the ice. Is undecided as to whether or not to play college hockey as North Dakota is the college he is expected to attend but they are well stocked with defensemen.

If he goes the CHL route then his rights belong to the Niagara IceDogs (OHL). Mantha is a work in progress and while I have nothing against the USHL, if North Dakota doesn’t accept him this year then Niagara would be the better place for him to further his development. Mantha would get a ton of ice time playing for a young IceDogs team so I hope he goes to the OHL.

The other 4th round pick the Rangers had was the 118th and they used the pick to select their 2nd goalie of the draft in Igor Shesterkin of Russia. I don’t know a whole lot about him other than watching him play for the Russian Selects in last year’s Subway Super Series.

Shesterkin dropped both his starts in the Super series, including one where he gave up the game winning goal to Anthony Duclair. Other than that I will withhold anything else on him until I can get a credible independent source to talk about him.

With what was supposed to be their own 4th round pick the Rangers sent it to Tampa Bay for their 5th round pick (140th) and a pick Tampa received from St. Louis (142nd).

The Rangers also had the 122nd pick as the result of a trade with the Florida Panthers and they used it on a player who needs is pretty much a project player in right wing Richard Nejezchleb of the Brandon Wheat Kings. This is another player who I know real well from the WHL as Nejezchleb is originally from the Czech Republic and his draft stock has been hurt by some injuries that Nejezchleb suffered over the last 2 years.

Nejezchleb was lethal going 32-25-57 and he is a good sized 6’2 212. Nejezchleb though isn’t really strong on his skating as he lacks a good first step. Despite his size struggles with his balance and agility, the Rangers will need to put a lot of work into him.

He does have very good hands and can pass his way out of traffic which makes him worth the investment in. He is 20 so where he plays next year is a good question as most CHL teams don’t like using an import slot and an overage slot on the same player.

If it was up to me I would sign him to an AHL deal first then if he struggles with Hartford rather than send him to the ECHL, I loan him to a team in the Czech league for a season or two. That way the Rangers don’t burn away his entry level contract while they see if Nejezchleb can improve his skating and balance.

The 2nd pick in the 5th round was the 140th and the Rangers used that on defenseman Daniel Walcott a 5’11 170 lb. defender who played for the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada (QMJHL). Walcott was a 19 year old rookie which is very rare in the QMJHL but those who saw him the most liked how he was very poised with his maturity, hard-working and his skating is his strength.

Walcott put up pretty decent numbers for the Armada and while he may be smaller, Walcott plays a pretty good 2-way game.  He needs another year in the QMJHL but I think Walcott because of his offensive upside could help the Rangers down the road.

The Ranger’s final pick was Tyler Nanne a 5’10 175 player who can play both forward and defense. He may be small in size but he has a powerful shot from the point. He comes from the Minnesota hockey factory known as Edina HS and was a candidate for the Mr. Hockey award given to Minnesota HS players.

 Expected to attend Ohio State this fall which is a good thing for Nanne as he will be able to work on his game while playing against older more mature players. While he played mostly on the blueline I can see him as a forward down the road because of his size.

Overall I have to say that this was a much better than expected draft for the Rangers who at worst will come out of this draft with 2 NHL players (Halverson and Iverson) while Nejezchleb and Mantha offer solid potential with the 3 remaining 3 picks on the radar.

The Rangers also announced the roster for the prospect camp which begins Monday and tomorrow I will breakdown the players to watch.

Posted by Jess Rubenstein | June 29, 2014 at 07:36 am

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New York Rangers VS Boston Bruins
Wednesday, September 30, 2015

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Rangers 0 2 1 - 3
Bruins 1 0 1 - 2

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