The Rangers headed to Philadelphia--site of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft--earlier in the week scheduled to pick only four times this weekend. On Friday afternoon they added another draft choice in a deal where Derek Dorsett was traded to Vancouver, and during the second day of the draft on Saturday the Rangers traded down twice to add two more selections. In the end the Rangers drafted seven players--all between the second and fifth rounds--headed by goaltender Brandon Halverson, who was selected in the second round, 59th overall, out of Sault Ste. Marie.
"The draft-even the first round--was really all over the place," Gordie Clark, the Rangers Director Player Personnel, stated once the draft was over Saturday afternoon. "We started with five (draft picks today) and ended up with seven. I didn't think it would go that way, but in the end we got some players we didn't think we'd be able to get."
The Rangers picked a pair of goalies, three defensemen, a center, and a winger on Saturday after sitting out the first round on Friday night for the second straight year. The Rangers' 2014 first-round pick ended up with the Tampa Bay Lightning as part of the Martin St. Louis-Ryan Callahan trade when New York advanced to the Eastern Conference Final this past spring. Had they not played that deep into the playoffs, the Rangers would have kept their first rounder, and sent their second round selection to the Lightning.
After watching every other team make at least one selection--and most having made multiple selections--the Rangers chose Halverson with the next-to-last pick in the second round. As it turned out he was one of two goalies the Rangers would select on Saturday. Russian netminder Igor Shesterkin was chosen in the fourth round, 118th overall, as well.
"We drafted two goalies today and realistically they probably won't be ready for a few years, but they are good-looking goalies," offered Rangers President and General Manager Glen Sather. "I don't think you can ever have enough goaltenders. We had a couple of guys get hurt this year, another guy (Martin Biron) retired. That changed our whole goaltending rotation."
Halverson is U.S.-born netminder, who is tall and lanky, standing 6-feet-4. Last year he appeared in 19 games as the back up with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. Shesterkin, who is also 18 years of age, appeared in nine games with Spartak in the KHL last year, posting a 2.80 goals against average. He also played at the Russian junior level, excelling with a 1.42 goals against average in 23 games and then appearing in 19 playoff games with a 1.75 GAA.
While Halverson is expected to be the starter with the Soo this season, Shesterkin is projected to play a full season in the KHL with Spartak.
The Rangers selected defensemen Ryan Mantha (4th round, 104th overall), Daniel Walcott (5th round, 140th overall), and Tyler Nanne (5th round, 142nd overall), adding three youngsters to their pool of prospects on the blue line--a list which also includes 2012 first-rounder Brady Skjei and 2013 draft pick Ryan Graves.
"I was excited, had butterflies all day, a little nerves kicking in there, but now it's the best feeling in my life, so far," said the 6-foot-5, 225 pound Mantha, whose uncle if former NHLer Moe Mantha. "I'm a Steady-Eddie d-man. I don't try and be flashy. I can make the first pass, be physical, I'm a big body out there, and I have a good shot."
Clark agreed with Mantha's self-assessment.
"Mantha is a big right-handed d-man who's got a bomb from the point," Clark said of the 18 year-old Mantha, a Michigan native who has played two years in the USHL. "He moves the puck really well. We had him ahead of some other guys who were drafted before him."
Walcott was not drafted last year, his first year of eligibility, but after a step up in class by playing his first year in the QMJHL in 2013-14, the 19 year-old was snatched up by New York in the fifth round. He had 10 goals, 39 points, and was a +15 while playing in 67 games a year after he played at a small college as an 18 year-old the previous year.
"Last year I watched the draft from my house and said maybe one day, or hopefully next year, I could work hard and be seen, and fortunately I was able to be seen this past season and today the dream came true," said Walcott, who added that he wants to pattern his all-around game as a defenseman to New York's own Ryan McDonagh.
"I am a two-way defenseman who can provide offense and play defense, too," continued Walcott. "I can shut down top lines, play in-your-face. I give my heart out every game."
Nanne, who scouts report is a solid, if smaller, offensive defenseman, starred in Minnesota High Schools last season. He has "good bloodlines", according to Sather, coming from the famous Nanne hockey family. Nanne was a finalist for Minnesota's Mr. Hockey Award his senior year, the same award McDonagh won before entering the University of Wisconsin.
The 18 year-old Nanne has committed to Ohio State University where he will begin his college career this fall.
The Rangers two other picks were forwards--center Keegan Iverson (3rd round, 85th overall) from the Portland Winterhawks of the WHL and right-wing Richard Nejezchleb (5th round, 122nd overall), a Czech product who played with Brandon in the WHL in 2013-14.
Iverson is a big strong forward, who can drop the gloves, use his size to create space on the ice, yet who also scored 22 goals a year ago. More is expected from him with increased ice time in Portland this upcoming season. His size--6-feet tall, already 220 pounds--is intriguing, as his willingness to play big out on the ice. His two-way ability is key, as well.
After being slowed by injuries the previous two seasons, Nejezchleb remained healthy and had a strong 2013-14 season in the Western Hockey League. He played in 66 games, scored 33 goals, and finished with 57 points and 75 penalty minutes with Brandon this past season. At 20 years of age, he is the oldest of the Rangers draft picks this year.
"He's closer than the others to turning pro," Clark said of Nejezchleb. "He's a very skilled Czech kid who played a gritty Junior game up there in Brandon--was one of their leading scorers."
The Rangers will conduct their 2014 Developmental Camp this upcoming week, starting on Monday and running through Friday, July 4th.