Entering the 2012 NHL draft, the New York Rangers possessed their fewest amount of picks -- four -- since 1968. But with the franchise's reversal over the past several years of cherishing homegrown players, New York has a bevy of blossoming youngsters, so the lack of picks wasn't that concerning. Thus, general manager Glen Sather's focus at the draft undoubtedly become trade talks in attempt to address the team's most glaring need: a high-scoring forward.
Even though the team's architect was unsuccessful in doing so at draft weekend, the Rangers continue to be in discussions for Columbus' Rick Nash, whom they have deemed too expensive, and the Ducks' Bobby Ryan, whose price seems high but they've yet to engage in the type of serious talks they've had for Nash. The blockbuster deal of the weekend centered on the Penguins' Jordan Staal heading to the Hurricanes for Brandon Sutter, their eighth-overall selection and a draft pick. The young center would've been a perfect fit in New York, and it became known that the Rangers were involved, but nothing ended up getting completed, a reason due the fact the Pens and Rangers also play in the same division.
With the trade chatter entering the forefront, the Rangers' draft took a backseat, especially with them drafting at the back of the pack at No. 28 in the first round. Of course, that doesn't mean this stockpiling of new talent was any less important. With Gordie Clark at the helm, his fifth year in charge of the team's draft, the Rangers have become a product of their minor-league system, with 10 players at the end of the year drafted by the organization; and that doesn't include Ryan McDonagh, who made his minor league and NHL debut with New York, or Michael Sauer, who has been out with a concussion.
New York's first pick, defenseman Brady Skjei, is already drawing comparisons to Chris Kreider and Ryan McDonagh for his skating ability as a big-bodied player (6-foot-3, 200 pounds). Prior to the draft, it appeared the Rangers would try to find gifted scorer or a goalie to groom. The crop was so defenseman-heavy (a record 18 were taken in the first round) and the top two goalies of the class were selected earlier, so the Rangers went with a guy in Skjei whom they had high on their list, is a good puck-mover and possesses a big shot. The 18-year-old will attend Minnesota in the fall.
On Day 2, the Rangers had three picks and took Cristoval "Boo" Nieves with the 59th overall pick. Clark noted in The Record that the 6-foot-2, 185-pound Nieves is another plus skater and a playmaker. Bob McKenzie of TSN said (according to SNYRangersblog): "There is a lot to like with the physical tools he has." Nieves' development as the Rangers' top-drafted forward should be fun to watch as he heads to Michigan in the fall. The Ranger have had success with college players, and they continued that draft style with their first two picks.
After all the draft-worthy goalies were taken by the time the Rangers would've picked in the third round, they decided to swap their third-rounder with Nashville for next season's third-round pick. Thus, New York had cut its available selections to just three, taking blueliner Calle Andersson at No. 119 in the fourth round. Anderson is 6-foot-2, 208 pounds and Clark in The Record described him as "an offensive defenseman, very good puck mover and he's got a chance to be a right-handed shot on the power play."
The day, which still included three more rounds, appeared to be over for the Rangers, but they decided to snag Nashville's fifth rounder for theirs next season to take what they deem as a hidden gem in Denmark native Thomas Spelling, who is a 6-foot-1, 176-pound forward. Taking the 19-year-old with the 142nd pick, Clark and his crew certainly had Spelling high on their board that they felt they had to jump back into the draft to get him. This may be the most interesting pick of the draft, and Spelling's growth over the next few years should be closely monitored with the Rangers' intentions clear here.
Even with a limited amount of selections, the Rangers went in with a purpose and stuck to their gameplan of going with "best available." They obviously never felt rushed to draft a goalie -- the class was thin and the top two were a step above the rest -- and continued to stockpile some long-term talent into their system. Andrew Gross of The Record also notes in his draft recap: Clark wanted size and the Rangers got bigger in the draft, with an average height of 6-foot-2. It also appears they coupled their interest in adding players with big bodies with their affinity of plus skating ability; a combination certainly valued in this day and age. Rangers fans have absolutely enjoyed first-hand what it's like to have players that can create and make up for their mistakes because of their skating ability.