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2011 NHL Draft: Rangers Have Their Favorites Going In

With the 2011 NHL Entry Draft just hours away, we know little more now than we did a few weeks ago.

What we do know, thanks to an interview Gordie Clark had with Andrew Gross earlier in the week, is that the Rangers draft war room has a few prospects in mind they want to see fall to 15, and if they don’t they will likely trade down for a second round pick.

Who those targeted players are is anyones guess, but a few beat reporters have speculated on the subject.

Andrew Gross believes the Rangers have three players in mind, including a defenseman:

C Mark McNeill: The 6-foot-2, 201-pound native of Langley, B.C. had 32 goals and 49 assists in 70 games for Prince Albert (Western Hockey League) but his rising stock and size could mean he’s gone before Rangers pick

D Jamieson Oleksiak: A native of Toronto now playing at Northeastern, his 6-7, 244-pound frame and on-ice poise may be hard to resist, though his offensive game (three goals, nine assists in 34 games) is not yet developed

C Mark Scheifele: The 6-2, 182-pound native of Kitchener, Ont. had 22 goals and 53 assists in 66 games for Barrie (Ontario Hockey League) and his six goals and two assists led the forwards for Team Canada at the 2011 Under-18 World Championships.

The Rangers’ interest in McNeill and Scheifele is obvious. The Rangers have very few playmaking centers in their system, although Derek Stepan is the best playmaker on the team right now and figures to be in the future as well, and both of those players can score goals as well.

If the Rangers don’t see what they like at 15, they will trade down and acquire a second round pick, they used the two they had in this draft to grab Tim Erixon from the Calgary Flames a few weeks ago.

If that happens expect guys like Tyler Biggs, Matt Puempel or even Nicklas Jensen. Obviously the Rangers would love to get into the second round, so it wouldn’t surprise me if they got the player they wanted at 15 but also traded for a second round pick as well. It’s just pure speculation on my part, but it seems like something that Glen Sather might pull off.

Then there’s Joel Armia (Blueshirt Banter’s selection in the 2011 NHL Mock Draft), the high-ceilling Finnish player who opened eyes with 18 goals in a men’s league as a 17-year-old this past season.

In the end, we don’t know any more today than we did a few weeks ago. And with Clark at the helm, I’m OK with that.