Rangers Assistant General Manager and Vice President of Player Personnel Don Maloney recently shared his thoughts on the upcoming 2004 NHL Entry Draft with newyorkrangers.com, discussing the pool of prospects, the club's approach to the Draft, potential trade scenerios and much more. ____________________
NYR.COM: Overall, what are your thoughts on the 2004 NHL Entry Draft class?
DM: I would say it's an average group, per say, however I do think there are 40 to 50 players in this Draft who are going to be good players. We have a lot of picks and hopefully we're going to pick the right players. It's not maybe as deep at the top-end as in some other years. The consensus is that there are two players - Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin - then there's a whole other group, I'd say about 15 players who are a notch above the rest. The it comes down to 'who do you like.' You could see a player ranked 15th who could go 40th or 50th. It's that kind of Draft.
NYR.COM: Having so many picks this year, do you approach the Draft any differently this time around as you may have in the past with fewer picks?
DM: Certainly in the early rounds, I think the key for us is to be very organized and know what we want. We've spent a lot of time focusing on the top 60 players and breaking them down not only by talent but by categories of players - comparing defensemen to other defensemen and so on. We've bringing our scouts in a little bit early this year and we're going to run through a couple of mock drafts and 'what if' scenarios. The other uncertainty is I think we'll have multiple opportunities to trade down or potentially trade up in certain spots. With that many picks in the second round, I have a feeling we'll be busy trying to decide if we want to move down a number of slots to get an extra asset - whatever that asset is. I've already received a few calls from teams asking about our picks. One team was asking about our sixth overall pick and whether or not we would trade down. Another team was asking about our other first round pick at 24 and whether we'd like to trade up. And as we get closer to the Draft, we'll have plenty of options, which will be exciting.
NYR.COM: What's your take on the number of players who have made the immediate jump to the NHL in the same year that they are drafted? Are they more prepared, both physically and mentally at a younger age or is it a product of the individual teams needing these younger players to fill roster spots?
DM: It might be a combination of both. I don't see many players from this year's Draft doing so - certainly Ovechkin is at the top of this Draft and he may do so and step in right away. But there probably will be other players who step right in. There always are. I think a lot of it depends on different opportunities, the age of the group, how they perform at training camp, and other factors that come into play. We drafted Manny Malhotra not with the idea that he was going to come in and play in New York the following year but he worked hard in the summer and had a terrific training camp, earned a contract and stayed and played. So, it's also a combination of the physical maturity of the player and the need of the team, but performance at training camp is the most important factor. You can also look at Dan Blackburn as another example. He came in and the opportunity was there for him; he played well, there was a position for him and he never looked back.
NYR.COM: Any other thoughts as you approach this weekend's Draft in Raleigh?
DM: I'm looking forward to it. It should be an exciting time, as it usually is. This year, we've acquired many picks from recent moves that we have made which will hopefully help solidify the organization for many years.