In what was perhaps the busiest first day of a National Hockey League Entry Draft in the history of the New York Rangers organization, the Blueshirts walked away delighted with the eight prospects that they selected.
Ask most teams after a Draft and you will never hear that they were disappointed with their selections, but on Saturday, the mood surrounding Rangers management and the scouting staff was that they secured some players who all have a legitimate opportunity to play in the NHL and for the Blueshirts in the future.
"This was an exciting day for the Rangers organization," said President and General Manager Glen Sather in addressing the group of players and their families following the Draft. "We are excited to welcome each of you to our family. We've selected you for a reason and now it's up to you to continue to develop and improve your game so that you give yourself the opportunity to prove to us that we made the right decision by selecting you today."
With so many selections in the first day, newyorkrangers.com takes a brief look at each of the newest members of the Rangers organization (photo - Lauri Korpikoski):AL MONTOYA:
(G) 1ST ROUND / 6TH OVERALL
The top-rated North American goaltender in the Draft, the Rangers could not pass up the opportunity to select Montoya despite having a few promising netminders on the horizon in Dan Blackburn, Henrik Lundqvist
and Jason LaBarbera. A mentally strong, poised player with tremendous skill and athleticism, the Chicago, Illinois native backstopped Team USA to its first-ever gold medal finish at the 2004 IIHF Under-20 World Junior Championship, while being named the tournament's top goaltender. The 6-1, 190-pounder also earned 2003-04 Jofa/AHCA All-America West Second Team (the first University of Michigan All-American since the 2001-02 season) and 2003-04 All-CCHA Second Team honors in his sophomore season at the University of Michigan, compiling a 26-12-2 record, along with a 2.23 goals against average and .917 save percentage in 40 games. Montoya will look to become the first player of Cuban-American descent to play in the NHL.LAURI KORPIKOSKI:
(LW) 1ST ROUND / 19TH OVERALL
The Rangers had Korpikoski rated in the top-10 of their scouting list and jumped at the chance to trade up with Calgary to select the 6-1, 183-pound Finnish forward with the 19th overall pick. Korpikoski had a productive first season with Turku of the Finnish Junior League, posting 20 points (12 goals, eight assists) and 26 penalty minutes in 36 games, but his stock really rose following a stellar 2004 IIHF Under-18 World Junior Championship. Korpikoski tied for the tournament-lead with 11 points (five goals, six assists) in six matches with Team Finland, combining with fellow 2004 first round picks Lauri Tukonen (Los Angeles Kings) and Petteri Nokelainen (New York Islanders) to form one of the top lines of the tourney. Talk to any scout who has watched this kid play and they will all echo the same feelings about Korpikoski ... he will outwork any player on the ice with his tenacious style and is a passionate player who does what it takes to win. Considered the 'darkhorse' of the first round, the Rangers view Korpikoski as the type of player that they can win with in the future. DARIN OLVER:
(C) 2ND ROUND / 36TH OVERALL
Olver led Northern Michigan University in scoring as a freshman in 2003-04, collecting 32 points (13 goals, 19 assists) in 39 games. In 2002-03, the 120th rated North American skater by Central Scouting captured BCHL Rookie of the Year honors, recording 89 points (34 goals, 55 assists) and 57 penalty minutes. A good skater with deceptive speed, Olver thrives in a playmaking center role. The 6-0, 165-pound native of Burnaby, British Columbia is an aggressive competitor who hustles on every shift and is not intimidated by bigger players. DANE BYERS:
(LW) 2ND ROUND / 48TH OVERALL
A 6-2, 189-pound left wing out of Nipawin, Saskatchewan, Byers tallied nine goals and eight assists for 17 points, along with 134 penalty minutes in 51 games with the Prince Albert Raiders of the Western Hockey League (WHL) in 2003-04, while also representing Team Canada at the 2004 IIHF Under-18 World Junior Championship. The feisty, hustling forward competes at a high level and plays a very physical game, hitting virtually anything that moves.BRUCE GRAHAM:
(C) 2ND ROUND / 51ST OVERALL
At 6-6, 220-pounds, the Rangers like Graham's combination of size and ability. The center tallied 24 goals and 33 assists for 57 points, along with 89 penalty minutes in 68 games with the Moncton Wild Cats of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) in 2003-04 and was the second-highest rated QMJHL skater in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft (behind Alexandre Picard). A very good skater, especially for his size, Graham possesses a powerful effective touch in the offensive zone but is also aware of his defensive responsibilities as well.BRANDON DUBINSKY:
(C) 2ND ROUND / 60TH OVERALL
Dubinsky led the Portland Winter Hawks (WHL) with 48 assists and 78 points, while placing second with 30 goals and fourth with 137 penalty minutes in 2003-04. The 5-11, 180-pound center from Anchorage, Alaska is a very elusive, quick player who can finish a play. Despite tremendous size, Dubinsky possesses a mean streak and plays an aggravating style of game. ZDENEK BAHENSKY:
(RW) 3RD ROUND / 73RD OVERALL
Bahensky is coming off a strong 2003-04 season with Litvinov of the Czech Republic Junior League, posting 29 points and 204 penalty minutes in 52 games. Bahensky hails from Most, Czech Republic, the hometown of NHLers Robert Lang and Martin Rucinsky, and represented the Czechs at the 2004 IIHF Under-18 World Junior Championship in Minsk, Russia, collecting four points in seven games. A quick, speedy skater with outstanding acceleration, the 6-2, 190-pounder is viewed in scouting circles as a solid two-way player.BILLY RYAN:
(C) 3RD ROUND / 80TH OVERALL
Ryan served as the captain of Cushing Academy (USHSE) this past season, leading the club with 90 points in 37 games. The Boston, Massachusetts native is a very quick skater with quick hands and a good shot. A good combination of skill, hockey sense and grit, the 6-1, 175-pounder has one year of high school left before attending the University of Maine in the Fall of 2005.