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Rangers 1'st round pick........


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RANGERS GET CHEREPANOV WITH FIRST-ROUND PICK

6/22/2007

 

It's not everyday that an NHL team can draft NHL Central Scouting's top European draft-eligible player and The Hockey News' No. 5-ranked prospect down at the 17th overall pick.

 

For the New York Rangers scouting staff, Friday night's opening round of the NHL Entry Draft at Nationwide Arena in Columbus was a dream evening, as the Blueshirts were able to nab Central Scouting's top-rated European skater Alexei Cherepanov with their first-round pick.

 

Cherepanov is a dynamic, super-fast scorer who dazzled scouts as an 18-year-old with Avangard Omsk of the Russian Superleague in 2006-07. Playing in a league against grown men, Cherepanov scored 18 goals and 29 points in 46 games. His 18 goals broke Pavel Bure's Superleague rookie record of 17, which Bure set nearly 20 years ago.

 

The numbers Cherepanov put up for Omsk were nothing short of amazing. At that same age when he was playing Russia, Washington superstar Alex Ovechkin had fewer goals (13) and fewer points (23), as did Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin and Atlanta's Ilya Kovalchuk. These three players are considered the greatest first-rounders to come out of Russian hockey in recent years, and Cherepanov will look to follow in their footsteps.

 

Nicknamed "The Siberian Express", Cherepanov was also honored last January as the top forward at the 2007 World Junior Championships, leading Russia to a silver medal against a Canadian team that included Rangers prospects Marc Staal and Tom Pyatt. Cherepanov also won a gold medal at the 2007 Under-18 Worlds.

 

As thrilled as the Rangers were to land Cherepanov – a player they had rated much higher than 17 – the young Russian himself was even more delighted that he will be pursuing his NHL career in New York. Speaking through an interpreter, Cherepanov said that Blueshirts captain Jaromir Jagr is his all-time favorite player and the Rangers are the NHL team he most wanted to join. Although he expressed a bit of disappointment in dropping down to No. 17, Cherepanov said the wait was well worth it, as he simply couldn't wipe the grin off his face.

 

Cherepanov is familiar with Jagr from the 2004-05 lockout season, when Jagr played in Russia with the same Omsk team that Cherepanov played for in 2006-07. He seemed overwhelmed at the possibility of calling Jagr and teammate and said he fully expected to be an NHL player no later than the 2008-09 season after possibly spending another year in Russia.

 

Asked if his aspirations of being an NHLer within two seasons were overly optimistic, Cherepanov said he has a history of achieving the goals he sets for himself, and this was one of those goals.

 

Not only did Cherepanov rank first among European skaters in the Central Scouting year-end ratings and fifth in the prestigious Hockey News poll, he was also the fourth-ranked prospect by International Scouting Service, and Red Line Report had him at No. 11. In each case, there is no doubt of his value at the 17th pick.

 

The selection of Cherepanov gave the Rangers one of the draft's best forwards in the draft at a position few teams could have expected to get him. In Cherepanov and Artem Anisimov, last year's No. 2 pick, the Rangers now have the NHL rights to two of Russia's top players under age 20 – both offensive talents with the potential to light up the Madison Square Garden scoreboard for years to come.

 

That so many NHL teams let Cherepanov slip through their grasp was one of the draft's biggest surprises. Even forwards rated far below him in every scouting service were taken well ahead of the Russian, including Colton Gillies, the No. 16 pick by Minnesota, which had traded up ahead of the Rangers.

 

The draft continues on Saturday morning at 10 a.m., with the Rangers scheduled to make five more picks over the next six rounds.

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How soon can he start? :drool:

Don't get your hopes up, the Russian Ice Hockey Federation and the NHL have no standard agreement that a player under contract with a Russian team can just leave because he has been drafted overseas. Just look at why Malkin took an extra year to get to the states, all the red tape is incredible. I will give him this, he is extremely talented to reset records by the likes of Bure, Kovalchuk, Malkin & Ovechkin... I think he will need another season in Russia and then come to the states to play in Hartford...... unless he really is one of the greatest overlooked talents..... that would be a total draft blunder for all 16 teams that picked before the Rangers if this kid really is the #1 overall talent to come from this draft. We probably won't know for a year or two at least.

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Remainder of Rangers draft:

 

RANGERS' 2007 NHL ENTRY DRAFT PICKS RANKINGS

NAME (POSITION, TEAM, LEAGUE, HEIGHT, WEIGHT) THN ISS RLR

Alexei Cherepanov (RW, Omsk, Russia, 6-0, 183)

Central Scouting's No. 1-ranked European skater.

Drafted by Rangers No. 17 overall in Round 1 5 4 11

Antoine Lafleur (Goalie, PEI, QMJHL, 6-4, 186)

Central Scouting's No. 3-ranked North American goaltender.

Drafted by Rangers No. 48 overall in Round 2 -- 157 120

Max Campbell (C, Strathroy, Jr. B, 6-0, 170)

Central Scouting's No. 103-ranked North American skater.

Drafted by Rangers No. 138 overall in Round 5 -- -- 270

Carl Hagelin (LW, Sodertalje, Sweden Jr. B, 5-11, 176)

Born Aug. 23, 1988. Not ranked by Central Scouting.

Drafted by Rangers No. 168 overall in Round 6 -- -- --

David Skokan (C, Rimouski, QMJHL, 6-0, 191)

Central Scouting's No. 40-ranked North American skater.

Drafted by Rangers No. 193 overall in Round 7 89 74 63

Danny Hobbs (RW, Ohio, USHL, 5-11, 178)

Central Scouting's No. 147-ranked North American skater.

Drafted by Rangers No. 198 overall in Round 7 -- -- 263

 

After getting the 2007 NHL Entry Draft off to a big start with the selection of Russian right winger Alexei Cherepanov on Friday night, the New York Rangers returned to Columbus' Nationwide Arena to make five more draft picks on Saturday.

 

With their second-round pick, the Rangers took goaltender Antoine Lafleur of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League's Prince Edward Island Rocket. After sitting out the third and fourth rounds due to trades made last year, the Blueshirts followed up the Lafleur pick with the selection of four more forwards in Rounds 5-7.

 

Of course, there was no bigger prize for the Rangers than Cherepanov, whom many scouts project as a potential NHL superstar. The other big story was a focus on forwards.

 

After taking five defensemen over the previous two drafts, the Blueshirts were content to load up on offense. It marked the first time since 1965 -- and the first time since the draft became the primary means for youngsters to enter the NHL -- that the Rangers did not choose at least one blueliner on draft day.

 

Despite the late-round push for forwards, the second day of the Rangers' draft started out with the most defensive-minded of picks -- a goaltender. At 6-foot-4 and 186 pounds, Lafleur, the 48th player taken overall, was one of the taller goalies available in the 2007 draft. He ranked third on NHL Central Scouting ratings for North American goaltenders and was the second goaltender taken in the draft, behind only Sweden's Joel Gistedt.

 

The Blueshirts didn't pick again until Round 5, when they chose Max Campbell of the Strathroy Rockets, a Junior B team in Ontario. Campbell was the Ontario Junior B player of the year after dominating the WOHL with 46 goals and 95 points in 46 games.

 

With their sixth-round pick, the Rangers chose University of Michigan recruit Carl Hagelin, a Swedish left winger who scored 24 goals and 55 points in 40 games for the Sodertalje junior program.

 

The Rangers had two picks in the seventh round, which they used on two more forwards. David Skokan, a Slovak center with Rimouski of the QMJHL, was taken 193rd overall with a pick the Rangers had obtained in a trade from Montreal. With their own seventh-rounder, the Blueshirts took a local favorite, forward Danny Hobbs of the Ohio Junior Blue Jackets. Hobbs will play for UMass-Amherst next season, and his selection drew cheers from the Columbus fans in attendance.

 

Lafleur was the 157th-ranked prospect by the International Scouting Service and No. 120 in the Red Line Report publication.

 

Central Scouting's profile describes Lafleur as a butterfly-style goalie who "reads the play well and anticipates the cross-ice pass well." He ranked fourth in the QMJHL with a 2.97 goals-against average in 2006-07 and was major-junior hockey's Goaltender of the Week in November 2006 after a three-game win streak that featured a .960 save percentage and 1.36 GAA.

 

Nicknamed "Laff", Lafleur comes from a large family in Gatineau, Quebec, where his father own an optometry business. His favorite player as a youngster was Patrick Roy, but he said he modeled much of his game after Roberto Luongo, the Vancouver goaltender who finished second in the voting for the past season's Vezina Trophy.

 

Lafleur, no relation to Hall of Famer Guy Lafleur, has never been to New York and said he looks forward to his first visit, which will come at next week's Prospect Development Camp.

 

With Henrik Lundqvist established as their starter and 2004 first-round pick Al Montoya in the wings, the Rangers now have some of the best goaltending depth in the NHL. Lafleur might take a few years before he sees the lights of Madison Square Garden, but the opportunity to work with Rangers goaltending coach Benoit Allaire, a fellow French-Canadian, will give him a tremendous edge in his development.

 

Campbell, who will play at Western Michigan University next season, was ranked 103rd overall among North American skaters by the NHL's Central Scouting division. He grew up idolizing Pavel Bure and rooting for the Montreal Canadiens.

 

In 2007, Campbell played a key role in leading Strathroy back from a two-game deficit in the WOHL championship series. The Rockets eventually won the series in seven games.

 

Hagelin, picked 168th overall, was not ranked by any of the major scouting services, but the 18-year-old was a favorite of the Rangers scouting staff and was seen often by Christer Rockstrom, the team's chief European scout, who is based out of Sweden. He will get a chance to adjust to the North American game when he arrives in Ann Arbor this fall to play for the same program that produced Rangers forward Jed Ortmeyer.

 

The Rangers had two picks in the seventh round, which they used on two more forwards. David Skokan, a Slovak center with Rimouski of the QMJHL, was taken 193rd overall with a pick the Rangers had obtained in a trade from Montreal. With their own seventh-rounder, the Blueshirts took a local favorite, forward Danny Hobbs of the Ohio Junior Blue Jackets. Hobbs will play for UMass-Amherst next season, and his selection drew cheers from the Columbus fans in attendance.

 

The pick used to draft Skokan was acquired by the Rangers from the Canadiens last month. The Blueshirts had sent the rights to unsigned 2005 draft pick Ryan Russell to Montreal in exchange for the Habs' seventh-rounder.

 

Skokan was ranked as high as 63rd by the Red Line Report publication and 74th by International Scouting Service. He had been invited to work out for scouts at the NHL Draft Combines in Toronto after posting 35 points in 52 games with Rimouski.

 

Central Scouting's report on Skokan calls him a "skilled forward with a good commitment to defense." He played for Slovakia at both the 2006 and 2007 World Junior championships, making him one of the draft's most experienced international players at age 18. He was also invited to the Canadian Hockey League's Top Prospects Game.

 

Skokan's determination to make it to the NHL can't be denied, either. When he arrived in Rimouski for the 2006-07 QMJHL season, he said it had been a lifelong dream to leave his native country and play hockey in North America. Now he has a shot at this continent's highest level of the game.

 

Hobbs is not as high-profile a seventh-rounder as Skokan, but the native of Shawville, Quebec, also pursued his pro hockey dreams by making the trek to Ohio, where he was an anchor of a Tier USHL expansion team last season. He will enter UMass in the fall.

 

The Entry Draft's opening round took place on Friday night, and the Rangers managed to land a draft gem in Russian winger Alexei Cherepanov. The Blueshirts picked Cherepanov with the 17th overall selection, even though he was rated No. 1 among European skaters by NHL Central Scouting and No. 5 among all prospects in The Hockey News draft preview issue.

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From CNNSI.

• The most intriguing pick of the 2007 draft wound up on Broadway, as Alexei Cherepanov fell all the way to No. 17, where the Rangers grabbed him. Cherepanov was the top-rated European according to the league's Central Scouting Service and was projected by some to be among the top three or four picks, but several factors worked against teams' desire to pick him. First, there is still an uncertainty about what a player from Russia might cost an NHL team because of the newfangled and still undefined transfer agreement. Any team willing to take on Cherepanov also may have to pay a large sum in order to negotiate and pay for the rights to sign him. The Rangers, protected from their own pre-lockout runaway spending habits by the NHL salary cap, can afford whatever this additional fee may be because of their large-market finances and because the fee would fall outside the payroll that is limited by the cap. Cherepanov broke Pavel Bure's goal-scoring mark for rookies (18 in 45 games) in the Russian league while playing for Omsk last year, but for all his skills, skeptics still point to the endurance drills at a recent NHL combine that left him out of breath and questions about his work ethic. Supporters note the key goals Cherepanov scored against the U.S. at the Under-18 World Championships this year. Perhaps both sides knew something. Cherepanov, who has never been to New York, was planning a trip there anyway while in North America. The Rangers had a team jersey with Cherepanov's name already stitched onto the back when they made the pick. "We have to prepare for our team's future," explained Gordie Clark, the Rangers' head amateur scout. "Guys like [Jaromir] Jagr and [Martin] Straka won't be there forever."
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