Matt Puempel, 6'0'', 190 lbs., Right Wing (Peterborough Petes, OHL)
CSS;28 (NA)I cannot believe how difficult a pick this was. I literally had three names typed in and erased before I settled for good on Puempel. The talent level from the mid-first to the end of the second round is very close this year, so if a team falls in love with a prospect, we could see some surprises. The Rangers, in need of a puck-moving defenseman after passing on Cam Fowler last June, will consider Nathan Beaulieu and Joe Morrow. But the Rangers actually have some depth on the blueline, with Staal, Girardi, Del Zotto, McDonough, Sauer, McIlrath all expected to play important roles within the next few years. The need up front for some scoring punch is much more necessary for the Rangers.
At this point, what sold me on Puempel over Mark Scheifele, Tomas Jurco, and Zack Phillips was the combination of his ceiling and readiness. Having only watched these four players on a really limited basis, Puempel, with 67 goals and 133 points in 114 games the past two seasons, is the most NHL-ready of the four on the ice, assuming his hip injury fully heals. Puempel is a bit like Brett Connolly from last year's draft in that if his injury is successfully handled, they could have a perennial 30-goal scorer at the NHL level. Jurco's inconsistency is the only thing holding him back from being the pick here, and I could easily see the Rangers trading down and grabbing Jurco. But with Puempel, they will take the chance that his hip will fully heal and they will add a winger whose only purpose on the ice, at all times, is to put the puck in the net. Compared to Patrick Sharp, Puempel's scoring touch is exciting and will be welcome for the Rangers after one more year of junior hockey with the Peterborough Petes this upcoming season, to prove that he is 100% healthy.