The first round of the 2010 NHL Draft begins this Friday at 7 PM in Los Angeles, with rounds 2-7 starting at 1 PM on Saturday. By the time the last name is called in round seven, 210 young players from all over the world will have a possible future with an NHL team.

Who should the Rangers be targeting in round one?

The Rangers have a total of five picks in this year’s Draft: pick #10 in round 1, pick #40 in round 2, pick #100 in round 4, pick #130 in round 5, and pick #190 in round 7. Their third-round pick was traded last June to Los Angeles for center Brian Boyle, and their sixth-round selection was traded last month to the New York Islanders for defenseman Jyri Niemi. In recent years the Blueshirts have enjoyed some drafting success. Dating back to 2004, some notable Rangers selections include Brandon Dubinsky, Ryan Callahan, Marc Staal, Artem Anisimov, and Michael Del Zotto. That’s a solid group of young NHL talent. Drafting has become a strength of late, something that Rangers fans are not really accustomed to. It is starting to give us some hope that this team is on the right path.

Like I had pointed out all throughout the past season, the Blueshirts need a forward (opposite Gaborik) who can put pucks in the net – that is their biggest need and it has been for the last couple years. There is a shortage of scoring forwards in the organization, and I think this is the draft where the Rangers attempt to find a remedy.

The Rangers selected a defenseman in the first round of the 2005, 2006 and 2008 NHL Entry Drafts, as well as adding first rounder Ryan McDonagh through a 2009 trade. Their organizational strength is clearly on the blueline, with defensmen McDonagh and Bobby Sanguinetti among the top Rangers’ prospects, who are expected to join the Rangers roster by the 2011 season. Along with Matt Gilroy, Staal, and Del Zotto, the Rangers will be strong defensively for years.

With that, the Rangers will most likely select a forward this year. A definite need exists at center, where the entire organization is lacking first and second line centers. Artem Anisimov will likely eventually fill a second-line role, and Derek Stepan is projected to be a first or second-line forward – which means there is no true first-line center in the entire system. On Friday night, a playmaking center who can get it done with the puck will be at the top of the Rangers’ list.

At pick #10 that playmaking center should be Jeff Skinner, from the Kitchener Rangers of the OHL. Skinner is a slightly above average skater, but the main strengths of his game are putting the puck in the net and his intelligence both with and away from the puck. The young center was a star in the OHL last year – 50 G, 40 A, +7 in 64 regular season games; 20 G, 13 A, +3 in 20 playoff games. He has great hands and agility, is an excellent finisher, and has an unmatched work ethic. He isn’t the biggest player (5’10”, 197), but his leg strength makes him hard to knock off the puck. Skinner is considered by some scouts to be the top pure goal-scorer in this year’s class, and for a team that has consistently struggled to score goals as of late – he looks like a natural fit.