The NHL and the world of sports is on pause in the midst of the outbreak of the coronavirus. Hockey might resume in June, or July, or not at all for the rest of the season. No one truly knows how long the ongoing pandemic will last.
However, the New York Rangers have at least some entities to be thankful for. A budding 2018 draft class, with a newly signed K’Andre Miller, and a promising 2019 draft class is something that this organization and its fans cannot overlook as the dawn of next season approaches. (from ‘Rangers sign first-round pick K’Andre Miller,’ New York Post, 03/14/2020) Without further ado, let’s take a look back at the Rangers’ 2019 draft and how the players are developing.
Kaapo Kakko (1st Round, 2nd Overall)
As the only 2019 Rangers draft pick to compete in the NHL as of now, Kaapo Kakko has dealt with his fair share of struggles during his highly anticipated rookie season on Broadway. The Finnish winger hasn’t found the same success he saw in his preview season in Finland, but he is just 19 years old and playing under the brightest lights possible in New York City.
Through 66 games in the 2019-20 season, Kakko has managed 10 goals and 13 assists for a total of 23 points. The 6’3″, 199-pound winger is still finding his footing in the big leagues, but he has all the tools necessary to become an NHL All-Star in several seasons down the line and Ranger fans should still await his breakout with positive anticipation.
Matthew Robertson (2nd Round, 49th Overall)
Defenseman Matthew Robertson has developed at a decent, if not great, rate during the 2019-20 season in the Canadian Hockey League. With the Edmonton Oil Kings, Robertson totaled 47 points in 60 games before the season was put on pause. He has also been phenomenal on special teams, helping the Oil Kings capture one of the best penalty kills in its respective league.
The left-handed shot collected 34 assists this season and his playmaking has improved greatly. Robertson is developing nicely for the Rangers but is still a few years away from competing for a roster spot.
Karl Henriksson (2nd Round, 58th Overall)
Forward Karl Henriksson is another prospect for the Rangers that is developing his game better than some expected. The left-handed Swede totaled 41 points in just 27 games with 35 of those tallies coming as assists. General manager Jeff Gorton chose Henriksson because he is a creative playmaker who has plenty of confidence with the puck over in Sweden.
Compared to last season with Frölunda HC, Henriksson put up 49 points in 45 games played. If the season continued in 2019-20, he would’ve been on pace for over 60 points, easily breaking his totals from last season. He is another nice piece of the Rangers down the line.
Zachary Jones (3rd Round, 68th Overall)
Zachary Jones is another 2019 defenseman selection for the Rangers that is turning out to be a steal for New York. The 19-year-old has 23 points in 32 games at the University of Massachusetts Amherst in Division I NCAA competition.
Jones is still very young and has plenty of potential to grow into an NHL-caliber defenseman. The Virginia native also competed on the USA U20 team and collected a goal and an assist in five games played. He’s another prospect that has years to go before trying to make the Rangers’ NHL roster, but Jones is trending up due to his recent play.
Hunter Skinner (4th Round, 112th Overall)
Defenseman Hunter Skinner was definitely a surprising pick from the Rangers’ front office in 2019, due to the little upside that he obtains. However, he took a huge step in the right direction in the 2019-20 season with the London Knights.
In 2018, Skinner put up a mediocre 22 points in 52 games. However, in 62 games this season the 6’2″, 180-pound defenseman tallied 32 points. His stock is certainly on the rise, but there is still not amazing loads of potential with this selection. Skinner will have to keep his progression on a positive path if he hopes to crack the Rangers’ lineup in the future.
The Rest of the Picks
Leevi Aaltonen (5th round, 130th overall) is playing over in Finland and hasn’t found much success. The 19-year-old has scored just four times in over 50 games. Center Adam Edstrom (6th Round, 161st overall) has 9 points in 46 contests over in the SHL in Sweden. Lastly, winger Eric Ciccolini (7th Round, 205th overall) has managed to put up 11 points in 26 games for the University of Michigan.
Overall, the Rangers’ prospect pool is flourishing with many moving parts. With Nils Lundqvist and K’Andre Miller getting set to compete for roster spots soon, that’ll give the 2019 draft class time to develop and hone their abilities. Despite Kakko standing out amongst the rest, New York continues to prepare for the future with its budding draft selections from last season.
Sophomore journalism major at the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland. Business director and play-by-play broadcaster for WMUC Sports. Former intern for the Anton Media Group.