Lady luck shined on the New York Rangers for both the Draft Lottery and Winnipeg Jets’ Playoff woes. Since all four divisional winners bowed out in the first round, they’ll pick after the Jets, helping secure the 20th overall pick for the Rangers. The last time the Rangers held the 20th overall pick, they used it to select Michael Del Zotto in the 2008 Entry Draft.
The Dallas Stars were unable to secure a berth in the Western Conference Final, thus the Rangers will be left with the second and 20th overall picks for the first round. Either Kaapo Kakko (who’s currently tearing it up at the IIHF Championships) or Jack Hughes will be the Rangers’ selection at second overall, but later in the draft becomes murkier waters.
Trade the 20th Pick
This past year, the Rangers traded their 26th and 48th picks in order to obtain the 22nd overall selection, where they took K’Andre Miller. Their 2019 draft stock isn’t much different with the 20th overall selection and two more second-round picks from the Stars and Tampa Bay Lightning. However, they’ve already dealt their own second-round pick to acquire the rights to Adam Fox.
With two second-rounders, general manager Jeff Gorton will have plenty of options if he chooses to move up or down in the first round. No matter their selection at second overall, the Rangers could use more depth at left wing. A low-end first-rounder such as Bobby Brink could entice Gordon, especially if that means the Rangers could grab a few extra picks by trading down. If Gorton should choose to not trade the pick, he’ll have a plethora of options to choose from.
Cam York is slated to go higher in the first round than 20th overall, but we’ve seen plenty of players fall lower than a handful of spots in recent years (Ex. Joseph Veleno in 2018). The 18-year-old defenseman has been reaping the benefits of one of the best U.S. National Development Teams that the draft has ever seen.
His 11 points in seven games led all U.S. defenseman at the U18 World Junior Championships and his 65 points with the developmental team was 23 points better than the next defenseman. He’s a quick puck-moving blueliner with enough precision to eventually evolve into a top-four d-man. Not to mention the Rangers have few left-handed defensive of his pedigree prospects besides K’Andre Miller. Unfortunately, many other teams may be eyeing York, especially after his World Junior performance. Luck has favored the Rangers recently, but asking York to fall all the way to 20th may be too tall of task.
After drafting five centers in 2017, Gorton voted to go wing and defense heavy in the 2018 Entry Draft. If the New Jersey Devils take Hughes first overall (which they likely will) and the Rangers take Kakko, then that’d be 11 consecutive selections without drafting a centerman.
McMichael’s stock has fallen recently after putting up just five points in 11 games in the OHL Playoffs for his London Knights. If he had produced anywhere close to his point-per-game pace of the regular season, he’d likely go higher than 20th overall. His smaller frame of 5-foot-11 and 171 pounds makes him less enticing than many of the other two-way centers in the draft, but he makes up for it with his elite skating ability. His 72 points in 65 games led the Knights and his 36 goals tied for the team lead.
Considering his loss in stock, the Rangers should have no problem finding McMichael’s name on the board by the 20th selection.
Gorton went heavy with right wingers this past draft, leaving nearly zero top-end lefties in the Rangers’ draft pool. The last time the Rangers drafted a true left winger was the fifth round of the 2016 Draft when they selected Tim Gettinger with the 141st overall pick.
Kaliyev and Matthew Boldy are undoubtedly the top left wingers in the draft as both are slated to go in the late teens or early twenties of the first round. The 17-year-old had himself an impeccable sophomore season with the Hamilton Bulldogs of the OHL. He finished sixth in the league in points with 102 points in 67 games, which tops all 2019 draft-eligible players in the OHL.
He still has plenty to work on in his game, primarily his skating and work off the puck, however he’s still one of the premier goal-scoring talents in the draft pool. Look no further than his 51 goals for evidence. Not to mention he’s Russian-born but raised in New York. Now if that doesn’t scream Rangers then I don’t know what does.
Expecting York to drop all the way to 20th is a bit of a pipe dream, thus the Rangers’ front office may have their eyes on a separate defenseman. Look no further than Thomas Harley, a wide framed two-way d-man that excels on both sides of the puck.
Harley finished the regular season as the ninth-highest scoring blueliner in the OHL with 58 points in 68 games. His 47 assists were good enough for fourth among OHL defensemen. Unfortunately, his season was cut short after a quick exit in the OHL Playoffs for his Mississauga Steelheads, but he still managed four assists in four games. He sees space exceptionally well when on offense but likes to keep a close gap when on the other side of the puck. Despite his large frame, he doesn’t play a particularly physical game but will still use his body to gain position in corners and on opposing line rushes.
His 6-foot-3, 187-pound frame makes him one of the larger d-man prospects in the first round, even though his August birthday puts him on the younger side. The Rangers are already loaded with left-handed defense prospects but you draft for quality not need.
The Rangers’ rebuild has already gone exceptionally well, but a sleeper selection with the 20th overall pick would bring them that much closer to a complete team.