For the first time since 1966, the New York Rangers will have the second overall selection in the entry draft. The last time the Rangers owned a top-five selection, they picked Pavel Brendl at fourth overall in the 1999 Draft. He went on to play in just 78 NHL games, none of which for the Rangers.
Following his record-breaking performance at the U18 World Junior Championships, Jack Hughes at first overall is inevitable. That leaves the Finnish phenom, Kaapo Kakko, for the Rangers, who’s coming off a 22-goal season in the Finnish professional league. He also added another four goals in five playoff games.
The second-overall pick has been a coveted asset in recent years, especially in the talent saturated drafts of 2015 and 2016. Looking at the past 30 years of second-overall picks, it’s nearly guaranteed that the Rangers would get a roster player, but the pedigree of the player varies from Patrik Laine in 2016 to Andrei Zyuzin in 1996.
The Last 30 Years of Second=Overall Picks
At first glance, the New York Islanders really struck out with their second-overall picks. Wade Redden had plenty of great years, but a majority of them came with the Ottawa Senators after the Isles sent him in a package for Martin Straka, Don Beaupre and the rights to Bryan Berard before Redden could even play an NHL game. Dave Chyzowski never panned out after an exceptional season with the Kamloops Blazers in the WHL.
Besides a handful of players, a vast majority of the names on this list went on to have exceptional, if not historic, careers in the NHL. Just in the past 10 years there’s been franchise-altering players that have come from second overall. Let’s speculate some of the best and worst case scenarios for the Rangers as the 2019 Entry Draft approaches.
Worst-Case Scenario: Pat Falloon
Since Chyzowzki didn’t end up playing for the team that drafted him, let’s rule him out as the obvious worst-case scenario. Falloon isn’t much better for a player who was considered the second-best prospect in 1991. He immediately made the San Jose Sharks roster after the draft, and actually had a solid rookie season. He was fourth in Calder votes after his 25-goal and 34-assist inaugural campaign.
Unfortunately, those numbers would become his career highs, only ever coming close in 1993-94 and 1995-96 with 51 and 53 points, respectively. Fallon would inevitably be traded in his fifth season with the Sharks. He then jumped from team to team before falling out of the league at just 27 years old. As far as the last 30 years go, Falloon is one of the worst second overall picks, but Kakko and Hughes look far more poised for lucrative careers.
Best Case Scenario: Evgeni Malkin
If the Rangers are lucky, one of Hughes or Kakko turns into one of the most dynamic forwards of the generation. Hughes probably won’t ever be able to match the physicality of Malkin’s game considering his 5-foot-10, 170-pound frame.
As a natural winger, Kakko won’t be slotting in as a center any time soon, especially on the Rangers’ crowded prospect pool up the middle. To expect Kakko or Hughes to score over 1,000 points before they even played in their 900th game is jumping the gun. Malkin will likely be a first ballot Hall-of-Famer and those won’t be found in every draft at second overall.
Realistic Scenario: Aleksander Barkov
Who better to provide a comparison than the player who held the U18 single season goal record in the Liiga before Kakko came along? Barkov has emerged as one of the premier talents in the league, especially after his 96-point campaign this past season. Barkov didn’t make an immediate mark in the NHL, scoring at a pace of .67 points per game through the first four years of his career.
In his fifth and sixth seasons, Barkov has been producing just over a point-per-game pace. It took some time but Barkov at second overall has finally paid off for the Florida Panthers.
Similar to Barkov, Kakko has talent as both a goal scorer and a playmaker, with more emphasis on his shot. He also excels at using his large frame to create space while working well in tight spaces. Realistically, it’s not far off to expect production similar to Barkov from whomever the Rangers pick at second overall.