After a recent ‘debate’ with an Islanders fan over the Islanders and Rangers recent draft records and current quality of prospects it got the mind working overtime; how do you define the quality and success of a draft? Was 2003 a bust because Hugh Jessiman was? Was 2006 a failure because Bobby Sanguinetti was? It’s not as simple as one individual making the grade, so let’s have a look back through some recent drafts and try and grade them.
Discounting the 2010 draft (surely too early to pass a grade – despite looking promising at this stage with Thomas in particular) the Rangers have overall, drafted very well in recent years even if they are not the sole beneficiaries of their drafting. A draft should not be judged on just first rounds picks.
The year of the Huge Specimen was indeed a failure for the Rangers. However, the draft has produced 6 NHL players. A draft class that undoubtedly retarded the Rangers development by a year or two (what would the current roster look like with Getzlaf or Parise?!) it could have still been much better had Russian relations been better. Ivan Baranka’s promise as an excellent defenseman was not realised in part due to the KHL and Corey Potter never came through as he should have done. Nigel Dawes did flash some ability at the NHL level playing over 200 NHL games thus far. 2003 grade: D-
Given the way a section of the 2004 draft class has panned out, had the Rangers got the first round right, this could have been one of the greatest NHL drafts by one team of all time. The Rangers boast Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan from this class – two potential all stars and two core, home grown players critical to their future. Again, a total of 6 NHL players came out of the draft. However the first round was Al Montoya and Lauri Korpikoski – players beginning to establish themselves in the league but elsewhere. Both players are perhaps starting to show the Rangers were right to pick them and perhaps starting to show they were given up on too quickly. That’s not necessarily bad drafting. 2004 grade: B+
Another year that has yielded 5 NHL players it is a year that the Rangers undoubtedly got right. They wanted Marc Staal, they got him and he is the all star rock on which their defense is built. Then there are the final remnants of Brian Leetch: Mike Sauer. His NHL career was, for a long while, in doubt but the franchise showed patience and have been handsomely rewarded this year. When a third of your defense comes from one draft it can’t be a bad one. With Brodie Dupont also still with the organisation and Tom Pyatt a regular NHL player elsewhere, it was a good draft. The foundations of the future may have been set in 2004 and 2005 with Staal, Sauer, Dubinsky and Callahan. 2005 Grade: A-
This is one of those contentious draft classes. If the draft is indeed judged on your 1st round pick this year must be considered a failure. If you allow for the absolute theft of a first round talent taken in the second round who has become a young core centre in the NHL then it is surely a success. Bobby Sanguinetti has 5 NHL games under his belt; he’s a bust at this stage. However the Rangers are enjoying watching Artem Anisimov grow in to a good two way NHL center and he could have room for more. What makes this a bad draft is what came after the Russian center. However if you can get a core piece from every year group it can’t be that bad, no? 2006 Grade: C+
The 2007 draft was full of tragedy, disappointment but at the same time is full of hope. The sad passing of Alexei Cherepanov robbed the Rangers – and hockey – of an elite player and (in a much different way to 2003) set the Rangers development back when looking purely at the hockey effect. With a genuinely poor draft choice in the 2nd round (Antoine Lafleur) 2007 wasn’t kind to New York early. Then came the 5th and 6th rounds of the draft. This year Max Campbell has turned himself into a genuine prospect and remains a Rangers candidate but it was the 6th round that may make this year group worth all the trouble. Carl Hagelin has turned into a stud prospect. Likely to be signed soon, the young Swede looks the real deal and could be another late draft heist. 2007 Grade: incomplete
Much like the potential of 2004 this could be a phenomenal draft for the Blueshirts. Taken in the first, Mike Del Zotto’s pick was necessary and paid immediate dividends. A great NHL rookie year, he has had set backs but remains a good future Ranger. Stunning the Rangers and the NHL this year is Derek Stepan, the Rangers best rookie forward in a long time. Evgeny Grachev may have had his development hit speed bumps but is still a legitimate prospect and still potentially a third round steal and the Rangers still boast Dale Weise and Tomas Kundratek from this draft; both very legitimate NHL candidates sooner or later. When all is said and done 2008 may yield 5 regular NHL’ers for the Rangers. 2008 Grade: A (if Grachev becomes an NHL regular – A+)
Yet another draft class in recent memory that has the potential to be stunning. Chris Kreider has developed into one of the top prospects in all of hockey (according to external sources, not Rangers fans) and may soon have an NHL contract to go with his college and world junior titles. Ethan Werek has proved to be a legitimate NHL prospect, as has Roman Horak. Then there is Ryan Bourque who has had success at every level of his career and now sports a shiny new NHL entry deal. This could be another year where the Rangers boast a handful of roster players from one draft class. 2009 Grade: Hard to give a grade yet but looks like another A when all is said and done.
The New York market doesn’t (or hasn’t) allowed the Rangers to be cellar dwellers and build with lottery picks (hello Pittsburgh, Chicago and Washington). Many first round picks have been middle to late, often with spectacular results. What the Rangers may have done better than almost every franchise in the past 8-10 years is find draft value and this is discounting the impact players such as Prucha, Tyutin, Zidlicky and Dominic Moore have had in the NHL at various stages. This is also discounting the drafting of a certain Swedish goalie in 2000. You may have heard of him….
The 2003 draft remains a huge stain on the Rangers’ (specifically Glen Sather’s) reputation and media perception; something that they have recently worked so hard to alter. 2007 is also considered a bust given its circumstances but even that could turn around in spectacular style very soon. The Rangers quite simply have drafted very well in the last decade as the last truly poor draft may have been the 1999 class (urgh). So when all is said and done, Rangers fans quite rightly should stick up for their organisation and their prospects. It hasn’t only been about the sexy free agents you know.