After Michael Del Zotto was traded last week, many folks in the Ranger Twittersphere turned again to the decision to draft Dylan McIlrath over Cam Fowler as a franchise-crippling blow. Many believe that the Rangers passed on drafting Fowler because they thought they already had a very similar player in Del Zotto and Fowler would have been redundant. Meanwhile, McIlrath was a very unusual commodity that could fill a long-standing hole, so the team happily selected him at No. 10. Of course, Del Zotto never met expectations in New York and Fowler is enjoying a breakout year in his fourth NHL season, so Rangers fans are filled with regret.
The 2010 draft has become one of the biggest gripes among Ranger fans in recent years, but it’s time to let it go. Whether you believe McIlrath will turn into a second-pairing D-man or not, it’s hard to argue at this point that the Blueshirts’ brass didn’t make a mistake. So did many other teams that year, so do many teams every other year.
The fact is, the draft is impossible to predict. Some of the players scouts are most confident about turn into complete busts, while ignored prospects turn into Kings. It’s natural for fans (and members of front offices) to look longingly at the guys they could have had, but at some point enough’s enough.
Yes, the Rangers swung and missed on McIlrath, and in the process overlooked Fowler, Jaden Schwartz, Vladimir Tarasenko, Nick Bjugstad, Beau Bennett, Charlie Coyle, Brock Nelson, and the list goes on and on. But so did a ton of other teams. (Incidentally, I’d be a lot more upset about missing out on the pair of Blues than I would be about missing out on Fowler).
The Lightning drafted Brett Connolly sixth, and he’s been a huge bust so far. Instead, Tampa could have had Jeff Skinner, who went seventh. Atlanta drafted Alex Burmistrov eighth, and he’s now back in Russia. The Thrashers could have had any one of the guys the Rangers missed on, or slowly blossoming Minnesota center Mikael Granlund. The 2010 draft is dotted with examples like these, as is every other draft.
It’d be one thing if the Rangers were consistently flopping at the draft, but it’s been the opposite in recent years. Judging anything more recent than the 2011 draft would be folly, but before that two of team’s first-round picks yielded Chris Kreider and J.T. Miller. Going back further, the Rangers can hardly be faulted by the tragedy that happened to Alexei Cherepanov, and Bobby Sanguinetti was undeniably a bust. New York’s first-rounder in 2005 was Marc Staal. The 2004 first-round pick brought Al Montoya, another bust. But that draft year also produced Ryan Callahan, Brandon Dubinsky and Lauri Korpikoski. Later picks in recent years have also included: Mike Sauer, Artem Anisimov, Carl Hagelin, Derek Stepan and Jesper Fast. For the record, many studies have shown that a draft is a success if it results in just one NHL player.
Have the Rangers been perfect? No, but no one is when it comes to the draft. The fact is, many, many teams would trade their recent draft records for New York’s. The McIlrath pick didn’t turn out great, but it’s time to get over it.