With the dust settling on Saturday’s lottery, the long wait for the 2018 NHL Draft drags on. As Dave and Pat have noted, the ninth overall pick that the Rangers possess is by no means a death knell. Trading up is a possibility, but conventional wisdom holds that unless Jeff Gorton can maneuver into the top three, it’s better to hang onto the pick and see if some classic #HockeyMan folly results in a very good player falling into the Rangers’ laps. Being an optimist, I’d be fine with this strategy.
However, there’s a counterargument, which in my mind starts starts here, with a tweet from noted smart Rangers fan and friend to the blog @HockeyStatMiner:
2017 – DET – Michael Rasmussen
2016 – MTL – Mikhail Sergachev
2015 – SJS – Timo Meier
2014 – WPG – Nik Ehlers
2013 – VAN – Bo Horvat
2012 – WPG – Jacob Trouba
2011 – BOS – Dougie Hamilton
2010 – MIN – Mikael Granlund
2009 – OTT – Jared Cowen
2008 – NYI – Josh Bailey
— HockeyStatMiner (@HockeyStatMiner) April 28, 2018
As you can see, there are a lot of brand names on this list. The Rangers are all but guaranteed to land themselves a good-to-great NHL player at ninth overall, unless they totally Hugh Jessiman the situation (Jessiman was the 12th overall pick in 2003, but you get my point). But are any of the names on the list above truly franchise-changers? No. The best players are core pieces, but they’re not the guy you build a team around.
What’s come into sharp relief for me watching these stress-free playoffs so far is that the number one priority for building a true contender is elite talent. Look at the teams and players that are still competing. Sure, one could argue that the Golden Knights lack a truly elite player, but the fact that both William Karlsson and Jonathan Marchessault played at a point-per-game pace this season can’t be discounted either.
And that brings me to the second part of the equation. In addition to elite talent, all hockey teams need some sort of luck. Sometimes, luck shows up in the form of a PDO hot streak, and other times as a fortunate penalty call (or non-call) at a crucial time in a playoff game.
If the Rangers have designs on turning their fortunes around quickly, they’ll need a different form of luck. They’ll need one of their current young players or upcoming draftees to outperform his draft position and turn into a franchise cornerstone.
There is actually an example of this happening to the other Madison Square Garden tenant in recent history. In June of 2015, the New York Knicks selected Kristaps Porzingis fourth overall in a draft that, beyond consensus #1 Karl-Anthony Towns, didn’t boast any “sure things”. Many Knicks fans grimaced and booed the pick, immediately flashing back to memories of Frederic Weis, the European big man the Knicks chose instead of Ron Artest. In case you’re not a basketball fan, Artest went on to become an NBA All-Star and Champion. Weis never played an NBA game.
But the Knicks bet on Porzingis’ ceiling, and despite a knee injury and general mismanagement around him, they were right. Porzingis is a truly elite player. He’s the type of player you can build a contending team around in the NBA. In many ways, his situation in New York is comparable to the mess that Connor McDavid is currently dealing with in Edmonton. Their teams are bad through no fault of their own.
To bring it back to hockey, there are some examples of this happening in the NHL in recent memory. Patrice Bergeron was drafted 45th overall. Anze Kopitar? 11th. Mark Scheifele? 7th. Brent Burns? 20th. I’m obviously focusing on skaters here, but how about Henrik Lundqvist? 205th. You get the point.
The Rangers got very brief glimpses at Lias Andersson (7th overall) and Filip Chytil (21st) last season, so it’s too early to draw conclusions about them. The whole point of accumulating draft picks, as the Rangers have done over the last 18 months, is to give themselves as many chances as possible to strike gold. And while scouting is a massive component in the drafting process, luck often prevails over wisdom.
So perhaps our strategy as fans this summer should be to break out our lucky charms – you know, unwashed jersey you’d wear or the lucky keychain you’d clutch during a tense playoff series – as the Rangers make their draft choices in June. Either that, or back the truck up for John Tavares, but that’s a story for another blog post."The Rangers Need Truly Elite Talent (and a Little Bit of Luck)",