By Zackery Robert

Staying in the big apple we will now take a look at the Rangers franchise and their draft day history. Drafting since 1963 the Rangers have had some success but not as much as you may think through the draft in their history.

To start it off we will talk about a few good picks they did make during their history. In 1986 the Rangers made one of their most prolific picks in their history. With the ninth selection in the 1986 draft the Rangers chose Franchise defenseman Brian Leetch. Leetch was an offensive dynamo for the Rangers during his day, he was the last defenseman, until Erik Karlsson this season, to hit the 100 point mark, Leetch won two Norris trophies with the Rangers in 1992 and 1997 and was the Conn Smythe winner in 1994 for the Rangers’ one and only cup win, Leetch had 34 points in 23 games played in that run. He was captain of the New York Rangers between 1997-2000 and when Leetch retired, the New York Rangers retired his number two at MSG on January 28th 2008.

Moving on to the Millenium and the 2000 NHL entry draft. The Rangers waited until the seventh round to select their franchise goalie Henrik Lundqvist. Even though it took Lundqvist until the 2005-2006 season to make his North American debut for the Rangers it was worth the wait. He ended his rookie season with 30 wins and a 922 save percentage and that was only the beginning of king Henrik’s reign over the net. Lundqvist would go on to win 459 games and grab one Vezina trophy in 2012 for good measure. He was the backbone for the Rangers for 15 years and they never had to worry about who was their starter. He brought the Rangers to the Stanley Cup final but was unable to capture the elusive Stanley Cup. However, the mark he left on the franchise and the city was unmatched and will not be matched anytime soon. He was cemented in Rangers legacy on January 28th 2002 with his number 30 sent up into the rafters of Madison Square Garden.

The final player to talk about for this part of the article is 1985 draftee, Mike Richter. Richter was drafted in the second round 28th overall and became the permanent starting goalie for the Rangers after they traded John Vanbiesbrouck to the Vancouver Canucks at the end of the 1993 season. Richter would go on to backstop the Rangers to their only Stanley Cup in Franchise history in 1994. He would end up retiring at the end of the 2003 season. Richter would finish his career only playing with the Rangers and registering 301 wins in the process. He would get his jersey number 35 retired by the Rangers on February 4th 2004.

Now moving away and on to players who never panned out for the Rangers. Starting in the 1990 where the Rangers used their 13th overall selection to draft defenseman Michael Stewart. Now Stewart would play two more years at Michigan State before turning pro and when he did he never got above the AHL level. He spent some time in the IHL as well before taking his skills overseas and playing in the DEL league and in Austria until his retirement from pro hockey at the end of the 2010 season. He never once laced up the skates for the Rangers in a regular season game. Some notable players drafted after Stewart in the 1990 draft would be Keith Tkachuk 19th overall, Martin Brodeur 20th overall and Felix Potvin 31st overall.

Moving further into the 90s we have the 1996 draft where the Rangers held pick number 22 and used it to select defenseman Jeff Brown. Just like Stewart, Brown would take two more years after his draft before turning pro and when he did it was a lot of the same as Stewart never getting above the AHL level in North America. Brown would play in the AHL, UHL, ECHL, and then over in Europe he would play in the BISL until coming back to North America until retirement at the end of the 2007 season.

Moving only one year later to the 1997 draft, the Rangers hold pick 19 and use it on forward Stefan Cherneski. Cherneski would have the same trajectory as the two former players spoken about above. After turning pro at the beginning of the 1998 season Cherneski would only play for three seasons between 1998-2001 before hanging up his skates and all those games were for the affiliate of the Rangers organisation, the Hartford Wolf Pack. A couple other options the Rangers could have gone for that would have panned out given history would have been, Scott Hannan drafted 23rd overall, Brenden Morrow drafted 25th overall, and Brian Campbell drafted 156th overall.

Now flash forward to the 2023 Rangers and you will see a team with a lot of upside to them. They have a top five goalie, some top forwards and a top five defenseman in the league, and with nine first round picks since 2017 the Rangers look to be pretty set up. However due to their lacklustre development of their prospects many of those top picks have either stumbled out of the gate and been traded away or are struggling to develop their game in the Rangers’ system. It is a scary sign for any prospect to see this.

Looking towards the 2023 draft the Rangers hold four picks in the draft this year, 1st, 3rd (COL), 6th, 6th (WPG). With their early exit in the Playoffs the Rangers could expect a pick in the first round around the 22nd spot. Looking at who could be potentially available at that spot the Rangers could choose Gavin Brindley, Ethan Gauthier or Hunter Brzustewicz. Given their development trends over the past 5-8 years what would be best for the Rangers would be to take the best available player with the most natural talent so there is less need for development and more of just some seasoning either in juniors or college until they’re ready to make an impact for the Rangers.

For more information on the 2023 NHL Draft class be sure to pick up your copy of the comprehensive DraftPro 2023 NHL Draft Guide.