It’s tough to pick on a franchise that’s qualified for the playoffs eight of the last nine seasons including advancing to an Eastern Conference Final as well as a Stanley Cup Final in that time frame, but the truth remains that the Rangers have not drafted a true superstar player in the first round since Alexei Kovalev 15th overall in 1991.
Sure they’ve had some solid first rounders over the course of the last 20 years including Lauri Korpikoski (2004), Marc Staal (2005), Chris Kreider (2009) and JT Miller (2010).
And yes, I know the Rangers drafted Henrik Lundqvist, but let’s not fool ourselves into thinking they had him at the top of their board when they past over him six times before finally picking him in the seventh round in 2000.
Similar to baseball, unless there’s a Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin or John Tavares available, the NHL draft is a complete crap shoot, but for the Rangers to not hit on a single superstar player in the first round the last 20 years while drafting players such as Jeff Brown, Stefan Cherneski, Pavel Brendl, Jamie Lundmark, Hugh Jessiman, Al Montoya and Bob Sanguinetti is frustrating as a fan.
Even more infuriating is that the Rangers passed on a number of future NHL All Stars to make those mind numbing picks. So here’s my Top 5 Rangers first round could have beens of the last 20 years.
5. RW, Vladimir Tarasenko (2010 – 16th overall by St. Louis)
After missing out on the playoffs due to a failed Oli Jokinen shootout attempt against the Flyers, the Rangers, despite finishing the 2009-10 season with just 222 goals (19th in the league), entered the 2010 draft with the mindset of filling their organizational need for a true enforcer on the blueline which led them to draft Dylan McIlrath 10th overall. While the jury is still out on McIlrath, by using their first round pick to draft a need they could have likely filled in the later rounds, the Rangers missed out on an exciting offensive player who has 62 points (29g, 33a) in his first 102 NHL games.
While passing on Tarasenko looks bad now, it’s going to be infinitely worse if McIlrath never develops into the blueline presence we all hope he can be. The Rangers also passed over Cam Fowler (Anaheim) and Nick Bjugstad (Florida) for McIlrath.
4. RW, Jordan Eberle (2008 – 22nd overall by Edmonton)
The Rangers finished yet another post Brian Leetch season without a true puck moving defenseman along with a disappointing second round exit to the Penguins. The 2007-08 regular season also ended with the Blueshirts scoring a minuscule 213 goals which was good for just 23rd in the NHL. So it made sense for them to draft Michael Del Zotto with their 20th overall pick. While the early returns on Del Zotto pointed towards a solid NHL career, we all know how that story ends. Unfortunately, the Rangers decision to go with an offensive defenseman over an equally needed electrifying young forward led to them passing on Eberle, who has done nothing but tally 221 points (96g, 125a) in 275 NHL games since being drafted by Edmonton.
It’s tough to completely kill the Rangers here as Del Zotto sure looked like the right pick four years after this draft, but ultimately it’s just another missed opportunity for the Blueshirts to draft an elite player.
3. C, Daniel Briere (1996 – 24th overall by Phoenix)
Despite bolstering a defensive corps that included Brian Leetch, Jeff Beukeboom, Alexander Karpovtsev and Ulf Samuelsson, the Rangers decided to go defense with their 22nd overall pick in 1996 drafting Jeff Brown. While Brown never skated a stride in a Rangers uniform, an undersized center drafted two spots later has played over 1,000 NHL games in his career. Danny Briere has 684 points in 916 regular season games, while earning the reputation as a clutch playoff performances due to his 116 points in 124 postseason games.
While Briere’s career seems to be winding down as he finished last season playing on the Canadiens fourth line, I’m pretty sure most Rangers fans would have enjoyed seeing him wear a Blueshirt over the course of the last 15 years. Especially when the guy chosen over him is probably selling insurance right now.
2. C, Claude Giroux (2006 – 22nd overall by Philadelphia)
The Rangers were coming off their first playoff appearance since 1997 and, after using their 12th overall pick on Marc Staal the year before, were likely trying to build a young, talented defensive corps through the draft as the current blueline included pylons such as Sandis Ozolinsh, Darius Kasparaitis, Tom Poti and Jason Strudwick. Unfortunately, the Rangers 21st overall pick in 2006, Bobby Sanguinetti, ended up being the latest in a long line of first round busts for the Blueshirts. The very next player picked after Bobby Sangs that year? Claude Giroux.
I’d rather not even go over the 2014 Hart Trophy candidate’s biography as it makes me sick to my stomach. Not to mention all the ass grabbing jokes we missed out on this offseason. Ugh.
1. The entire 2003 first round after Hugh Jessiman.
Take your pick Rangers fans. Easily, the worst draft pick in major sporting history.
Honorable Mention: LW, Max Pacioretty (2007 – 22nd overall by Montreal). And in the biggest kick to the nuts of Rangers fans, even when the Blueshirts do draft a potential superstar it goes all wrong as their 2007 17th overall pick Alexei Cherepanov dies on the bench during a KHL game due to a heart condition. Meanwhile, Pacioretty goes on to become a 60+ point per year player.