The teardown of the 2017-2018 Rangers was just the first, and most depressing step in the team’s pursuit of winning the Stanley Cup in the future. Going forward, it’s all about building something new. That starts in late June with the 2018 NHL Draft. The Rangers currently own ten draft picks for 2018, and they are as follows:
The goal for every team is to add the best players they can. For the Rangers, though, there’s a bit more to it. Right now, the Rangers have a number of good players and prospects in their possession, but outside of maybe Filip Chytil, who is still an uncertain commodity, they lack players they can count on to be foundational pieces on a contending team. They need to find them, and then find ways to add them to the organization.
The problem is that the Rangers are slated to pick ninth overall. That’s a very good pick, but not a great one. In a draft where there are six, maybe seven players with immediate, obvious upside as a foundational player, the Rangers, as currently situated, are on the outside looking in. It’s certainly possible that a player falls to them, but doing nothing more than sitting around and hoping for the best is not an adequate plan. Having success at the NHL Draft requires a healthy dose of luck, but there are a few ways the Rangers can create their own luck and optimize their chances at finding a cornerstone player.
Trading of picks within the top-10 is not common, though not unprecedented, either. Here’s a recent history of teams moving up within the top-10 selections.
Let’s first all but rule out moving into the top-three selections. It’s not impossible, but it would either require one of Buffalo, Carolina, or Montreal to lose their minds, or for General Manager Jeff Gorton to pull off a string of complicated trades to make it happen (for example, trading up to the 5th overall pick, then moving that pick as part of a package for third overall).
The good news, though, is that the Rangers absolutely do have the assets to move up to as high as fourth overall. Here are some examples of made-up trade ideas using the draft pick value chart created by statistician Michael Shuckers.
In these proposals, the Rangers are paying a premium, if not overpaying, to move up in the draft. If the Rangers could move up without doing so then even better. However, they will need a willing partner in order to improve their pick, and if no team is particularly eager to move down it might take an outstanding offer to make it happen, if it’s even possible at all. With all of their draft picks this season, as well as a 2019 Tampa Bay pick that will either be a first- or second-rounder, the Rangers can afford to pay the price likely required and in the process would secure an important player for the next 10+ years.
The Rangers’ depth of draft picks offers them a safety net in a different manner as well. As in any other year, there are prospects available in this draft with immense upside but whose faults might scare teams away. With so many picks to fall back on, the Rangers can afford to gamble and swing for a home run or two.
Over the next six weeks or so, I, alongside new Blueshirt Banter addition Tobias Pettersson, will be ranking the top-31 prospects eligible for the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, perhaps with some second-round options written about as well. Though our rankings are universal, we are giving notice to the Rangers’ particular needs. There are so many different people, websites, and companies who publish draft rankings and content. Some of that content is fantastic and might better than anything we could aspire to.
What we will say, though, is that we will do our best to offer an individual, informed perspective on these players. A lot of work has been put in by both of us over the last year in terms of watching games, looking into data, speaking with scouts and other sources, and reading other people’s research and perspectives. We will offer examples of all of that in describing the players and justifying our placements of them.