With some lottery luck, the New York Rangers will have the second-overall pick at the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. Much has already been said about Kaapo Kakko, the star Finnish prospect who the Rangers are expected to select come this June. He’s projected to be a game-changing player in the NHL who will have a huge impact on the Rangers for at least the next decade.
Is this too much hype for a prospect who’s yet to play in an NHL game though? What can we expect from a second-overall pick? Is it comparable to what we should expect from a first-overall pick?
Historically, second-overall picks have produced a lot of amazing players, ranging from elite skaters such as Evgeni Malkin to solid contributors like Ryan Murray. Overall, looking back at every second-overall pick since 2000, you’re almost always guaranteed to get somebody of significant value.
In the last five years alone we’ve seen some franchise-changing talent get selected second-overall. Patrik Laine and Jack Eichel headline the group, as Eichel has the 20thhighest points-per-game rate in the NHL over the last three years while Laine has the sixth most goals. Going back a bit further we have stars like Aleksander Barkov, Tyler Seguin, Drew Doughty, and Victor Hedman, all of who were all drafted second in their respective drafts and have been some of the most dominant players in the league.
Though the second-overall pick doesn’t guarantee a superstar player, even the few guys who didn’t turn out to be elite have still provided a lot of value. Ryan Murray’s career got off to a bit of a rocky start because of a slew of medical issues but this season he blossomed into a key contributor for the Blue Jackets. He led Columbus’s defensive group in 5v5 points/60 by a wide margin while averaging over 21 minutes a game this season. Sam Reinhart has had a similar trajectory; while he didn’t have the immediate NHL impact like Laine and Eichel did, this season he proved that he’s a legitimate top-six forward. If you’re minimum expectation for a second-overall pick is Ryan Murray or Sam Reinhart (with the upside of an Eichel or Hedman), you could do a lot worse.
How does this compare to first-overall picks? Are the Rangers missing out by failing to get the number one slot? In general yes, first-overall picks hold an edge, both when looking at the numbers and some of the most recent examples. Based on Micheal Shuckers valuation of draft picks, first-overall picks are six percent more valuable than seconds, possessing a value of 917 compared to 871. While not a huge difference, it isn’t insignificant.
Over the last 15 years the average points-per-game of first-overall picks is .911, compared to .711 for second. That’s about the difference between a 75-point player and a 58-point player over 82 games.
We can get a sense of this disparity by looking at some of the most recent first-overall picks. The truth is you don’t usually find a Connor McDavid, Nathan MacKinnon, or Sidney Crosby at second-overall.
There is good news though. This has all been talking about drafts in general. Every draft is unique. We know that this isn’t the year of the next Connor McDavid, and we know that both Jack Hughes and Kappo Kakko project to be very, very good players. Rangers fans should remain excited about the pick, especially if Kakko can have the same impact on the organization that players like Laine, Eichel, Hedman, and more have had on their respective teams.