The first round of the 2019 NHL Draft commences on June 21st (rounds 2-7 will be the following day), and for the third-straight summer, the Rangers will have an immense role in the proceedings, as they have two picks in the first round. Once again, Blueshirt Banter will be publishing profiles of and ranking our top-31 prospects eligible for the 2019 NHL Draft.
The Rangers won the second-overall selection in the draft lottery, and the Rangers’ options are evident. Rather, there’s really only one option. Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko are the top-two players in the draft by a landslide, and the Rangers will end up with whichever one the Devils do not take first overall.
Although the Rangers don’t have a say in the process, the debate on Kakko versus Hughes is lively and intense. Whereas Hughes was the no-brainer choice back in September, the margins between the two are now razor-thin. It will be very interesting to see which one Blueshirt Banter has ranked as the top player in the draft and which one the Rangers actually end up with on June 21st.
The Rangers will also draft 20th overall thanks to the trade which sent Kevin Hayes to Winnipeg. For purposes of these draft rankings, this is when it gets interesting. There are going to be a number of players who are good value at that spot. Furthermore, players always unexpectedly rise or drop on draft day. Our 10th-ranked player last year, Joe Veleno, fell all the way to Detroit at 30th overall. Meanwhile, our 30th-ranked player, K’Andre Miller, was the Rangers’ selection at 22nd.
There is another reason that it’s important to investigate the top players in the draft after Hughes and Kakko; there’s a lot of smoke around the idea that the Rangers will try their best to trade up if the situation presents itself. This is a team that has seven first-round picks over the last three seasons and two second-round picks in 2020. If any team can afford to part with a draft pick in order to move up in the order, it’s the Rangers. If a player they really like is available in the early teens then all bets are off. Not to mention that other types of trades are possible as well (Chris Kreider for a top-10 selection?)
As with last year’s rankings, Alex Nunn and Tobias Pettersson will be helping me out. Both are attentive followers of European hockey and have a strong grasp on this year’s draft. Over the last year we have watched these players, have looked into the statistics, and have talked with scouts, and we have utilized this information to collaborate on a ranking of the top-31 players eligible for the 2019 NHL Draft. I can’t promise that we’ll get it all correct - we won’t - but for better or worse these rankings will be uniquely ours.
Though this is a fully organic effort on our part, we do pull from other sources as any good researcher would. Here is a list of some materials we have utilized either for statistical perspective or as a sanity check on our own thoughts.