Making the Most of Your Draft Picks

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Recently on the site, Michael Kaplan wrote about placing the blame for this terrible start on Jeff Gorton. If you read his article, Kaplan hits on a lot of points but there’s one in particular that needs to be addressed further. This organization may have made a grave mistake in this past entry draft with their picks and years down the road we could be looking at another 2003/2006/2010 situation where they are kicking themselves for what could have been. Let’s dive in.

Over the summer, Jeff Gorton seemed to speak a lot about “retooling on the fly.” Basically, this team knew that they weren’t going to win the big one with this current roster and opted to get younger and faster. Well, that’s all fine and dandy if the right type of prospect is picked in the draft and the right types of players are signed to replace those that departed. With the pick of Lias Andersson, who seemingly had all the tools to jump in on the Rangers third line, the Rangers seemingly drafted that right type of prospect to fill a need and jump in. Someone who isn’t a project a few years away. Filip Chytil, who was a bit of a stretch pick but addressed an area of weakness in the center ice position, was a bit of a head-scratcher at first because of his seemingly “project status” but proved enough in camp that he belonged here. Well, once camp ended the problems began.

Right off the bat, Andersson was not picked for the opening night roster. A seventh overall pick, someone who was supposedly going to be given every possible chance to make his mark on the team this season, was immediately sent back to Sweden without a nine-game tryout.

Chytil made the opening night roster but was on one of the shortest leashes I’ve ever seen; getting sent down to the AHL to be replaced by guys like Adam Cracknell and Paul Carey on the big club. Oh boy. There’s a lot wrong here and it goes all the way from Gorton down to coach Alain Vigneault.

If someone is drafted seventh overall, and a team is lucky enough to pick that high, that player MUST be given every opportunity before being sent elsewhere to continue playing. You can’t afford to draft someone that high and not give him a chance. Unless of course, your name is Jeff Gorton or Alain Vigneault. Gorton was expecting this and drafted a “project type” player with this pick. And herein lies the biggest problem I had with the 2017 entry draft for the Rangers. If Gorton was all about retooling on the fly, Andersson would be on this team and contributing any way he could. If he wasn’t producing, then send him down, but at least give the kid a chance. If the organization viewed Andersson as a “project,” then he was the wrong player to have been drafted at number seven overall, where the Rangers should/could have drafted Casey Mittelstadt, Gabe Vilardi, Michael Rasmussen or Nick Suzuki.

Why those four names? Because each fills a position of need; and while each is a few years away, they have much higher ceilings than Andersson. If the plan was to send Andersson back all along, then why use the pick on him when there were plenty of others available with a higher potential to be NHL stars? It’s something that I feel the Rangers really messed up on and it could be another detrimental hit if Andersson doesn’t pan out and those four do.

Down at 21, when the Rangers reached and selected Chytil, there were two prospects that come to mind that the Rangers could’ve reached for instead. Eeli Tolvanen and Klim Kostin are two dynamic offensive prospects who could’ve been the scorer this team desperately needs down the line. Tolvanen is currently tearing up the KHL and as a teenager (teenagers normally don’t get a lot of ice time in the KHL) it is extremely impressive. Kostin will soon be counted upon to be a top-six forward for the Blues. Both would’ve been fantastic additions to our pipeline. Could Chytil turn out to be just as dynamic as both of them? Time will tell.

My one hope for this past draft is that it does not get added to the list of drafts that give me a headache. 2003 is extremely painful as is 2006 and 2010. In each of those drafts, the Rangers had an opportunity to select a superstar caliber player and they missed. Hugh Jessiman, Bobby Sanguinetti, and Dylan McIlrath were terrible misses. Zach Parise, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Shea Weber, Jeff Carter, Claude Giroux or Vladimir Tarasenko could’ve been wearing the Blueshirt, but were missed on draft day.

Let’s hope Andersson and Chytil turn out well in the end, or else we could be adding another draft to the headache list.

Editor’s Note: If you want to hear more about the Rangers and their draft history, listen to our interview with @TheDraftAnalyst, and subscribe to #FullTiltRadio on iTunes, TuneIn, Soundcloud, Stitcher and BlogTalk Radio.