Ranking New York Rangers’ 1st-round picks in NHL Draft since 2000

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With the offseason fully underway, the next big date on the calendar for the New York Rangers is June 28, the first round of the 2024 NHL Draft.

New York is slated to select No. 30 overall, their latest first-round pick since taking Brady Skjei No. 28 overall in the first round of the 2012 draft. The Rangers also selected Nils Lundkvist at No. 28 in 2018, but he was their third of three first-round selections that year.

Since the turn of the century, the Rangers have made 22 first round picks. Some hit, some missed and others we’d sooner like to forget ever happened.

Related: What history tells us about Rangers picking 30th overall in 2024 NHL Draft

Ranking 1st-round picks made by New York Rangers since 2000

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Kirby Lee-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Today we’ll rank each of the first-round picks made by the Rangers in the NHL Draft since 2000, based on their complete body of work, with the Rangers and their other NHL stops, if applicable.

The jury is still out on several recent picks, making their spot on the list more fluid than others.

And one note: we opted not to rank 2007 first-round pick Alexei Cherepanov, who died due to heart failure during a KHL game on Oct. 13, 2008, at the age of 19.

No. 21: Hugh Jessiman (2003, 12th overall)

File this one in the “we’d like to forget” bin.

The 2003 NHL Draft is lauded as one of the greatest in history. It features future Hall of Famers, superstars and plenty of really good NHL players. 

And then there’s Hugh Jessiman.

The only player taken in the first 33 picks not to record a point, the 6-foot-6 forward appeared in just two NHL games and neither was with New York. To say this was a colossal whiff would still be underselling.

No. 20: Bobby Sanguinetti (2006, 21st overall)

It’s always a great story when a team drafts a local kid with the idea he’ll be a cornerstone of the franchise for years to come.

It’s less cool when the player is a bust.

New York took New Jersey native Bobby Sanguinetti No. 21 overall in 2006 with high hopes, but things never clicked for the 6-foot-3 defenseman. He played just 45 NHL games, only five with the Rangers (40 with the Carolina Hurricanes). To make matters worse, the Philadelphia Flyers selected center Claude Giroux, he of the 1,066 NHL points (and counting), with the very next pick.

Funny enough, Sanguinetti, who by this point was playing in Europe, did participate in the 2018 PyeonChang Winter Olympics for the United States, when NHL players were not allowed to take part.

No. 19: Vitali Kravstov (2018, 9th overall)

Vitali Kravtsov’s tenure with the Rangers is remembered more for what happened off the ice than what he did on it. He came, he left, he returned and then left again before eventually leaving for good at the 2023 trade deadline. Never happy with his role or being sent to Hartford in the American Hockey League, Kravtsov was one major headache for the Blueshirts.

All told, New York used a top-10 pick (one spot ahead of the Edmonton Oilers, who selected stud defenseman Evan Bouchard) for five goals and 10 points in 45 games.

No. 18: Lias Andersson (2017, 7th overall)

There’s a bit of irony when a team selects a player because he’s ready to step right into the NHL, only for that player not to be a NHL-caliber player.

But that’s what happened with Lias Andersson, taken with the No. 7 pick in 2017. There was talk of his readiness, his leadership and character, and everything else not associated with actual production.

Like Kravstov, Andersson made more news off the ice than on it, with stints in the minors and Europe sprinkled in over a handful of years. 

The center scored three goals and nine points in 66 games with the Rangers, and 17 points in 110 career NHL games with two teams. Andersson recently left North America to play in Switzerland, seemingly done with the NHL by age 25.

No. 17: Lauri Korpikoski (2004, 19th overall)

Korpikoski had a fairly long NHL career, especially when compared to those we’ve already discussed. It was just that it was mainly in a depth role and mainly not in New York.

The forward played one full season with the Rangers and scored six goals and 14 points in 68 games in 2008-09 before he was shipped to the Phoenix Coyotes in July 2009 for forward Enver Lisin.

The “Korpedo” finished his NHL career with a respectable 201 points in 609 games with the Rangers, Coyotes, Oilers, Dallas Stars and Columbus Blue Jackets before heading back to Europe in 2017.

No. 16: Al Montoya (2004, 6th overall)

Turns out the 2004 Draft wasn’t the Rangers’ best.

Just like his fellow draftee Korpikoski, goalie Al Montoya had a long, if unspectacular career spent mostly as a backup.

Though Montoya never appeared in a game for New York (not ideal for a player taken No. 6 overall), his career spanned nearly a decade. He bounced around the League with six teams mostly as a No. 2 and finished with a 67-49-24 record and a solid .908 save percentage in 168 games.

No. 15: Dan Blackburn (2001, 10th overall)

The Rangers used two top-10 picks in a three-year span on goalies and had very little to show for it.

Dan Blackburn’s career highlight was making the 2001-02 All-Rookie Team, but a severe shoulder injury led him to retire from the sport in 2005 after just 63 NHL games with the Rangers. More of a “what could have been” situation than anything that he did poorly.

No. 14: Dylan McIlrath (2010, 10th overall)

The 10th pick strikes again.

Nicknamed “The Undertaker,” Dylan McIlrath was a feared blueliner out of Moose Jaw when the Rangers selected him in 2010. The pick was questioned from the start and those concerns never abated. Never a great, nor quick, skater, a knee injury early in his career really took a toll on McIlrath’s mobility.

McIlrath appeared in just 38 games over four seasons with the Rangers before he was traded to the Florida Panthers in 2016; he’s appeared in just 37 NHL games since. He did, however, play four Stanley Cup Playoff games this postseason against the Rangers with the Washington Capitals.

No. 13: Nils Lundkvist (2018, 28th overall)

The offensive-minded defenseman’s Swedish resume had everything the Rangers could ask for, including winning the SHL’s equivalent to the Norris Trophy during his final season in Europe.

But Nils Lundkvist’s career in New York was short-lived. He appeared in just 25 games, scoring once and adding three assists during the 2021-22 season before being passed over by another player we’ll see on this list shortly.

His demotion to Hartford and subsequent trade request prompted the Rangers to flip him to the Stars, and left questions of what could have been. Luckily for the Rangers, it hasn’t come back to bite them, as Lundqvist has struggled to play regularly and has just nine goals and 39 assists in 144 NHL games.

No. 12: Gabe Perreault (2023, 23rd overall)

Simply put, Gabe Perreault is low on this list right now because he’s 19 and has played only one season at Boston College. However, Perreault’s potential is sky high and the early returns have been outstanding.

The talented forward is coming off a big season when he scored 60 points in 36 games as a freshman at BC, and had 10 points in seven games to help the United States win the gold medal at the 2024 World Junior Championship.

It may not be long before we see Perreault starring on Broadway and shooting up this list.

No. 11: Brennan Othmann (2021, 16th overall)

Like Perreault, Brennan Othmann’s place on this list is likely to rise, but his lack of NHL experience to date keeps him lower for now.

Unlike Perreault, Othmann has a full season of pro hockey on his resume, which even included some games in New York.

The winger was pointless in three games with the Rangers but had a strong showing with Hartford this past season, when he was second on the team with 21 goals, finishing with 49 points in 67 games on his way to being named an AHL All-Star.

Othmann, still just 21 years old, should push for a spot with the Rangers come training camp, with a chance to move up this list.

No. 10: Michael Del Zotto (2008, 20th overall)

Michael Del Zotto made the Rangers roster at just 19 years old, becoming the youngest defenseman in Rangers history to play opening night, in 2009.

He finished second in points among rookie defenseman with 37 in that 2009-10 season, and after a difficult sophomore season, had 41 points in 2011-12. After posting 21 points in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign, Del Zotto struggled under new coach Alain Vigneault and was traded to the Nashville Predators for defenseman Kevin Klein during the 2013-14 campaign.

Del Zotto played 736 games for eight NHL teams and was with the St. Louis Blues when they won the Stanley Cup in 2019.

No. 9: Kaapo Kakko (2019, 2nd overall)

Let’s get the bad stuff out of the way: Kaapo Kakko seems unlikely to ever live up to what many — including those inside the organization — thought the Rangers would be getting when he was selected No. 2 overall.

With that said, there’s still a solid player who contributes in different ways on a team that’s reached the Eastern Conference Final two out of the past three seasons.

When you watch Kakko at his best, you can see the player everyone thought would be a cornerstone piece for the next decade plus. He’s strong along the walls, can play physically and has a world-class shot.

There’s definitely a chicken or the egg aspect to Kakko in that has he not succeeded because he hasn’t been given extended chances to do so, or has his lack of success prevented him from getting those opportunities for longer than a few games at a time.

The 2024-25 season could be his last shot in New York, that is if he hasn’t been traded by October.

No. 8: Braden Schneider (2020, 19th overall)

There’s an aspect of recency bias here, but we’re seeing Braden Schneider develop into a big shutdown defenseman with some offensive upside. 

Schneider’s emergence paved the way for New York to move Lundkvist, and that decision looks better now than it did when the trade with the Stars was made. 

Schneider has seen his points and minutes go up year-over-year since debuting in 2021-22, and that projects to continue this season after he had a very strong postseason.

The expectation is the 22-year-old moves into the top four next season, quite possibly alongside another defenseman we’ll see here shortly. Getting a top-four blueliner in the back half of the first round is something any team would sign up for.

No. 7: Marc Staal (2005, 12th overall)

There’s something to be said about longevity, and Marc Staal has that if nothing else. 

For more than a decade, Staal was a top-four defenseman for some very good Rangers teams. While the numbers weren’t flashy, he embodied that Black and Blueshirt era in New York and filled his role admirably, being named an NHL All-Star along the way. Staal was solid defensively and a respected leader.

If you can get 892 regular-season games and 107 postseason games out of a first-round pick, you did alright.

Staal continued on after his Rangers days and has totaled 1,136 games for four NHL teams.

No. 6: K’Andre Miller 2018, 22nd overall)

Well at least one of the three picks the Rangers had in 2018 has worked out.

K’Andre Miller has essentially been a top-four defenseman since making his NHL debut in 2020, something that’s not so easy, to say the least. His pure athleticism makes you forget he only started playing defense as a teenager.

There are certainly still some questionable decisions made on Miller’s part, and while the offense is there, he did take a step back this past season in terms of his point production (30 points, down from 43 the year prior). It would be ideal if Miller turned into a consistent 40-plus point defenseman.

There’s still so much to like and Miller feels like a player who hasn’t hit his ceiling yet. His pairing with Schneider (and more importantly, away from Jacob Trouba) could lift the 24-year-old to new heights.

No. 5: Filip Chytil (2017, 21st overall)

It feels like Filip Chytil has been around forever, but he’ll just be turning 25 right as training camp opens in September.

The skilled center made his New York debut as an 18-year-old under Vigneault during the 2017-18 season, making him the third-longest tenured player on the Rangers roster behind Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider.

The Czechia native has been buried on the depth chart for most of his tenure behind the likes of Zibanejad, Kevin Hayes and Ryan Strome. 

Chytil’s best run to date was during the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs when he scored seven goals in 20 games to help the Rangers reach the Eastern Conference Final as part of the Kid Line with fellow first-rounders Kakko and Alexis Lafreniere.

Chyti’s break appeared to come last season when he started out on the second line before being injured in November with a suspected concussion that cost him all but 10 games. He returned in the playoffs but was mostly ineffective.

Chytil has 64 goals and 144 points in 337 games, which is the 11th-most points among the 2017 NHL Draft Class.

No. 4: Brady Skjei (2012, 28th overall)

Brady Skjei’s ranking could be a bit of a sting as he’s blossomed into the player the Rangers thought they were getting, only after he left New York via a 2020 trade with the Carolina Hurricanes.

The Minnesota native could skate like the wind and chipped in with some offense with the Rangers, especially as a rookie in 2016-17 when he scored 39 points in 40 games. But things took a dive offensively when the Rangers began their rebuild.

After two more so/so seasons Skjei was sent to Carolina where his game has taken off, especially offensively. Skjei has scored at least 38 points in each of the past three seasons, including a career-best 47 this season. Plus, he’s become a solid defensive defenseman, one that is now an established top-four blueliner, set for a big payday as an unrestricted free agent this summer.

While it’s frustrating to see a former player succeed, there’s no denying the Skjei pick was a home run for the Rangers.

No. 3: Alexis Lafreniere (2020, 1st overall)

There’s probably more recency bias, but Alexis Lafreniere showed he could be the type of franchise player the Rangers envisioned when they made him the top pick in the 2020 NHL Draft.

After three seasons when Lafreniere was stapled to the bottom six with no power-play time, he broke out in 2023-24 on their second line, establishing NHL career highs with 28 goals, 29 assists and 57 points. He was also one of only a handful of Rangers to up his game in the playoffs, when he scored eight goals and 14 points in 16 postseason games.

Stability would go a long way for Lafreniere, who despite just finishing his fourth NHL season has played under three different head coaches. It seems Peter Laviolette has put Lafreniere in the best position to succeed, making the sky the limit for No. 13.

It’s impossible to say if he’ll ever match the expectations that come with being a No. 1 overall pick, but last season feels like a jumping off point rather than a plateau.

No. 2: J.T. Miller (2011, 15th overall)

Like Sjkei, there’s a bit of an asterisk when it comes to ranking J.T. Miller, as he’s played his best hockey after leaving New York.

Part of what could only be described as the ill-fated Ryan McDonagh trade, Miller never really found his footing with the Rangers. Miller’s most productive season of the parts of five he spent in New York was in 2016-17 when he notched 56 points in 82 games.

He was dealt the following year to the Tampa Bay Lightning — in a terrible trade for the Rangers — but it wasn’t until his arrival in Vancouver where Miller became a star with the Canucks.

He’s been better than a point-per game player with the Canucks, including seasons of 99 and 103 points.

Miller, who has absolutely benefitted from playing top-line minutes now, not to mention becoming a more mature person and player, is a prime example of some players developing slower than others.

No. 1: Chris Kreider (2009, 19th overall)

As if there was any doubt, Chris Kreider has become one of the best homegrown Rangers not only of his generation, but in franchise history.

After bursting on the scene during the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Kreider has been a mainstay at the top of the lineup for about a decade, and has been a part of five different teams that reached the Eastern Conference Final, including the 2014 Cup Final squad.

Kreider has defied traditional progression models and gotten better with age. After flirting with 30 goals throughout most of his 20s, Kreider broke through with a historic 52-goal campaign in 2021-22 and has followed it up with back-to-back 36-plus goal seasons, putting his stamp on the Rangers’ franchise goal scoring list with 304 and counting.

His biggest moment as a Ranger came this past postseason when he scored a natural hat trick in Game 6 in the second round against Carolina to send the Rangers to the conference final.

Kreider, a quiet, lead by example player,  has cemented himself as one of the best Rangers to ever wear the uniform. When his time on the ice ends, he’ll no doubt find his number raised to the rafters with the other greats in franchise history.

Jim Cerny is Executive Editor at Forever Blueshirts and Managing Editor at Sportsnaut, with more than 30 years of... More about Jim Cerny

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