What could have been had Rangers not drafted Lias Andersson, Vitali Kravtsov
Attention New York Rangers fans: Did the 2024 World Junior Championship gold medal ceremony remind you of anyone in particular? Agony, defeat and dejection were visible on the face of every player from Sweden as they accepted silver medals after losing to the United States.
If you guess Lias Andersson, you are correct!
Who can forget the infamous silver medal toss by Sweden’s captain, and Rangers’ first-round draft pick, after they lost to Canada in the 2018 World Junior Final?
Lias Andersson’s disappointing tenure with the New York Rangers
At the time, the Rangers had to hope that Andersson’s actions characterized his competitiveness and hatred for losing. Selected by the Blueshirts with the No. 7 pick in the 2017 NHL draft, there was much anticipation for how Andersson would be a big part of their rebuild.
It was not to be.
Andersson had three goals and nine points in 66 games over three seasons with the Rangers. Not that the two-way center was expected to be an offensive force, but he disappointed in all facets of the game.
During the rebuild, Andersson never found his way and requested to be traded. Who can forget his official fall from grace after tripping over the camera chord during opening night ceremonies in 2019?
The Rangers cut their losses and traded Andersson to the Los Angeles Kings for the No. 60 pick in the 2020 draft. That pick was used to select Will Cuylle. Consider that a major win for the Blueshirts.
Rangers also made mistake by selecting Vitali Kravtsov in 2018
The 2017-18 season marked a new phase for the Rangers. The “Letter” was published laying out the organization’s plan to fully rebuild. The Rangers finished last in the Metropolitan Division and ended up with the ninth overall pick in the 2018 draft.
After trading captain Ryan McDonagh during the season, the Rangers entered the draft with a need for a defenseman. But the Rangers selected forward Vitali Kravtsov, who was projected to be a big-time scoring threat up front.
Mock Drafts did not have Kravtsov in the top 10, though, so it was a bit of a surprise pick for the Blueshirts. And it turned into a disastrous selection.
Kravtsov didn’t make his NHL debut until April of 2021 and he finished that season with only four points in 20 games.
After failing to crack the Rangers’ opening night roster in 2021-22, Kravtsov refused to report to Hartford in the American Hockey League and instead returned home to play in Russia. The Rangers loaned Kravtsov to Traktor Chelyabinsk in the KHL.
Holding no grudges, the Rangers gave a fair shake to Kravtsov to start the 2022-23 season. The Russian forward contributed six points (three goals, three assists) in 28 games and was then traded to the Vancouver Canucks for Will Lockwood and a seventh-round draft pick in the 2026 draft. He finished his Rangers career with 10 points in 48 games.
Players Rangers passed up by selecting Lias Andersson
• Martin Necas (Center) selected 12th overall by Carolina Hurricanes
A divisional rival made the right pick! Necas has been a staple in the top six for a team that has had much success the past few seasons. In 328 NHL games, the center from Czechia has 86 goals and 221 points.
• Nick Suzuki (Center) selected 13th overall by Vegas Golden Knights
Suzuki has two 20-goal seasons under his belt and is captain of the Montreal Canadiens, after being part of the trade that sent Max Pacioretty to Vegas in September of 2018. He is the leader that the Rangers hoped Andersson would become and much more of a complete player, who has 251 points (88 goals, 163 assists) in 340 NHL games. Ironically, Andersson is part of the Canadiens organization now, though stuck in the minors.
• Robert Thomas (Center) selected 20th overall by St. Louis Blues
The London Knights product is yet another center the Rangers could have had on their roster. With 281 points in 362 NHL Games, Thomas has been a consistent point producer in St. Louis. This season he leads the Blues with 17 goals and 52 points in 48 games and will play in the 2024 NHL All-Star Game.
Players Rangers passed up by selecting Vitali Kravtsov
• Evan Bouchard (Defenseman) selected 10th overall by Edmonton Oilers
Bouchard has blossomed into an upper-tier offensive defenseman in the NHL. He’s scored 40+ points in three straight seasons and is well on his way to establishing a new NHL career high this season. Bouchard is fifth among NHL defensemen with 43 points (11 goals, 32 assists) in 45 games. In 229 NHL games, Bouchard has 132 points.
• Noah Dobson (Defenseman) selected 12th overall by New York Islanders
If you think Bouchard is good, then how about Dobson? Playing for the rival Islanders, Dobson is third among NHL defensemen this season with 52 points (six goals, 46 assists) in 49 games and is averaging 25:50 in ice time. Plus, he’s already had seasons with 51 and 49 points and right-shot defenseman to boot. In 287 NHL games, Dobson has 173 points).
• Joel Farabee (Left Wing) selected 14th overall by Philadelphia Flyers
The Flyers got a sniper in Farabee, who has 172 points in 302 NHL games, including 17 goals and 40 points this season. He’s a middle-six winger whose production would have fit nicely on the Rangers.