Worried the Rangers may go off the board at the draft, stop the madness

Jack Hughes (Carlos Osorio/Associated Press)

Once NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly announced that the Buffalo Sabres and NOT the New York Rangers would be selecting at number seven, which was where the Blueshirts would have selected since the Chicago Blackhawks already pole-vaulted their way into the top three, did your heart start to race just a bit?

Were you aware at that time that the New York Rangers were also guaranteed of having a top three pick in the upcoming NHL Entry Draft? Continuing to build on the drama, as any good network would, NBCSN went to commercial before the three lottery winners were to be made public.

Once the advertisements were over and once the anchors threw the proceedings back to Daly and revealed the card with the Blackhawk logo, did your already surging adrenaline reach a feverish pace? Did you use your pointer and middle fingers to check your pulse rate? For the record, I let out a high-pitched wail that made my wife’s head spin around like the possessed little girl from “The Exorcist”.

It’s been stated for quite some time that the top two selections in the 2019 draft were going to be the American dynamo Jack Hughes and the Finnish man-child Kaapo Kakko. After that, there was a significant drop off in talent. Ending up with a top two selection was of great importance which was the impetus of the Tanking debate or as I refereed to it as, the “Tastes Great, Less Filling” rhetoric. There is obviously no need to rehash the pros and cons of not trying to win every game that a team plays. That horse has already been beaten to a pulp, the poor thing.

As we saw on the split screen , Rangers general manager Jeff Gorton and Devils general manager Ray Shero were standing side-by-side in what was assuredly a very awkward and surreal visual. The bosses of two hated rivals, shoulder-to-shoulder, as they awaited the notification of which team would be selecting number one. Daly flipped over the card with the number 1 to reveal the Devils logo, meaning the team from the Garden State would have the top selection and the team from the Garden would choose at number two.

The unthinkable happened!! After all the “meaningless” winning that the Rangers did in the season’s final few games, and after finishing with the sixth best odds to win the draft lottery, the Blueshirts found themselves in a situation that they had never been in before and that is having a top two selection in the common draft. Was this the best moment for Rangerstown since Derek Stepan’s golden goal to beat Washington in game seven of the second round of the 2015 playoffs? You all can debate the veracity of that query.

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Speaking of debating…

There is a two-pronged discussion going on among Ranger fans as we speak about which is truly the better prospect, Hughes or Kakko? And, will Jeff Gorton and his staff get it right? The Devils will determine which 18-year-old future stud will be available to the Rangers at two, but there is some apprehension with the more curmudgeonly Blueshirt enthusiasts as to whether or not Gorton will blow the pick.

The laundry list of Ranger first round busts, going all the way back to the 1980’s, is still fresh in the minds of those who can recall when the legendary Phil Esposito was calling the shots. Former GM’s Neil Smith and Glen Sather had their share of Titanic swings and misses as well.

Judging by the Rangers drafting history, it is hard to take umbrage with the glass-half-empty mentality. After all, can you think of the last time the Rangers drafted and developed a bonafide superstar other than Henrik Lundqvist? Feel free to use Google in your search. You’d have to go back to Brian Leetch, drafted in 1986. That’s 33 years, folks.

Gorton is not Sather or Smith or Esposito for that matter. He should not be burdened and saddled with the baggage and the mistakes of his predecessors. Rangerstown, especially the more senior of fans, should drop their hostility and angst and believe in the process. Believe in what is being built on the corner of 7th Avenue and 33rd Street. Believe in the conveyor belt of talented youngsters ready to take the City and the NHL by storm. And if you still don’t, remember that Jeff Gorton during an MSG broadcast said that this isn’t like football and they will draft the best player available.

On February 8th, 2018, the Rangers sent out a letter to their fans alerting them of the rebuilding and modernization of their beloved hockey team. Almost a year and two months to the day of that seminal announcement and with Steven McDonald’s badge helping the cause, the Blueshirts had Lady Luck on their side and the biggest piece to the rebuilding puzzle will make it’s way down Broadway in the form of either Jack Hughes or Kaapo Kakko come June 21st in Vancouver. Don’t overthink this one, folks!

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