The first round of the NHL draft, as you are surely aware, is tonight in Minnesota. Because the Rangers made it to the playoffs but flamed out in the first round, they select 15th overall. They dealt away their second round picks to Calgary for Tim Erixon and sent their third rounder to Florida in the McCabe deal. That leaves them with 104th in the fourth, 134th and 136th in the fifth (134 was part of the Erixon deal).
Things worked out that my selection for the Rangers matched that of Gordie Clark and we got Dylan McIlrath. I was lucky enough to have seen McIlrath play but did not make it to any junior games this year so it is far harder to judge. Jess from Prospect Park, the blogging guru when it comes to the Ranger kids, presented a few options and likes Finland's Joel Armia at 15 or American Tyler Biggs if the Rangers trade down in the first round. Personally I am hoping they do deal away the 15 pick and drop, because they can get back a third rounder to be sure - maybe a second if the other team is desperate. If there is a way to trade it and get back a top-six player, well, I do that in a second.
Strange to say, right? After years of begging for a rebuild with youth it is finally here. We have a young core with another wave of kids about to come through. We need to ride that wave and quickly. Those kids need to enter a culture of winning - not mediocrity - where they can succeed before they go sign somewhere else or need to be dealt away in this salary cap world. If we needed a reminder of that, well Philly just gave us one.
The Rangers clearly are building a team that will be successful when the renovations are finished in MSG, to justify the extraordinary prices. Given the parity in the draft picks after the top six or seven this year, would a project kid be able to not just play but to succeed in two seasons time?
Twenty years ago the Rangers picked Alex Kovalev 15th overall. Since then the Rangers drafted one player who turned out worthy of the title 'First Round Pick" - Marc Staal. That is, of course discounting MDZ, Kreider and McIlrath as the jury is still out on them. A few guys made it to the league and became worthwhile players - Sundstrom, Cloutier, Malhotra - and a few didn't - Cherneski, Brendl, Jessiman. One would like to imagine that Clark has set the team back on the path of regularly drafting guy who can make the shot but who knows?
However, since it isn't fun not to have a horse in the race, if I had to throw some darts at the wall and guess at who the Rangers will pick - I'd like Mark McNeill if he is still around, Nicklas Jensen, David Musil or even goalie John Gibson. As long as Sather doesn't make an awful trade and Clark does select a netminder at some point, the 2011 draft will be successful for the team.