If things break the right way for the New York Rangers on the first day of the NHL draft, more than likely they won't even make a selection. The Rangers' primary focus this offseason is adding a frontline forward and losing their first-round pick (No. 28) means they found a trade partner and the scoring jolt they sorely need, especially with Marian Gaborik expected to miss the season's first few months.
In reality, though, New York doesn't seem too keen on the asking prices of the Blue Jackets for Rick Nash and the Ducks for Bobby Ryan, instead calling a bevy of their young players off limits. Thus, a swap doesn't occur at all until one party relents on their demands.
If the Rangers don't find a trade partner by the time they pick Friday night, though, this will be the latest the organization has drafted since 2002. In the seven-round draft, New York possesses four picks, its fewest number since 1968. The Rangers have selections in the first four rounds. This year's crop is said to be very weak, so if there was ever a time to be thin on the draft ammunition, this is it. It's supposedly stronger on the blue line side as well. Rangers director of player personnel Gordie Clark says New York would only move up to the range of the 20th to 25th pick if they attempt to move up on Day 1, according to The Record's Andrew Gross.
The Rangers in recent years have really bolstered their prospect depth through astute drafting and some trades, which brought in Ryan McDonagh and Tim Erixon. This fact alone is the reason they can even discuss trades for big-name players, instead of relying wholly on the free-agent market to patch up holes. While the priority is to find a scorer, the Rangers won't be doing that in this year's draft.
Beyond that, the organization has good young forward depth in guys like Derek Stepan, Chris Kreider, Carl Hagelin and even someone like Artem Anisimov who has been in the league for several years. Led by Dan Girardi, Ryan McDonagh, Marc Staal and Michael Del Zotto, their blue line is a major strength -- with players like Erixon and Dylan McIlrath in AHL. Outside of their NHL talent at goaltender, though, the Rangers lack a big goalie prospect. Henrik Lundqvist is only 30 years old, but oftentimes young netminders take in the neighborhood of five years to develop.
Clark has reiterated -- beyond the McIlrath selection in 2010 -- the Rangers go with best available, so it doesn't matter what area on paper seems to be the weakest for the organization. The Rangers will go down their list and take the best player regardless of position.
That being said, some names that have been linked in mock drafts to the Rangers are forward Stefan Matteau, Stephane's son, who is a physical, hard-nosed player, center Mark Jankowski, a player with a good hockey IQ and is a playmaker that can fill the back of the net and winger Phillip di Giuseppe, a guy who appears to be a finisher from the University of Michigan. If goalies like the highly-regarded/top-ranked Andrei Vasilevski or Malcolm Subban are available, the Rangers also could look there and groom the eventual successor to their Vezina Trophy winner. And, of course, the organization won't shy away from taking another rearguard if one it covets falls.
While it's tough to say for certain what the Rangers will do (and if they'll have a pick on the first day), one thing is for certain: Clark and his staff have done a tremendous job pinpointing talent in recent years, so even in a draft that lacks depth, the Rangers are sure to make several savvy moves.