Excluding Lias Andersson and Filip Chytil, each of whom made cameos last season but aren’t yet full-time NHL players, the last Rangers-drafted player currently on their roster is Pavel Buchnevich, who was selected in the third round of the 2013 draft.
Over the years the organization balanced out trading away of first-round picks with college free-agent signings (Kevin Hayes, Jimmy Vesey) and a significant trade (Mika Zibanejad) to add young talent. But the days of risking the future for the present are over for now. The Rangers enter this weekend’s NHL Draft, which begins Friday in Dallas with the first round, with three first-round selections and a huge opportunity to add quality young players at a critical juncture for a retooling franchise.
After selecting Andersson at No. 7 and Chytil at No. 21 last year, the former pick acquired the day of the first round, Rangers GM Jeff Gorton this year acquired a first-rounder from Boston in the Rick Nash deal and another from Tampa Bay in the Ryan McDonagh/J.T. Miller trade at the deadline. Barring any future trades, the Rangers will select at No. 9, No. 26 (Boston) and No. 28 (Tampa Bay) in the first round, and they also own two second-round picks and two third-round selections.
A strong crop of players will be taken throughout the first round, though who exactly will be left for the Rangers at No. 9 appears up in the air. At this point, it would seem unlikely winger Filip Zadina, center Jesperi Kotkaniemi or defenseman Quinn Hughes will be available after eight picks, though there are varied opinions on how things will play out after Rasmus Dahlin and Andrei Svechnikov likely go No. 1 to Buffalo and No. 2 to Carolina, respectively, to kick things off.
Here are five players who could potentially be in play for the Rangers at No. 9 Friday night (listed in alphabetical order.)
Adam Boqvist, D, Brynäs IF (J20 SuperElit)
Has tantalizing offensive potential, with skating ability and skill that translates well to the current NHL game. But the 17-year-old has question marks about his defensive ability and physicality as a smaller defenseman. Could be worth that risk, with the hope he develops in that area while embracing his skill-set as a creator with the puck who can ignite attacks.
Evan Bouchard, D, London (OHL)
Put up 87 points last season with the OHL Knights, where he was the captain. The righty is considered to have potential as a high-end puck-mover and also boasts a strong shot. Perhaps not as good of a skater as some other defensemen who will go in the first round, but he projects as a significant offensive contributor.
Noah Dobson, D, Acadie-Bathurst (QMJHL)
A 6-foot-3 righty defenseman who can skate and makes smart decisions with the puck. Someone who could quarterback a power play while also handling difficult defensive matchups. Potential here for a good all-around blue-liner.
Brady Tkachuk, LW, Boston University
Someone new Rangers coach David Quinn knows well after coaching him as a freshman last season at BU. The son of Keith Tkachuk is a power forward with good size who gets to the net and plays physical. His game suits a puck-possession style like Quinn wants to instill. Could be gone before No. 9, but would be a fine choice if he’s available.