The Rangers' all-time draft team: Solid up front, stellar at the back - The Hockey News on Sports Illustrated

The Rangers' all-time draft team: Solid up front, stellar at the back

Most of the Rangers' best-ever players arrived before the advent of the NHL draft in 1963. When it comes to all-time draft picks, New York did its best work on the blueline and in net.
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USA Today

USA Today

The New York Rangers' all-time all-drafted team has plenty of star power – even if it's missing the vast majority of the franchise's best-ever players. As a 95-year-old Original Six team, many of the Rangers' biggest names had arrived in the NHL before the advent of the amateur draft in 1963. (It's a similar scenario for Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Montreal and Toronto.)

So, only two of the franchise's top 10 players (No. 2 Brian Leetch and No. 7 Henrik Lundqvist, as ranked in THN's 2017 magazine "Top 50 Players of All-Time by Franchise") can be found on the all-drafted team, and there's only two more from the top 25 (No. 14 Brad Park and No. 19 Mike Richter).

Who's missing? Old-time hockey luminaries such as Bill Cook, Frank Boucher, Andy Bathgate, Rod Gilbert, Jean Ratelle, Ching Johnson, Chuck Rayner, Ed Giacomin, Harry Howell, Bryan Hextall, Neil Colville, Bun Cook, Lynn Patrick, Walt Tkaczuk, Phil Watson, Dean Prentice, Ott Heller, Bill Gadsby and Dave Kerr. All of these players ranked among the Rangers' all-time top 25 – but none of them were drafted so they don't qualify for the franchise's all-time all-drafted team.

Who does? Let's take a look.

While there isn't an abundance of flash up front, there's a healthy dose of talent and grit on all four lines. Doug Weight centers the first unit, and he's passing the puck to ultra-skilled Alexei Kovalev on the right side and two-way scorer Steve Vickers on the left. Vickers, selected 10th overall in 1971, is the "oldest" forward on the team. Bob MacMillan, who went 15th overall in 1972, holds down the pivot position on the second line, with smooth-skating 1973 draftee Rick Middleton at right wing and current Rangers power forward Chris Kreider at left wing.

The third line is a checking unit that can skate and score with just about anybody. Dave Gagner is the ever-responsible center, with sniping Tony Amonte at right wing and pesky Tony Granato on the left. On the fourth line, it's grinding Derek Stepan down the middle between goal-scoring agitator Tomas Sandstrom and perpetual 20-goal man Don Maloney. Again, it's not an over-the-top group of forwards, but the blend of skill and physicality makes them dangerous offensively and tough to play against.

The strength of this team is on defense and in net. On the blueline, it's all about offense with Leetch and Park on the first pairing, and they're the first two D-men over the boards on the power play. The second unit features Sergei Zubov, who'll also see plenty of PP time, with '70s star Ron Greschner, another offensively inclined defender. And there's more playmaking and puck-moving on the third pairing, too, with James Patrick and Mike McEwen. It's a puck-possession philosophy with this bunch, to be sure – they'll do their best defending by controlling the play and keeping the pressure on in the offensive end of the ice.

The last line of defense is Henrik Lundqvist and Mike Richter. We've got Lundqvist as the starter, but if you prefer '94 Stanley Cup-champion Richter, well, you wouldn't be wrong.

Of course, when you're culling from nearly 50 years of NHL drafts, there are going to be players who just missed the cut. Here are some of the other forwards who were also considered: centers Marc Savard (91st, 1995), Don Luce (14th, 1966) and Darren Turcotte (114th, 1986); right wingers Ron Duguay (13th, 1977), Ryan Callahan (127th, 2004), Ulf Dahlen (seventh, 1985) and Lucien DeBlois (eighth, 1977); and, left wingers Rob Zamuner (45th, 1989), Todd Marchant (164th, 1993), Pat Hickey (30th, 1973), Kelly Miller (183rd, 1982) and Carl Hagelin (168th, 2007).

Other defensemen who were considered: Mario Marois (62nd, 1977), Mattias Norstrom (48th, 1992), Kim Johnsson (286th, 1994), Fedor Tyutin (40th, 2001), Marc Staal (12th, 2005), Andre Dupont (eighth, 1969), Kjell Samuelsson (119th, 1984) and Dave Maloney (14th, 1974).

And, finally, John Vanbiesbrouck (72nd, 1981) rates as the No. 3 netminder behind Lundqvist and Richter.

Here’s a look at the Rangers' all-time all-drafted team. The 20-player lineup is based on players’ entire NHL body of work.

CENTERS
Doug Weight (34th, 1990)
Bob MacMillan (15th, 1972)
Dave Gagner (12th, 1983)
Derek Stepan (51st, 2008)

RIGHT WINGERS
Alexei Kovalev (15th, 1991)
Rick Middleton (14th, 1973)
Tony Amonte (68th, 1988)
Tomas Sandstrom (36th, 1982)

LEFT WINGERS
Steve Vickers (10th, 1971)
Chris Kreider (19th, 2009)
Tony Granato (120th, 1982)
Don Maloney (26th, 1978)

DEFENSEMEN
Brian Leetch (9th, 1986)
Brad Park (2nd, 1966)
Sergei Zubov (85th, 1990)
Ron Greschner (32nd, 1974)
James Patrick (9th, 1981)
Mike McEwen (42nd, 1976)

GOALIES
Henrik Lundqvist (205th, 2000)
Mike Richter (28th, 1985)

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