On August 4th, just after 10 PM, the New York Rangers Stanley Cup hopes came to an end. Their season ended quickly and painfully, losing three straight games to the Carolina Hurricanes in a sweep that occurred just four days after the season resumed. With the series loss, the Rangers and their fans turned their eyes toward the draft and the 12.5% chance that they would win the lottery.
Due to their place in the standing, the lowest they could have picked originally was 14 and the highest was nine. That was unless they hit the lottery. After a qualifying round that included three major upsets, including wins by the 23rd seed Chicago Blackhawks and 24th seed Montreal Canadiens, those numbers shaped into the Rangers being able to pick first overall, tenth overall, or 11th overall.
On Monday, August 10th at just after 6 PM, the NHL completed the second phase of the NHL Draft Lottery. The Rangers, along with seven teams had a shot at the first pick. The drawing was aired live on the NHL Network and NBCSN.
The seven other teams were the Toronto Maple Leafs, Pittsburgh Penguins, Florida Panthers, Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators, Winnipeg Jets, and Edmonton Oilers. The most recent of those teams to pick first overall was the Maple Leafs. They hit the Auston Matthews lottery in 2016. The Oilers won four draft lotteries in the decade of the 2010s, including three in a row from 2010-2012. The Penguins got lucky in 2005 when they beat out the Rangers in a lottery for the number one pick.
Alexis Lafreniere at 1st overall?
So with the New York Rangers winning the lottery, they will have the right to pick the consensus best player in the draft class, Alexis Lafreniére. Lafreniére is a 6’1” 193 lb left winger out of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL). He is coming off of a tremendous 2019-20 season. Last season, he put up 112 points on 35 goals and 77 assists in just 52 games.
This past season was an improvement on his 2018-19 campaign in which he put up 105 points in 61 games. He impressed at the World Juniors putting up 10 points in five games shortly before turning 18 years old. Lafreniére is a brilliant skater with amazing hands. Additionally, he has an amazing shot and an absurdly large amount of hockey sense. His IQ on the ice is amazing so it’s no wonder why he’s the consensus number one overall pick.
Another path at 1?
Another very unlikely option is for the Rangers to trade the pick for a huge haul. Giving up a huge talent like Lafreniére would be a horrible idea for the Rangers, and there is really no package large enough to give away that pick. Just for the sake of the argument, a potential partner could be with Ottawa.
The Senators, who have three first-round picks this year—including two in the top five—have pieces to go with these picks that could be the framework of a potential trade. In trading for 3rd and 5th picks, the Rangers would be getting two of the top five players in the draft. They would hope that Quinton Byfield, the best center in this class, would fall to three. At five they could take Jake Sanderson, a left side defenseman who just turned 18. It would be expected that the trade will be more than just three and five.
The New York Rangers will have filled out their need at center and left side defense, and if Ottawa really wanted to move up, it might be wise of Rangers General Manager Jeff Gorton to ask for a left-wing piece to fill in for what they passed up on in Lafreniére.
The package would have to blow away the Rangers. The only way I could see that happening is if the Senators include 20-year-old Brady Tkachuk. Tkachuk has been in the league for two seasons, both of which were almost identical. In his rookie season, the Senators left-winger scored 22 goals and added 23 assists. Last season, he scored 21 goals and added 23 assists. He played in 71 games during both seasons. Tkachuk is a 6’4” 212 lb winger who is a hard-nosed physical player. He knows coach David Quinn from his one year at Boston University, before entering the league in 2018.
In my honest opinion, this package won’t be offered and the New York Rangers will hold on to the first overall pick. Even if it is offered, there is a big chance the Rangers will hold the pick and select Lafreniére. There is only one way the deal can possibly be tipped in Ottawa’s favor. That is if they include another first-round pick either later in this draft or next year’s draft. Of course along with the third overall, fifth overall, and Tkachuk.
Lafreniére is the first player since Sidney Crosby to win the Canadian Hockey League Player of the Year Award in back to back seasons. He has this competitive edge to him which is a major x-factor in his ability to play the game and deliver in big moments. He is someone who can break the starting roster and make an immediate impact on the team. For the Rangers, who lack some depth at left-wing, Lafreniére will be the perfect solution for them. The rebuild which was already nearing its end has now been accelerated. That will boost expectations for the Rangers’ 2020-21 season even more.