The Rangers ability (or inability) to develop forwards will make or break their rebuild
They have had a lot of top draft picks in recent years that are not panning out as hoped. At least not yet.
In February of 2018 the New York Rangers sent a letter to their fans explaining that the team was looking toward the future and focussing its efforts on acquiring young talent and young assets.
It was the “rebuilding” letter.
It is the message teams send to fans when they are set to tear the roster down to the ground and sacrifice a couple of years with the intention of being good in the future.
They had already started selling off veteran players (Derek Stepan specifically) before that, but continued on over the next few years by dealing away players like Ryan McDonagh, J.T. Miller, Rick Nash, Mats Zuccarello, and so on down the list. Those trades, combined with some really impressive draft lottery luck, gave them seven first-round picks between 2017 and 2021, including four top-10 picks.
Those picks, in theory, were going to be the foundation of the new great New York Rangers team.
That is how most rebuilds typically work. You draft franchise players at the top, and you complement them through trades and free agency. Your Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Drew Doughty, Victor Hedman, Steven Stamkos.
Players like that.
A few years later, the Rangers are now pretty successful and seem to have come out on the other side of the rebuild in a good spot. They were in the Eastern Conference Final a year ago, and they have a lot of pieces in place that should make them a contender in the Eastern Conference. They are good. Very good. Maybe a little flawed, maybe a step below some of the truly elite teams in the NHL, but they are definitely a team that can make a serious run. Especially if their goalie (Igor Shesterkin) goes on the type of heater where he carries the team.
But I am not sure they are exactly where they expected or hoped to be this season. It is their inability to develop forwards that is holding them back a little right now.
That will ultimately make-or-break the entire thing.
So what is happening here?
Let’s take a look at those top draft picks.