DALLAS – Trust the process.
That was the Philadelphia 76ers’ mantra during their long and painful rebuilding period, and with the picks the Rangers made this weekend in the NHL draft, it’s clear they’ve got their own process. And supporters are just going to have to buy in and trust the Rangers’ vision as the Blueshirts make their way through their own rebuild.
Following a Friday night where they surprised many of their faithful by taking three players most didn’t expect them to take, the Rangers on Saturday came up with a few more head-scratchers, including the drafting of a goaltender with their second-round pick, the No. 39 selection overall.
With Henrik Lundqvist still locked in as the team’s franchise goaltender, and with prospect Igor Shestyorkin likely to come over to North America after playing in the KHL next season, the Rangers took Stockholm native Olof Lindbom with their first pick on Day 2 of the draft. Lindbom, 18, who plays for Djurgarden, in the Swedish junior league, was named the top goaltender at the World Junior U18 Championships in Russia this spring. He was the first goaltender selected in the draft, even though he was rated the No. 5 European goaltender by the NHL’s Central Scouting Bureau.
The Rangers obviously had him rated much higher than that, as GM Jeff Gorton said.
“We’re trying to take the best players on our list, and when we had a goalie first overall of all the goalies in the draft — by a long shot — we thought, with our history of goalies, and who we have in our organization that’s able to develop goalies, that would be a good pick,’’ Gorton said. “And we’ll see. Obviously, you only have one goalie that plays for you at a time, and we’ll see how it works out.
“We like the player a lot, and we just felt like it was an opportunity that we just couldn’t pass up at this time.’’
The Rangers, who entered the draft with 10 picks in the seven-round draft, including seven in the first three rounds, had raised eyebrows when they took little-talked-about Vitali Kravtsov with the ninth overall pick on Friday, then traded their second first rounder (No. 26) and second second-rounder (No. 48) to Ottawa for No. 22 overall, which they used to select US National Team Development Program defenseman K’Andre Miller. Then, with the 28th pick, they took Swedish defenseman Nils Lundkvist.
Saturday, after taking Lindbom in the second round, they followed up by taking another Swedish defenseman, Jacob Ragnarsson, with the first of their two third round picks (No. 70). They took Chicago native Joey Keane of the OHL’s Barrie Colts, another defenseman, with their second third rounder (No. 88), and took Swiss defenseman Nico Gross, of the OHL’s Oshawa Generals in the fourth round. In the fifth, they took Finnish right wing Lauri Pajuniemi, before taking another Swedish defenseman, Simon Kjellberg in the sixth round. Kjellberg is the son of Patric Kjellberg, who is a Rangers scout.
Without a seventh round pick of their own, they ended up trading one of next year’s two seventh-rounders for the second-to-last pick in the draft, which they used to select Massachusetts high schooler Riley Hughes, a right wing.
When it was all done, the Rangers had selected six defensemen, one goaltender and three forwards in the draft, as well as seven Europeans (four Swedes, a Russian, a Finn and a Swiss) and Gorton said he was happy with how the weekend went.
“We just drafted 10 players and we feel good about every one of them,’’ he said. “Time will tell, and I’d be naive to sit here and tell you they’re all great, because we don’t know. We’ll find out, as we all go forward. But we feel really good about today.’’