Chris Drury is having the best summer ever.
Last month, the Rangers’ assistant general manager got to see his longtime friend, David Quinn, introduced as the 35th coach of the Rangers, and this weekend in Dallas, Drury and the Rangers are set to have themselves a ball at the NHL Draft. They possess three picks in the first round and a whopping seven in the first three rounds.
“Generally speaking, having this many picks is an exciting thing,’’ Drury told Newsday recently. “Other than last year, when we had the two first-round picks [used to select Lias Andersson and Filip Chytil], we haven’t had many first round picks lately. Two drafts ago, in Buffalo, our first pick was in the third round. This is the most picks we’ve had in the seven-round draft — ever.’’
The Rangers have a total of 10 picks in the seven-round draft, thanks to some aggressive wheeling and dealing by GM Jeff Gorton, who oversaw the beginning of the rebuilding project last season. Gorton acquired first-round picks from Boston in the Rick Nash deal, and from Tampa Bay in the J.T. Miller-Ryan McDonagh deal. He got a second-round pick from the Devils for Michael Grabner and a third-rounder from Boston for Nick Holden.
The Rangers pick at No. 9, No. 26 and No. 28 in the first round.
Of course, odds are against the Rangers making all of those picks. Gorton figures to be active throughout, looking to improve the roster by whatever means available, and that would include trading picks to get NHL players or to move up in the draft. Drury said he and his scouting staff will be ready for whatever Gorton may do.
“Jeff’s obviously going to do what he thinks is best for the organization,’’ Drury said. “If that’s giving up picks for a player, or signing more players in free agency, we’ll be prepared for that.’’
One subplot to keep an eye on is how hard the Rangers try to move up to take Boston University winger Brady Tkachuk. Tkachuk played for Quinn at BU, and there would be no greater gift Gorton could give his new coach than to be able to draft Tkachuk, the 6-3, 192-pound son of U.S. Hockey Hall of Famer Keith Tkachuk and brother of Calgary Flames winger Matthew Tkachuk.
Speaking on NHL Network, Quinn was effusive in his praise of Brady Tkachuk.
“Brady does it all,’’ Quinn said. “And I think a lot of people get enamored with his physical play and the edge that he plays with — which they should — but what can get lost in watching Brady Tkachuk is how talented he is; how smart he is. He’s got great vision. He’s got great hands. He’s gonna be a goal-scorer. He brings a personality in the locker room. I just can’t say enough about him, and someone’s going to get a helluva player.’’
That someone probably won’t be the Rangers, unless they can figure out a way to move up from the ninth spot at the start of the draft. Tkachuk is rated the No. 2 North American skater according to the NHL’s Central Scouting Bureau and most mock drafts having him among the top four picks. Ottawa, with the No. 4 pick, seems the most likely to be willing to deal, as the Senators are reportedly looking to trade captain and star defenseman Erik Karlsson and go into a full rebuild. The Rangers, of course, would love to get Karlsson, but would they be able to put together a package that could get something done? That would make Drury’s best summer ever even better.