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Rangers GM Jeff Gorton feels good about his seven other picks in draft

Rangers GM Jeff Gorton speaks with the media

Rangers GM Jeff Gorton speaks with the media at Madison Square Garden Training Center on Sunday, April 7.  Credit: James Escher

Rangers 2019 draft picks:

1st round: Kaapo Kakko (2 overall); 2018-19 team: TPS (Liiga); Position: RW; Ht., Wt: 6-2, 194 DOB 2/13/01 Turku, FIN; 2018-19 stats: 45 games, 22 goals, 16 assists, 38 points

2nd round: Matthew Robertson (49 overall): 2018-19 team: Edmonton (WHL); Position: D; Ht., Wt: 6-3, 200; DOB: 3/9/01 Edmonton, AB; 2018-19 stats: 52 games, 7 goals, 26 assists, 33 points

2nd round: Karl Henriksson (58 overall); 2018-19 team: Frolunda J20 (SuperElit); Position: C; Ht., Wt.: 5-9, 176; DOB: 2/5/01 Malmo, SWE; 2018-19 stats: 45 games, 13 goals, 36 assists, 49 points

3rd round: Zachary Jones (68 overall): 2018-19 team: Tri-City (USHL); Position: D; Ht., Wt.: 5-10, 175; DOB 10/18/00 Richmond, VA; 2018-19 stats: 56 games, 7 goals, 45 assists, 52 points

4th round: Hunter Skinner (112 overall) : 2018-19 team: Muskegon/Lincoln (USHL); Position: D; Ht., Wt.: 6-2, 176; DOB: 4/29/01 Wyndotte, MI; 2018-19 stats: 52 games, 5 goals, 19 assists, 24 points

5th round: Leevi Aaltonen (130 overall): 2018-19 team: KalPa U20 (Jr. A SM-liiga); Position: RW; Ht., Wt.: 5-9, 177; DOB: 1/24/01 Mikkeli, FIN; 2018-19 stats: 29 games, 12 goals, 24 assists, 36 points

6th round: Adam Edstrom (161 overall): 2018-19 team: Mora J20 (SuperElit); Position: C; Ht., Wt.: 6-6, 209; DOB: 10/12/00 Hammaro, SWE; 2018-19 stats: 20 games, 11 goals, 5 assists, 16 points

7th round: Eric Ciccolini (205 overall): 2018-19 team: Toronto Jr. Canadiens (OJHL); Position: RW; Ht., Wt.: 5-11, 170; DOB: 1/14/01 Vaughan, ON; 2018-19 stats: 48 games, 27 goals, 35 assists, 62 points

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — When you take a guy on the first day of the draft who most everyone believes will be a transformational player, the second day can be, let’s say, anticlimactic. For the Rangers, who were probably still giddy after nabbing Finnish forward Kaapo Kakko with the second overall pick Friday night at Rogers Arena, things were a little quiet Saturday as they closed out the weekend by drafting seven more prospects — none of whom had the wow factor that Kakko does.

“Unfortunately, with seven rounds, we can’t get seven Kakkos, right?’’ Rangers GM Jeff Gorton said. Still, from Gorton’s point of view after the draft was over, the Rangers had a pretty successful weekend.

“Every year, of course, we’re coming to you saying we’ve had a great draft,’’ Gorton said. “But we feel good. And I think we had a good blend of skill; some size; some skating; a little European flavor; some North American flavor; some kids that are going to go to college and take a few years to develop their skill level there, so yeah, we’re excited.’’

Kakko, the 18-year-old right wing the Rangers selected after the Devils took Jack Hughes with the first pick, spent Saturday in Vancouver with his family and will fly to New York Sunday, in time to take part in the Rangers’ Prospect Development Camp in Stamford, Conn., beginning Monday.

While Kakko was out enjoying Vancouver, Gorton and his management team talked with a few teams about possibly moving up or down in the draft, but ended up making no trades, and instead stuck with the seven draft picks with which they entered the day. The first of those was 6-3, 200-pound defenseman Matthew Robertson, whom they took with the first of their two second-round picks, No. 49 overall. They followed that pick by taking 5-9 center Karl Henriksson of Sweden, with their second second-round pick (No. 58 overall); 5-10 defenseman Zachary Jones (No. 68); 6-2 defenseman Hunter Skinner (No. 112); 5-9 forward Leevi Aaltonen — another Finn who is friends with Kakko; 6-6 center Adam Edstrom of Sweden, and 5-11 defenseman Eric Ciccolini of Ontario.

With the draft now behind him, Gorton still has a ton of work to do. The signing period for free agents begins July 1, but teams can begin talking to prospective free agents Sunday [June 23], and Gorton said he intends to talk to a few people.

“We’ve targeted some people to talk to, and we’ll gauge interest on both sides,’’ he said. “Are we definitely going to be really, really active? I don’t know. We’ll see. We want to talk to some people and lay out our plan and see what their plan is, and we’ll figure that out in the next few days.’’

He wouldn’t mention any names, of course, but Columbus forward Artemi Panarin has been widely reported as Gorton’s No. 1 free agent target. According to a tweet by TSN reporter Bob McKenzie, Panarin and his Columbus teammate, goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, are scheduled to be in Florida Sunday to meet with the Florida Panthers.

Gorton said he doesn’t feel as if the Rangers need to do anything else, but he does have conversations going with other teams regarding potential trades — the names of Chris Kreider and Jimmy Vesey were thrown around quite a bit over the weekend — and there are those free agents and potentially players who could be bought out. Defensemen Kevin Shattenkirk and Brendan Smith are possible buyout candidates, but Gorton indicated he’ll only use the buyout option if he needs to.

“We’ll have some conversations about what to do, and if free agency, or trades or something, we make some decisions and we have to go that [buyout] route, then that’s something we’ll be ready to do if we have to,’’ he said.

New York Sports