For the first time since selecting defenseman Brady Skjei 28th overall in 2012, the Rangers have a first-round pick in the NHL’s entry draft in June.
Having traded away top picks for veterans in the past few years, the Rangers will have the 21st pick in this year's draft, which begins on June 23 in Chicago.
With youngsters such as top goaltending prospect Igor Shestyorkin (St. Petersburg, KHL), Adam Huska (University of Connecticut) and Tyler Wall (UMass-Lowell) in the fold, the Rangers are expected to pass on netminders such as Jake Oettinger (Boston University) in the first round and target forwards or defensemen.
As many as 10 centers might be off the board by the time the clock starts running on the Rangers, and some of the highly regarded defensemen (Miro Heiskanen and Timothy Liljegren) figure to be gone as well.
The Rangers have their own system of evaluating players, but based on discussions with draft analysts, final NHL draft rankings, availability and the team’s needs, here are some first-round options:
Born: Smogen, Sweden
Last season: 9-10-19 in 42 games for HV71
If Andersson somehow drops to 21, the confident, two-way Swedish center will be a steal. The son of former NHLer Niklas Andersson is a strong skater with the right attitude and a crackling wrist shot. The lefty, who can finish around the net, excelled in several international tournaments and has immense leadership potential.
International Scouting Services (ISS): 25
McKeen's Hockey: 15
NHL Central Scouting: 3 (European skaters)
Right wing/left wing
Born: Helsinki, Finland
Last season: 1-5-6 in 26 games for Frolunda
A budding power forward who played in Sweden, Vesalainen began the season as a consensus top 10 pick but slid in the rankings. That is, until the under-18 world championships when he scored six goals and 13 points in seven games. At 17, he played very few minutes with an older club. He has all the tools but still is considered raw. At his best, Vesalainen can be a dangerous offensive weapon, with a quick release and a high-tempo, versatile game.
McKeen's Hockey: 25
NHL Central Scouting: 7 (European skaters)
Born: London, Ontario
Last season: 45-51-96 in 65 games for Owen Sound (OHL)
A pivot who should grow a couple inches and add a few pounds, Suzuki is attracting more and more attention. Scouts praise his intelligence, great vision, ability to score in different ways and play in all situations. He led his team to its best season ever and was dominant in the playoffs.
International Scouting Services: 17
McKeen's Hockey: 28
NHL Central Scouting: 10 (North American skaters)
Born: Nokia, Finland
Last season: 19-42-61 in 60 games for the Tri-City Americans (WHL)
The captain of the Finnish junior teams isn't flashy but is an excellent skater and considered an all-around left-handed defenseman. Considered an accurate, strong passer and shot-blocker with an ability to quarterback the power play. Rarely employs his low, heavy slap shot, but gets the puck to the net.
International Scouting Services: 14
McKeen's Hockey: 16
NHL Central Scouting: 11 (North American skaters)
Born: Thorold, Ontario
Last season: 7-54-61 in 67 games for Sault St. Marie (OHL)
Timmins, a right-handed defenseman whose stock is rising, has the potential to be a top-four blueliner. A playmaker and strong skater with acceleration and balance and known as a deft puckhandler, Timmins blossomed this past season after starting as a mid-pair defenseman and finishing as the Greyhounds' No. 1.
NHL Central Scouting: 18 (North American skaters)
Halifax, Nova Scotia
6'1, 178 lbs
Last season: 22-29-51 in 60 games for Waterloo (USHL)
Bowers, who has committed to Boston University next season, is considered a very good skater with a quality north-south game and is strong down low in the cycle. He's willing to fight through checks. A lot of his goals come off deflections and rebounds. Bowers doesn't project to be a No. 1 center, but has the goods to be a second-liner.
NHL Central Scouting: 16 (North American skaters)
Born: Lakeville, Minnesota
Last season: 7-6-13 in 35 games for St. Cloud State
The youngest player in the NCAA last season -- he skipped his senior year of high school -- is poised, has a long, powerful stride, and has proven to be a clutch player in big moments. In 11 games for Team USA's Under-18 team in international tournaments, he went 7-4-11. Remember: The Rangers have a fondness for American players (J.T. Miller, Skjei, Kevin Hayes, Jimmy Vesey).
NHL Central Scouting: 13 (North American skaters)
Born: London, Ontario
Last season: 28-26-54 for Guelph (OHL)
He needs to build muscle, but Ratcliffe is tough and strong in front of the net and along the walls protecting the puck. He has good footwork. Improved in his second season on a rebuilding team. Perhaps not the most creative player, but some see a bit of the Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds in him.
NHL Central Scouting: 15 (North American skaters)
Born: Englewood, Colorado
Last season: 6-51-57 in 71 games for Kelowna (WHL)
The son of former defenseman Adam Foote has more offensive potential than his dad, who played with brute force. But he plays the same smart, sound game. A mobile right-hander with an effective shot and passing skills, Foote has no glaring weaknesses, but he also doesn't stand out in one area. One analyst compared him with Calgary's Dougie Hamilton, which isn't a bad thing at all.
NHL Central Scouting: 12 (North American skaters)
Born: Eksjo, Sweden
Last season: 9-14-23 in 19 games for HV71
Does size matter? Brannstrom posted 1.21 points per game in the SuperElite league, Sweden's U-20 junior hockey league. In his draft year, Erik Karlsson scored 0.97 points per game. He's not Karlsson; his size lends to comparisons with Boston's Torey Krug or Anaheim's Sami Vantanen. So while dynamic offensively, there are some questions about the lefthander's ability to play in his own zone against larger, stronger NHLers.
ISS: (Not ranked in top 31)
NHL Central Scouting: 9 (European skaters)