By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
When the Rangers make their scheduled 10th overall selection in this year’s NHL Entry Draft on June 25 at Los Angeles, it will be only the fifth time they have chosen in that slot since the league adopted its current draft eligibility requirements back in 1969.
The 10th overall pick in the first round has historically been a mixed bag for the Rangers, but if they can replicate the success they had with that exact same pick in 1971, the organization will be more than pleased for years to come.
|Steve Vickers, the No. 10 overall pick in the 1971 NHL Amateur Draft, can still be seen at numerous Rangers events, where he remains a fan favorite. |
At the 1971 draft, the Rangers selected Steve Vickers, a left wing out of Toronto in the OHA who would go on to become one of the most popular and successful home-grown Rangers in franchise history.
With future Hall of Famers -- and future Rangers -- Guy Lafleur and Marcel Dionne among those already off the draft board, the Rangers picked Vickers, a sturdy winger with offensive touch at No. 10 overall in 1971. Vickers justified the Rangers’ faith in selecting him that high in the draft by playing his entire 10-year NHL career with the organization.
Vickers burst on to the Broadway scene in 1972-73, scoring 30 goals and recording 52 points in 61 games as a freshman with the Rangers, capturing the league’s Calder Trophy as Rookie of the Year in the process. The 30 goals scored by Vickers not only were the second-most on the team that season, but established a new franchise record for most goals scored by a Rangers rookie. That record lasted four years before Don Murdoch netted 32 in his rookie campaign.
Over the next four seasons Vickers scored 34, 41, 30, and 22 goals, leading the team in goal-scoring with those 41 during the 1974-75 season. That same year he also notched a career-best 89 points and was named to the NHL All-Star Second Team
By the time injuries brought a close to Vickers’ career with the Rangers, he had played in 698 games, scored 246 goals, and recorded 586 points. Vickers is currently the eighth-most prolific scorer in franchise history, has scored the eighth most goals, notched the ninth most assists, and played in the 11th most games.
However the Rangers’ next two cracks at selecting tenth overall did not work out as well as the selection of Vickers. The following year, in 1972, the Blueshirts chose left wing Al Blanchard out of Kitchener with the No. 10 pick. Blanchard not only never played for the Rangers, he never appeared in a single game in the National Hockey League.
In 1987, again choosing 10th overall in the first round, the Rangers selected defenseman Jayson More from New Westminster in the WHL. Like Vickers, the rugged More would play 10 seasons in the NHL, totaling 406 games. Unlike Vickers, More appeared in only a handful of those games with the Rangers, instead proving to be a journeyman, logging time with six different teams in the NHL.
|Promising goaltender Dan Blackburn, the No. 10 overall pick in 2001, had a bright future in the NHL before an injury cut his career short back in 2005. |
The Rangers’ most recent crack at selecting 10th overall came nine years ago when the club chose goaltender Dan Blackburn out of Kootenay in the WHL. Blackburn was a solid pick, a highly regarded netminder who was named to the NHL’s All-Rookie Team as a teenager in 2002 after taking over the team’s goaltending chores when Mike Richter was felled by a severe concussion.
After a solid sophomore campaign as Mike Dunham’s back-up, the future seemed bright for Blackburn, and the Rangers believed they had their goalie of the future in place. But a strange nerve injury to his shoulder sidelined the youngster for the entire 2003-04 season and eventually forced the talented netminder to retire prematurely from the National Hockey League.
Blackburn’s story proves that a team can choose the right player, no matter the round or draft position, but that there are no guarantees to what will take place in the future.
Next week, the Rangers will head to Los Angeles looking for more success at No. 10, which has been a magical spot for other teams that have owned the selection in the draft’s history.
No. 10 hasn’t just produced Vickers and Blackburn. It has also been the NHL launching pad for a future Hall of Famer in Teemu Selanne (Winnipeg, 1988) as well as former Rangers Radek Dvorak (Florida, 1995) and Nik Antropov (Toronto, 1998). J.J. Daigneault, who works in the Rangers organization as an assistant coach with the Hartford Wolf Pack, was also a No. 10 overall pick by Vancouver in 1984.
Knowing that anything will be possible at No. 10 next Friday – and that a future fan favorite like Vickers might come from it -- is what makes the NHL Entry Draft such a highly anticipated event each year.