Over the last 39 summers, the Rangers have selected 395 players from across the world as part of the NHL’s Amateur/Entry Draft process. Some picks have worked out tremendously well. Others haven’t. Such is the nature of the draft. But regardless of any ‘success’ measurement, there always seems to be some lasting memories created by the players that are selected each year. In the first of a two-part story, newyorkrangers.com takes a look at some of those drafted players who have lent their name to Blueshirt history over the last four decades.
1963-1966 In a time when players were affiliated with a professional hockey team in their junior years, the inception of the NHL Amateur Draft in 1963 marked a noted change in the way in which a team was developed. In an effort to eliminate the sponsorship of amateur teams and players by its member clubs, the National Hockey League began developing a drafting system that would provide each team with an equal opportunity to acquire amateur players. The Rangers, with players such as Rod Gilbert, Andy Bathgate, Phil Goyette, Harry Howell, Vic Hadfield, Camille Henry, Bob Nevin and Jean Ratelle already in the fold, selected 10 players in the first three years of the Draft who never laced up a pair of skates on Broadway. It wasn’t until the selection of Brad Park, second overall, in 1966 that a Rangers drat choice hit the ice at The Garden.
1970s The 1970s proved to be a successful drafting decade for the Blueshirts, with many of the top selections landing roles on Broadway and the hearts of Rangers fans over the next decade ... Steve Vickers (1971), Rick Middleton and Pat Hickey (1973), Dave Maloney, Ron Greschner and Eddie Johnstone (1974), Wayne Dillon and Doug Soetaert (1975), Don Murdoch, Dave Farrish and Mike McEwen (1976), Lucein DeBlois, Ron Duguay, Steve Baker and Mario Marois (1977), Don Maloney, Dave Silk, Andre Dore, Tom Laidlaw and Steve Weeks (1978), and Doug Sulliman and Ed Hospodar (1979). These players evoke many great memories and are many of the past Blueshirts that come to mind when you think of the 1979 squad that defeated the Islanders in the Semifinals to advance to play for the Stanley Cup vs. Montreal. The 1974 Draft also produced the most draft selections in a single year for the Rangers – 23 picks over the span of 23 rounds! Vickers holds a spot in the club’s top 15 list for games played, goals, assists and points, while holding the Rangers’ mark for most points in a single game with seven. Dave Maloney and Greschner rank among the all-time Rangers leaders among defensemen in games played, goals, assists, points and penalty minutes. Duguay and Don Maloney also sit atop many of the Rangers offensive lists, while adding a distinctive ‘New York’ flair to the Blueshirt sweater.
1980-1984 The drafts of the early 1980’s continued to produce a variety of Blueshirt talent … Mike Allison and Reijo Ruotsalainen (above - 1980), James Patrick, Jan Erixon and John Vanbiesbrouck (1981), Chris Kontos, Tomas Sandstrom, Corey Millen, Tony Granato and Kelly Miller (1982), Dave Gagner (1983) and Terry Carkner, Raimo Helminen, Paul Broten, Kjell Samuelsson and Kevin Miller (1984). While these selections didn’t create major headlines in the hockey world, many of these players went on to great NHL careers. Reijo Ruotsalainen’s selection in the sixth round in 1980 marked a major step, as he became the first European-trained player selected by the Blueshirts. James Patrick and Ruotsalainen rank third and sixth respectively on the Rangers’ all-time list for most points by a defenseman. John Vanbiesbrouck ranks fourth of the club’s all-time wins and games played list for goaltenders. Tony Granato holds the Blueshirt single season mark for goals by a rookie with 36 in 1988-89. Jan Erixon, who registered 216 points in 556 career matches with New York, was perhaps the greatest defensive forward in Rangers history.