It speaks volumes when a team stocked with several picks in the first two rounds of the NHL Entry Draft makes a trade to move up to select a specific player in fear that he will be gone when the club's next turn to make a selection comes around. That's exactly what the Rangers did when they dealt the 24th overall pick along with 46th selection in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft to the Calgary Flames for the 19th and 247th overall picks. With that 19th selection, the Rangers selected Finnish forward Lauri Korpikoski - a player the team truly coveted.
Korpikoski, a 6-1, 183-pound native of Turku, Finland, tallied 12 goals and eight assists for 20 points, along with 26 penalty minutes in 36 games with TPS of the Finnish Junior League. But like Al Montoya, whom the Rangers selected with the sixth overall pick, Korpikoski's stock rose considerably while playing on the world stage. Representing Finland at the 2004 IIHF U-18 World Junior Championship in Minsk, Russia, Korpikoski tied for the tournament lead with 11 points (five goals, six assists) in six matches, teaming with fellow Finns (and 2004 first round selections) Lauri Tukonen and Petteri Nokelainen to form one of the top lines of the tournament.
"I'm so happy right now," said Korpikoski after his selection. "It's an honor to be drafted by such a first-class organization. I don't know these guys (the current Rangers team) too well, but I hope to in the future. What I do know is that New York City and the Rangers fans are great. I've never been to New York or to Madison Square Garden but I know it's a great atmosphere. The Rangers have such a tradition and it's amazing that New York picked me"
Rangers management was ecstatic to have been able to orchestrate the deal to select the promising Finn.
"We had Korpikoski near the top of our draft chart," said Rangers Assistant General manager and Vice President of Player Personnel Don Maloney. "He has tremendous ability. He can skate, he's physical, and he makes plays. In our eyes, he was the hidden gem of the Draft and we worked hard to move up to be in a position to select this player. There's nothing about this kid not to like. Korpikoski is the kind of player who you can win a championship with and we're thrilled to have him in the organization."
"I am now one step closer to my dream (of playing in the NHL)," concluded Korpikoski. "I have to now work harder to actually realize this dream."