The New York Rangers rebuild is paying off as the Blueshirts are ranked the best organization in the NHL
Every year, Corey Pronman of The Athletic (subscription required), provides organizational rankings for all 31 NHL teams. For the second straight year, the New York Rangers came out on top. It’s a tribute to the Rangers’ management that in just two and a half years the team has completely rebuilt its organization from the ground up and are now at the top of the charts.
It’s important to note that Pronman made the Blueshirts his top choice before the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. That means the group of prospects and young players cited does not include consensus top pick Alexis Lafreniere. They Rangers also have a second first round pick (#22) that will hopefully turn into a stud prospect based on the depth of this year’s draft class.
When Glen Sather and Jeff Gorton send “The Letter” to Ranger fans on February 8, 2018, the team was coming off years of playoff contention that had stripped the prospect pool bare. That included four straight years they traded away their first round draft pick and an annual mortgaging of the future with deadline deals.
The turnaround has been remarkable. Of the 32 players who appeared in 15 games or more on that 2017-18 team only eight are left. And out of Henrik Lundqvist, Mika Zibanejad, Chris Kreider, Pavel Buchnevich, Jesper Fast, Marc Staal, Brendan Smith and Tony DeAngelo, it’s likely that the number will be four when the 2021-22 season starts. That’s an 88% turnover in four years.
The good news is that they have done it through the draft and some savvy trades. In the five years from 2012 to 2016 the Rangers drafted 29 players with only one first round and two second round picks. In the three most recent drafts (including 2020) the Rangers have 28 picks including six in the first round and thee in the second round.
In trades since the letter, the Rangers have added four former first round picks and three former second round picks. Through free agency they added two more former top picks, one first and one second round pick.
If you add in their four veteran former first round picks (Kreider, Staal, Smith, Zibanejad) it means that the 2020-21 New York Rangers organization will have 15 first round draft picks and seven second round draft picks. That’s impressive.
The Metropolitan Division rankings
Perhaps the best news is how well the Rangers compare to the rest of the Metropolitan Division. Some powerhouse rivals are seeing the start of a decline that symbolizes a real changing of the guard. Here’s how the rest of the Division ranked:
2nd – New Jersey Devils
6th – Carolina Hurricanes
10th – Philadelphia Flyers
19th – Columbus Blue Jackets
27th – New York Islanders
30th – Pittsburgh Penguins
31st – Washington Capitals
If organization rankings matter, it looks like the Rangers will be battling the Devils and Hurricanes for many years to come.
An added bonus
Perhaps the most important factor when it comes to the youth of the organization is cap-related. With the salary cap the greatest determining factor when it comes to team management and the NHL facing a flat cap for at least the next two years, the fact that the roster is replete with young players on bargain basement contracts positions is huge.
Sure, there will come a time when all of those young players will need to be paid, but with a new television deal coming and an NHL economic recovery from the pandemic, the Rangers will be indecent shape.
While it’s discouraging to watch Ryan McDonagh playing for a Stanley Cup or to see J.T. Miller excelling in Vancouver, it’s comforting to know that good times are ahead. We have to trust that Jeff Gorton and company have the smarts to take the Rangers the next step from a rebuilding team to a Stanley Cup champion and daresay, a dynasty?