Revisiting the 2017 draft a.k.a. the Lias Andersson fiasco

A general view as Lias Andersson is selected seventh overall by the New York Rangers during the 2017 NHL Draft(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
A general view as Lias Andersson is selected seventh overall by the New York Rangers during the 2017 NHL Draft(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

Mention the 2017 NHL Entry Draft to a fan of the New York Rangers and it may not mean much, but bring up the subject of Lias Andersson and there will no shortage of vitriol directed at General Manager Jeff Gorton, Director of Player Personnel Gordie Clark,  European Scouting Director Nick Bobrov, Coach David Quinn or Andersson himself.

Believe it or not, the Rangers’ 2017 draft could actually turn out to be one of their best.  It’s going to take some time before we know it, but drafting prospects can be a crap shoot and yesterday’s disaster could end up becoming a bonanza in a few years.

Expectations after a big trade

On June 23,  the day of the draft, the Rangers traded center Derek Stepan and goalie Antti Raanta to Arizona for the seventh overall pick and defenseman Tony DeAngelo.  It was the highest pick in the draft for the Rangers in 13 years and their first pick in the first round since 2012 so expectations were high.

In defense of the Rangers’ braintrust, a seventh overall pick usually works out. Here are the players picked seventh overall the ten years before 2017:

  • 2016 – Clayton Keller, Arizona
  • 2015 – Ivan Provorov, Philadelphia
  • 2014 – Haydn Fleury, Carolina
  • 2013 – Darnell Nurse, Edmonton
  • 2012 – Matt Dumba, Minnesota
  • 2011 – Mark Scheifele, Winnipeg
  • 2010 – Jeff Skinner, Carolina
  • 2009 – Nazem Kadri, Toronto
  • 2008 – Colin Wilson, Nashville
  • 2007 – Jakub Voracek, Columbus

With that kind of pedigree, how could the Rangers go wrong?  It appears that Arizona General Manager John Chayka knew something the Rangers didn’t.  He knew that the crop of prospects in 2017 was probably one of the weakest in NHL history.   Just look at the 2018 and 2019 seventh overall picks.  In 2018 Quinn Hughes was selected by Vancouver and in 2019, Dylan Cozens by Buffalo, both bona fide NHL players.

The Rangers ended up with Lias Andersson and we all know how that turned out. How bad a pick was it?  Andersson has played 89 games in the NHL, including 23 games with the Kings this season.  If he doesn’t play 300 games in the NHL, he will be the first to not reach that mark since Lars Jonsson, a Swedish defenseman picked seventh overall by the Bruins in 2000.

How bad was the 2017 draft?

The fact is that after the top five picks, the players drafted in 2017 have not been impressive.  Here are the top five:

  1. Nico Hischier, New Jersey
  2. Nolan Patrick, Philadelphia
  3. Miro Heiskanen, Dallas
  4. Cale Makar, Colorado
  5. Elias Pettersson, Vancouver

Although Patrick has been dogged by injuries including chronic migraines that cost him the entire 2019-20 season, all five have become useful and productive NHL players with some budding superstars in Heiskanen, Makar and Pettersson.  After those five, the quality drops substantially.

Sixth overall pick Cody Glass has not panned out in Las Vegas. Casey Mittelstadt (#8), selected by Buffalo one pick after Andersson had been considered a bust though he has shown signs of living up to some of his promise with 10 goals and 22 points in 41 games this season.

The next three picks have all made it to the NHL including Michael Rasmussen (#9) with Detroit, Florida’s Owen Tippett (#10) and Gabriel Vilardi (#11) with the Kings

The good news is Filip Chytil, taken 21st overall by the Rangers has turned out to be one of the best picks in that draft with 34 goals and 71 points.  His goal total is third most among 2017 draftees and his points total is eighth most.  Only Pettersson and Hischier have topped  Chytil’s 34 goals.

Asides from Chytil, there are some players picked in 2017 who are decent pros.  Martin Necas (#12) has turned it on for the Hurricanes.  Nick Suzuki (#13) looks to be the diamond in the rough based on his performance in the playoffs this season for Montreal. Robert Thomas (#20-St. Louis) and Kailer Yamamoto (#22-Edmonton) have shown promise.  Maxine Comtois (#50-Anaheim) and Drake Batherson (#121-Ottawa) are two later round picks who have made it to the NHL.

No doubt there are some late bloomers, players like Boston goalie Jeremy Swayman (#111) who have barely started their NHL careers so the book is not written yet on the 2017 draft.   However, looking just one year earlier in 2016, there look to be more quality NHLers picked after the first round included  Sam Girard (#47),  Alex Debrincat (#39), Jesper Bratt (#162) and the Rangers own Adam Fox (#66) and Ryan Lindgren (#49).

Still, no matter which late bloomers surface in the next few years, the 2017 draft class is not very special.    Only 14 players selected in 2017 have played as many as 100 NHL games.  Only 13 have scored as many as 20 goals. Only 14 have totaled as many as 40 points.

Worst ever for the Rangers?

It was bad enough that Lias Andersson never displayed the promise the Rangers thought he possessed, but his tenure in New York was filled with drama as he quit the organization, returning to Sweden with stories of bullying and depression.

While the disappointment over the Lias Andersson pick still stings, the fact that they snared Filip Chytil at #21 makes it much more palatable.   The Rangers traded Andersson to the Kings before the 2020 Draft for a second round pick and selected forward Will Cuylle who has gotten some promising reviews.  If he can become an impactful player, it could make the Andersson fiasco much less worse.

There’s one more way that the 2017 Draft could end up being a solid one for the Blueshirts.  That’s because with the 174th pick in the sixth round, the Rangers selected a center who had played well for St. Andrew’s  College and had committed to attending  Cornell University. That player was Morgan Barron and he is now the top center prospect in the organization. Barron played five games at the end of the season for the Blueshirts after starring with the Wolf Pack.

So, the Rangers have the potential to come out of the 2017 draft with three impact players in Chytil, Barron and Cuylle.  If they all make it as regulars with the Rangers, it will be the first time that has happened since 1990 when Sergei Zubov, Doug Weight and Sergei Nemchinov all became starters in New York out of the same draft.

Hey, you never know!

light. More. Walk year centers