On June 25 in Rangers history: The best late NHL draft pick ever

What happened on June 25 in the history of the New York Rangers

On this date in 2000, the New York Rangers made a late draft pick that is the greatest late pick ever made in NHL history.   In the seventh round with the 205th overall pick, they selected a Swedish goalie named Henrik Lundqvist.  The rest is history.

A sure fire Hall of Famer when he hangs up his pads, he will be the pick selected latest in the draft to make it to the Hall without an asterisk.  Sergei Makarov was picked 231st in 1983 and Igor Larianov was the 214th pick in 1985, but in those days teams routinely picked Russian stars late in the draft in the hope that they might someday defect to the west.  Lundqvist was a legitimate late pick as a prospect while the only other goalie who comes close is Dominik Hasek who was selected by Chicago with the 199th pick in 1983, though that late selection was again due to Czechoslovakia being behind the Iron Curtain.

In fact, the only Hall of Famer who was drafted late as a prospect with expectations of coming to the NHL was Luc Robitaille, drafted 171st in 1983.

It gets even crazier.  The top pick in the 2000 draft was a goalie, Rick DiPietro, taken by the Islanders.  21 other goalies were picked in the draft before Lundqvist.  Of those 21, only eight actually made it to the NHL with three of them playing fewer than eight games.  The Rangers actually drafted another goalie with the 143rd pick.  He was named Brandon Snee out of Union College and he never made it to the big leagues.

It’s scary to think that 18 other NHL teams drafted goaltenders before the Rangers picked Lundqvist and two of them were Swedish.

Of the 31 other goalies drafted in 2000, combined they won 600 games in the NHL.  Lundqvist has won 459 himself. DiPietro ended up with 130 wins in 318 games and Ilya Bryzgalov, drafted by Anaheim in the second round, won 221 of 465 games.

Oh yes, Henrik’s twin brother, Joel, was drafted in the third round by Dallas, 69th overall. The Stars drafted five other European skaters before the 205th pick.  What if, as a lark, they had decided to draft Joel’s twin?

Who should get the credit for finding Lundqvist? It was actually Assistant General Manager Don Maloney who pushed for the pick on the recommendation of European Scout Crister Rockstrom.  Maloney was running the draft because new General Manager Glen Sather had just been hired.  Chief scout Martin Madden was not enamored of Lundqvist and disregarded Rockstrom who was pushing to take him.  When they got the the seventh round, Maloney asked Rockstrom who was left and that’s when the Rangers’ future was decided.

It’s quite a story.

Undeserving of the Hall of Fame?

On this date in 1993, Rangers center Edgar Laprade was named to the Hall of Fame.  He was a lifelong Blueshirt who played 10 years in the NHL, scoring 108 goals and 280 points in 500 games. He won the Calder Trophy in his 1945-46 rookie season on 15 goals and 34 points in 49 games.  He won the Lady Byng Trophy in 1950 when he also finished seventh in Hart Trophy voting. That season he scored 22 goals and 44 points , the highest single goal total in his career.

Nicknamed “Beaver,” he made a late debut in the NHL at age 26, due to military service that cost him three years as a pro, though his military service consisted of playing hockey for the Canadian Army team.

Laprade played in four All-Star games and he didn’t take a penalty in three of his NHL seasons. He was a member of the 1950 team that lost the Stanley Cup Final to the Detroit Red Wings in seven games.  That was the series when the Rangers didn’t play a single home game in the series due to the circus taking over Madison Square Garden.

The controversy over the Hall of Fame is the fact that many believe that he didn’t deserve getting elected by the HOF Committee.  Although a good player and a Calder and Lady Byng winner, he finished in the top ten in any major offensive category only once in his career.  He never won a Stanley Cup and was on a playoff team only twice.

Does it matter?  There will always be some controversy when it comes to Hall of Fame selection and consider that the committee made the pick almost 40 years after he retired, it’s hard to know what their criteria was.  Laprade passed away in 1994 so he lived long enough to be inducted.

Today’s birthdays

25 NHL players were born on June 25 with three former Rangers among them including one who was part of the worst trade in team history.

Ken Hodge was born on this date in 1944 in Birmingham, England.  Signed by the Chicago Black Hawks he made his NHL debut in 1964 and was traded to the Boston Bruins along with Phil Esposito in 1967, a trade that established the Bruins as one of the best teams in the NHL.  Playing on a line with Esposito and Wayne Cashman, in 1970-71 the trio racked up the points with Hodge setting an NHL record for points by a right wing with 105.  After the Rangers acquired Esposito, new GM John Ferguson tried to rekindle the magic by trading for Hodge.   It didn’t work. Hodge played one full season in New York before getting sent to the minors the next season and retiring.  The Rangers traded Rick Middleton to the Bruins and he was one of their greatest all-time scorers with his number retired by the team.  It is considered by most fans to be the worst deal in Rangers’ franchise history.

Milan Hnilicka was born in 1973 in Pardubice, Czechoslovakia.  Drafted in 1991 by the Islanders, the goalie played junior and minor league hockey in North America, but didn’t sign with the Isles and returned to Europe.  After four years in the Czech league he was signed by the Rangers and won a Calder Cup with the Hartford Wolf Pack before making it to the Rangers for two games in 1999-00, once in relief and once as a starter.  He lost his only decision and went on to play for the Thrashers and Kings.

Joe Paterson was a physical left winger, born on June 25, 1960 in Toronto, Ontario.  He topped  148 penalty minutes four times in a nine year NHL career, never scoring more than nine goals in a season. He was traded to the Rangers from the Kings for two prospects and played parts of two seasons in New York, spending most of his time in the Rangers’ farm system.  In 1988-89 he had six fighting majors and three misconduct penalties totaling 84 PIM in 20 games while notching only one assist.