Blueshirts History: The Rangers' Best Draft Picks

With the 2024 NHL Entry Draft just over a month away in Las Vegas, the Rangers have historically made big time splashes on amateur selections throughout their 97 NHL seasons
New York Rangers v Carolina Hurricanes - Game Six
New York Rangers v Carolina Hurricanes - Game Six / Grant Halverson/GettyImages

June 28-29 sees the NHL head to Las Vegas' mystical Sphere for the 2024 NHL Entry Draft, where the New York Rangers have cashed in many times with big-name selections. But who, may you ask, is the best of the bunch? These 3 go back to the end of the Original Six era and into the Rangers' last championship glory period.

Brad Park, 1966

In just the 4th ever NHL Entry Draft in league history, Park became one of the Rangers' biggest legends, playing in over 1100 NHL games with 3 different Original Six teams after being the Blueshirts' 2nd overall selection in 1966. Splitting 8 years with the Rangers and Bruins, plus 2 with the Red Wings, Park totaled 95 goals, 283 assists, and 378 points wearing a New York sweater in a league that, at the time of his rookie season, had just added 6 new franchises the year before. Park was a consistent and numerous 1st team All-Star with the Rangers and Bruins, his time in New York lasting from 1968/69 to 1975/76. He also came close to winning the Norris Trophy, awarded to the league's best defenseman on about as many times he was voted an All-Star. One more piece of hardware Park added was the Bill Masterton Trophy in 1984 with Detroit, his 2nd to last professional season. The Masterton Trophy is given to the player who has the league's best perseverance, dedication, and, above all, sportsmanship in the game of hockey. Park was named to the NHL's 100 Greatest Players List in 2018 and had already been inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1988.

Brian Leetch, 1986

Among diehard Ranger fans, this man needs no introduction. The franchise's career leader in assists (1021), 2nd in games played (1129), and points (981), plus 10th in goals (240), Leetch, whose big number 2 was retired by the Rangers in 2008, played an illustrious 18 year NHL career with all but one season in New York. Winning the Calder Trophy for the league's best rookie in 1989, Leetch also made several All-Star teams, notably in 1991, 1992, 1994, 1996 and 1997 and won 2 Norris Trophies in 1992 and 1997, plus a Conn Smythe trophy (playoff MVP) in 1994. 247 career goals is pretty low for over 1100 games played in 18 years, but then I tell you Leetch was a defenseman. That's insane longevity and consistency for his position, even by today's standards. Leetch was also added to the league's 100 Greatest Players list and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2009.

Alex Kovalev, 1991

Out of the rubble of the collapsed Soviet Union possibly came one of their last great players, Alex Kovalev, taken by the Rangers with the 15th overall pick in the 1991 draft. Like Park, the right wing then Soviet, now Russian, played almost 20 years in the NHL, with nearly half of those spent in Manhattan. With over 1300 games totaling 430 goals and 529 assists for 1029 points, one of less than 100 players in league history to do so, Kovalev logged 142 goals, 188 assists, and 330 points in 492 career games for the Rangers. He didn't quite pick up as many honors as Park, being named to 1 All-Star team in 2008 as a member of the Montreal Canadiens, but with his longevity in New York, it's no wonder he is also just 1 of 5 Russian-born players in league history to score 1000 career points. And one more thing: he was integral in helping the Rangers break their 54-year Stanley Cup curse in 1994, with 9 goals and 12 assists for 21 points that postseason.

Other legends include current star Chris Kreider, a 2009 1st round, 19th overall pick out of Boston College, who is already 3rd on the Rangers' all-time goals list behind other legends of old in Rod Gilbert (18 NHL seasons from 1960-1978, all with New York) and Jean Ratelle (21 NHL seasons from 1960-1981, first 16 with New York, remainder with Boston) It's safe to say the Rangers know exactly how to draft players, and this year, they could pick up even more future legends with their to be determined 1st round selection.