The New York Rangers enter the 2012 NHL Draft with the 28th pick in the first round. It is the latest the Rangers have ever drafted in the first round and represents the second time in franchise history they will be making the 28th overall selection in a draft.

The year was 1985 and the Blueshirts used their first round draft pick to select Ulf Dahlen with the 7th overall pick. In the second round, GM Craig Patrick used the 28th overall selection to draft a Philadelphia-area native from Abingdon Prep – goaltender Mike Richter.

Nine years later, the Rangers were the Stanley Cup champions – in large part thanks to the heroics of Richter. As the NHL’s champions, they drafted 26th and last in the first round. GM Neil Smith used that selection on goaltender Dan Cloutier.

While Cloutier never measured up to heights of Richter, he wasn’t a bad choice when you factor in the rest of the draft. Jose Theodore (#44) and Patrik Elias (#51) where the other big names taken in the second round with the likes of Fredrik Modin and Chris Drury drafted in the third round, Milan Hejduk in the fourth and Daniel Alfredsson in the sixth.

The Rangers have done a fine job in the last couple of years drafting prospects who have been able to make the next step to the NHL (Carl Hagelin, Chris Kreider and Derek Stepan) with the likes of Tim Erixon, Dylan McIlrath and J.T. Miller poised to make their run at the NHL.

However, the Blueshirts run to the Eastern Conference Finals shows the organization still needs to add more offense. Unfortunately, the Rangers may have some problems solving that need with the 28th pick.

The Rangers could decide that their depth is strong enough to gamble and reach for a player who might not have all-around first round talent at forward. Or, the Rangers could go with the strength of the draft and add more help on the blue line or go with a safe two-way forward.

The third draft possibility could be to follow the paths charted by Patrick and Smith and look to draft a goaltender with their first round pick. It is a Catch-22 situation because Henrik Lundqvist is in his prime and drafting a goaltender in the first round might not be the best allocation of resources.

On the other hand, the Rangers do not want run the risk that the New Jersey Devils are running with Martin Brodeur. The Devils face the prospect of a near-future with no Brodeur and no heir apparent to replace him.

The Rangers run of luck drafting goaltenders in the first round has been spotty at
best – given that Cloutier is the most successful of a trio of netminders.

In 2001, Glen Sather drafted Dan Blackburn with the 10th overall pick. Blackburn
played 63 games before a sever shoulder injury derailed his career.

In 2004, the Rangers made Al Montoya (6th overall) the first of their two first
round draft picks, with Lauri Korpikoski selected #19. Montoya never played for
the Rangers and was eventually dealt to Phoenix before finding hone with the New
York Islanders.

In the THN Draft Preview, Adam Proteau pointed out a telling statistic in reference
to goalies drafted in the first round. During the previous 49 drafts, 60 goalies were
drafted in the first round. Of that number, only 30 have played 200 or more NHL
games or are on pace to do so (Cory Schneider was listed as an example.

In an even more incredible stat, you had a better chance of finding a starting goalie
with a 7th, 8th, 9th round draft pick or even with a non-drafted goalie (10 of them
from the 7h round and beyond) as you did getting a starter with a 1st round pick
(only 8 1st round starters).

Under Sather, the Rangers haven’t had much luck drafting goalies on the 2nd
round either. In 2007, Slats used the 48th overall pick of Antoine Lafleur who
never made it beyond Junior hockey.

The Blueshirts have a mixed bag beyond Sather when it comes to drafting goalies in the 2nd round. In 1965, the Rangers used the 6th overall pick (which was actually a second round pick) on George Surmay who never played in the NHL and spent three seasons in the minors. Of course, that was still during the time when NHL teams relied on their Junior sponsored teams for prospects.

It would be 10 years before the Rangers selected a goalie in the second round when they drafted Doug Soetart with the 30th overall pick. Given that Soapy played a total of 287 NHL games, that wasn’t too bad of a pick. Soetart’s only extended playing time with the Rangers happened during the 1980-81 season when he led the team with 39 regular season games. However, Soetart would be benched in favor of Steve Baker who keyed the team’s 14-game run in the 1981 playoffs.

Interestingly enough, Baker was a 3rd round draft pick in 1977. Baker would be the first of four goalies the Rangers would draft in the third round.

In 1985, the Rangers followed their 2nd round pick of Richter by drafting Sam Lindstahl in the 3rd round. Lindstahl played a total of five years in Sweden.

In 1998, the Blueshirts drafted Jason LaBarbera who is still playing in the NHL serving as a backup for the Phoenix Coyotes.

In 1999, the Rangers returned to Sweden to select Johan Asplund in the 3rd round. Like Lindstahl, Asplund never left Europe but did play 11 seasons – including the 2009-10 season in Denmark.

Kind of makes you glad the Rangers didn’t resist returning to Sweden one more time in 200 when they scooped up Lundqvist in the 7th round. Before anyone thinks the Rangers knew what they were getting all along, remember that Lundqvist wasn’t even the first goalie they drafted in 2000.

Union College’s Brandon Snee was drafted in the 5th round by the Rangers. Unlike Lindstahl and Asplund, Snee did play minor league hockey – appearing in 47 games over two years in the UHL, ECHL and WHA2 where his coach was former Ranger Ron Duguay.

The Rangers best course of action might be to look to trade to the pick. They could use the 28th pick as an enticement in a deal for a potential goal scorer (e.g. Rick Nash) or they could trade down and secure extra picks in the second round.

The Tampa Bay Lightning own three picks in the first 20 selections in the 2nd round (Numbers 37, 40 and 50).

By moving down into the 2nd round, the Rangers could take a gamble on an offensive forward and select a goaltending prospect with draft picks acquired in a trade with the Lightning. The Rangers could also move one of those acquired 2nd round picks to fill in the holes later in the draft.

The Rangers own their first four draft picks, bur are without picks in rounds five through seven so any potential trade could also replace one of these lost picks.

The Blueshirts traded their fifth round pick to Chicago in the ill-fated John Scott deal. Their 6th round pick went to Nashville last year for the Predators 6th round pick which the Rangers used to select defenseman Peter Ceresnak. The Rangers 7th round pick went to Toronto for John Mitchell.

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