The New York Rangers have not selected first overall in the draft since 1965. Lyndon Johnson was president and gas was 30 cents a gallon. They chose Andre Veilleux, who would go on to play exactly zero games in the NHL. The same could be said of their first two first-round picks before that (the draft started in 1963). Future Hall-of-Famer Brad Park would be taken in 1966, but the Rangers first few draft selections in their history would go on to set a disturbing trend.

Granted, drafts were like crapshoots back then, but even more recently with a plethora of information, scouting reports, and analytics to assist them, we still saw Hugh Jessiman drafted in 2003 instead of Ryan Getzlaf, Zach Parise, and Brent Burns (to name a few). 2010’s pick was equally a head-scratcher: Dylan McIlrath while Vladimir Taresenko was still on the table.

While the last few years have been more fruitful- last year’s Kaapo Kakko is still going to be growing and developing for another year or two, the three first-rounders from 2018 are all highly promising and Filip Chytil in 2017 is in the same boat as Kakko- overall, the Rangers’ draft history is one of boom and bust, with the bust being a little more on the louder side. For every Brian Leetch, there’s a Bobby Sanguinetti. For every Alexei Kovalev, there’s 10 Jamie Lundmarks.

With the Rangers winning the 2020 NHL draft lottery and the right to pick generational talent Alexis Lafreniere, my first reaction as an eternal pessimist is not to shoot him down, but instead say, “Just gotta wait and see.” There is a lot to contemplate for next season, most notably, will there be a next season? If so, how disjointed will it be? Can Lafreniere handle the New York market? If he does, how long will it take him to perform like the Crosby or McDavid, which draft experts are saying he has the potential to reach?

Most draft picks to reach the Rangers’ roster over the years have satisfied me if they put up 20 goals and/or 40 points and while the same will be said of Lafreniere, that grace period will only last a season or two. Same with Kakko. The Rangers had nearly two decades of “almost” under Glen Sather. Even though I wholeheartedly trust John Davidson at the helm, I’m not so keen on Jeff Gorton to do what is right. The Rangers will no-doubt take Lafreniere (unless someone at the draft table isn’t wearing their glasses and they mistakenly draft Alexis Laferriere— look him up, he’s real), so this is not a Jessiman/McIlrath situation. But will they provide this kid and the many kids on this roster with the tools they need to compliment the likes of Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibaejad?

The Rangers rebuild was supposed to last four or five years. It is currently looking like it might not even last three. This is both wonderful and terrible. Even with a defense you could shoot a cannon through, they will have no excuse to not make the playoffs next season. If they don’t, coach David Quinn will be fired and it will become a quick patch-job to continue their franchise development under someone else.

Defense is cause for another article, so offensively speaking, this is what needs to happen: 1) Panarin and Zibanejad need to replicate exactly what they did this past season 2) the Rangers need to find a real supporting second-line center in case Ryan Strome’s season was an aberration (or they decide to trade him to a team who does not think it was an aberration), 3) Filip Chytil needs to hit 40 points, 4) Kakko needs to look like the second overall pick teams fawned over and hit 40-50 points, and 5) Lafreniere needs to come right into this lineup and not look like Kakko did last season. If there are no growing pains, he need not be a superstar right out of the gate to be a game changer.

If anything, the most immediate outlook for adding Lafreniere to this lineup is that it takes pressure off Kakko. He is no longer “the one we have been waiting for”. Now there are two. Perhaps that might be enough to crack the shell. If these two do not have their development stunted, but rather work through their growing pains successfully, in a year or two could the Rangers have a Crosby-Malkin one-two punch? That may be too optimistic for this pessimist. But I will say this: at no time in the last 20 years have the Rangers been on a road this bright- even more so than the one that led them to deep playoff runs in 2014 and 2015. It may take another season or two, but they will get there. For an organization forever mistimed, will the timing finally be right?