2008 NHL Draft was huge success for New York Rangers

By Leslie Treff

Derek Stepan and Michael Del Zotto - New York Rangers

Photo: Derek Stepan (left) and Michael Del Zotto (right) have been key contributors to the New York Rangers. Both skaters were selected in the 2008 NHL Draft. (courtesy of Will Schneekloth/Icon SMI)

In the most successful draft in recent memory, the New York Rangers selected seven players in 2008, including four who are currently playing in the NHL. Two of the four NHL skaters are key players in New York. Of the five 2008 draftees who are no longer with the organization, the Rangers got value in return for two.

The Rangers finished fifth in the Eastern Conference during the 2007-08 season and third in the Atlantic Conference, giving them the 20th and 51st overall selections, from which the Rangers selected Michael Del Zotto and Derek Stepan, two key pieces of the current NHL team. The organization then selected Evgeny Grachev at the 75th overall position, using a pick obtained in a July 17, 2007 trade with Carolina. New York had previously traded their own third round selection to Los Angeles (in the February 2007 deal that brought Sean Avery to Broadway). However, the Blueshirts were not finished trading for third round selections on draft day the team picked up an extra third round selection (90th overall) from Phoenix on draft day, selecting defenseman Tomas Kundratek while sending Alex Bourret to the Coyotes.

Also acquired on draft day 2008 was the Rangers' own fourth round selection, which, at the time, was owned by Nashville. Previously (on February 26, 2008), New York had traded this fourth round pick to St. Louis. In exchange for this 111th pick overall, Nashville received New York's 2008 seventh round selection and a 2009 fourth round pick.    

Michael Del Zotto, D, Oshawa Generals (OHL) – 1st Round, 20th overall
Status: NHL Player
NHL Games: 240

The Rangers had selected Bobby Sanguinetti (CAR), an offensive defenseman, in the first round of the 2006 NHL draft. The organization hoped that Sanguinetti would be their powerplay quarterback of the future when they drafted him, however, by the spring of 2008, there were questions as to whether he would be able to fill that role. At the time, Del Zotto was a highly touted offensive defenseman, who was expected to be already selected when it was the Rangers' pick. When Del Zotto was available at 20th overall, the Rangers grabbed him.

Del Zotto showed that he was ready for NHL at the start of 2009-10, and that season he was second in points among all rookie blueliners. He had a tough sophomore season however, required a little time in the AHL to work through those problems. Now in his fourth NHL campaign, Del Zotto is without question the Rangers' best offensive defenseman.      

Derek Stepan, C, Shattuck-St Mary's (USHS Minn) – 2nd Round, 51st overall
Status: NHL Player
NHL games played: 202

Ranked 58th in NHL Central Scouting's 2008 final North American skating rankings, the Rangers loved Stepan's hockey sense, good hands and character. Following the draft, Stepan spent two seasons at Wisconsin, where he was a two-time WCHA Rookie of the Week and third among WCHA freshmen in scoring that season.

He then completed his collegiate career by posting more than a point a game with the Badgers during the 2009-10 season. Stepan also captained the gold medal-winning US team in the 2010 World Junior Championships and achieving the tournament's scoring title (14 points in seven games, with a plus-nine rating). Now a regular top six forward in New York, Stepan is a key piece of the Rangers' puzzle going forward.

Evgeny Grachev, C, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl 2 (Russia) – 3rd round, 75th overall
Status: Bust
NHL games played: 34

Once the top prospect in the Rangers' system, Grachev is a highly skilled offensive forward, who fell to the third round of the 2008 NHL Draft because there we