With the Rangers dropping six of their last nine games, and struggling mightily to find the back of the net on a consistent basis, it's hard to find something to be grateful for—other than Marian Gaborik.
However, there is one silver lining early in this cloudy season—rookie defenseman Michael Del Zotto.
There have been several areas that have plagued the New York Rangers for years; scoring consistently, secondary scoring, full 60-minute efforts, the power play, discipline, and perhaps the biggest problem, drafting.
For years the Rangers have been terrible at drafting—especially first round picks.
Since 2000, when Glen Sather took over the GM reins for the Rangers, the draft has been a complete disaster.
Let's take a look at the previous nine drafts for the Rangers:
2000: The Rangers didn't have a first round pick, but they did happen to find some guy named Henrik Lundqvist in the seventh round. I guess this draft was a success for that pick alone.
2001: The Rangers selected G Dan Blackburn in the first round with the 10th overall pick. Who know's what could have come from this pick. Blackburn was crippled with injuries and had to cut his career short. During his 63 games as a Ranger, Blackburn posted a 20-32-4 record...not too impressive for a first rounder. Fail.
2002: Again no first round pick and an extremely un-stellar draft.
2003: This is the year which made me hate the Rangers and their drafting abilities. With the 12th overall pick, the Rangers select...Huge Bust...err...Hugh Jessiman.
After toiling in the AHL for years, Jessiman has played in a whopping ZERO NHL games to date—the only player from that year's first round to not play an NHL game mind you.
What aggravates me the most is the names that Sather passed on to select Jessiman: Dustin Brown, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Zach Parise, Mike Richards, Brent Seabrook, Ryan Kessler, and Steve Bernier, just to name a few.
2004: Another huge draft-day disaster for Sather. One would think that if the Rangers some how screwed up their first pick, the fact that they had a SECOND first round pick would salvage the prior, right? Nope. Again, Sather drafted a goalie, Al Montoya, who rotted down in the AHL before eventually being shipped out to Phoenix. Oddly enough, Lauri Korpikowski, the other first round pick by Sather that year, was also shipped out to Phoenix before the start of this season.
2005: Sather finally got one right. Marc Staal. I don't think it was possible for even Sather to screw this one up. When you are sitting with the 12th pick and there is a Staal available, you take him!
2006: Sather once again decides to roll the dice on a defenseman. This time Bobby Sanguinetti. Sangs has showed some promise during camps, but I'm not quite sold on him just yet.
2007: Of course nobody could have predicted the tragedy that happened with the Rangers' Alexi Cherepanov. Of course, by now, most know of the tragic death of Cherepanov while playing in the KHL last season. I truly believe he would have been a very good player for the Rangers, and probably their best first round choice since 1991 when Alex Kovalev was taken 15th overall.
That brings us to 2008, where the Rangers selected Michael Del Zotto with the 20th pick of the first round.
I know it's a young season, but through 21 games, the strides that this 19-year old is showing is simply phenomenal.
Del Zotto is doing something for the Rangers that hasn't been done since Brian Leetch left—quarterbacking the power play.
Now of course I'm not comparing a 19-year-old rookie to Brian Leetch just 21 games into the season, but he is certainly winning me over.
The poise, control, and confidence that Del Zotto is showing at such a young age makes me very enthusiastic to watch him develop in the future.
Del Zotto has put up a very impressive 4-11-15 line and is averaging over 17 minutes of ice time per game. Those numbers are good for sixth amongst all defensemen and third for rookies—just four points behind No. 1 pick John Taveres.
Ten of Del Zotto's 15 points came while having the man advantage, which is much better than former power play saviors Michal Rozsival and Wade Redden—who have a combined one point.
A quarter way through the season filled with black clouds, Michael Del Zotto is providing a glimmering ray of hope of things to come.