Rangers Focus on Center With First-Round Picks

It had been 13 years since the Rangers had a draft pick as high as seventh overall.

They had two picks in the top-21 that year — Al Montoya at No. 6 and Lauri Korpikoski at No. 19 in 2004.

But after making the Derek Stepan/Antti Raanta trade that also brought back 21-year-old defenseman Anthony DeAngelo Friday afternoon, Jeff Gorton had the seventh and 21st picks at the NHL Entry Draft in Chicago Friday night.

[Rangers Acquire DeAngelo & 7th Overall Pick From Coyotes]

This was new for Gorton, who had never been to the first-round podium as the Rangers’ GM, and the same for coach Alain Vigneault, too.

During the draft, Gorton admitted to NBCSN that the team is in a “rebuild on the fly.”

So the Rangers’ GM, who helped in a big way to rebuild the Boston Bruins into a Stanley Cup champ once upon a time, will get the chance to do it again in New York.

With his two picks, Gorton nabbed Lias Andersson, 18, a Swedish center who can play either wing with the No. 7 pick from Arizona, and Czech center Filip Chytil, who won’t turn 18 until September, with the Rangers’ 21st pick.

[Learn More About The Blueshirts’ First-Round Picks]

Gorton nodded to the idea of taking two centers shortly after losing two centers – Stepan and Oscar Lindberg – but it’s unlikely either player will be on the NHL roster next season, though Andersson may have a shot.

[According to Carp: Rangers Move On From Lindberg]

Andersson, the son of former NHL player Nicklas Andersson, is kind of a do-it-all and scouts believe he has a lot of the tools teams want in a player: Good skater, great shot, good compete level, the ability to play either special teams. At 6-feet, 200 pounds he has the body to play in the NHL soon.

He has a contract with Frolunda for next season, but said he’s not sure if he will play there, or in the AHL with Hartford if he doesn’t make the Rangers’ roster right away.

“I don’t know yet,” he said. “We’ll figure something out.”

Andersson called himself “a two-way center” and “I love to change games and score big goals.

“I mean, I love watching those good centermen, (Jonathan) Toews … I love watching Claude Giroux for the Flyers. I think they can play a little bit tough and score big goals. And, yeah, I think they’re game changers. And Toews is a big winner. He’s won everything, and I want to win everything, too.”

Rangers director of player personnel Gordie Clark said Andersson “does not lack confidence. He’s quite an athlete. He’s so driven, driving to the net, finishing checks.”

Andersson has never been to New York, but his parents met in New York when his dad played for the Islanders.

Chytil, like most players in any draft, is likely a player to watch down the road, a good skater with puck-handling skills.

As a 17-year-old he played against men in the Czech Republic. He said he likes to model himself after Montreal’s Alex Galchenyuk.

Both players were heavily scouted and touted by Anders Kallur, the ex-Islanders’ player and Rangers European scout who is retiring this summer. Gorton and Clark allowed Kallur to announce the pick of Andersson.