Jeff Gortonn
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With a boatload of picks in the early rounds of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, the New York Rangers must strategize a clear path.

After a trio of trades at the trade deadline earlier the week, the New York Rangers find themselves in a prime position to climb out of the ongoing rebuild.

Losing Rangerstown favorites like Mats Zuccarello and Kevin Hayes is a tough pill to swallow. But the turnaround can lead the Rangers away from the underdog status and back to perennial hockey favorites.

All in all, as of right now, the Rangers have five draft selections in the first two rounds—two in the first round and three in the second. This is, of course, before all of the conditions could possibly be met. For instance, the two second-round picks from both Tampa Bay and Dallas become first rounders if each team meets certain criteria at the end of this season. The Tampa Bay Lightning have to win the Stanley Cup this year and the Dallas Stars have to make it to the Western Conference Championship round, with Zuccarello playing 50 percent of the playoff games.

It reads like a big gamble for the Rangers, but with how Tampa Bay is playing at the moment, it doesn’t seem like a pipedream. Dallas, on the other hand, is going to give some worrying and anxiety as they approach the playoffs. Even more, Zuccarello suffered a broken arm in his first game with his new team, so his status is unknown come playoff time.

The Rangers have a lot of decisions to make before the 2019 NHL Entry Draft in June. Fortunately, erasing the pending free agents should make things a little more clear after this season ends.

So, what exactly can the Rangers do with these five picks?

Trade Up

Depending on how well the Rangers do in their last 20 games of this season, their chances for the first overall pick will see-saw in the lottery.

If the Rangers do well enough to finish out this season with a winning trend, then they can use the draft picks to move themselves up. Jack Hughes, from the United States Development Program, is heavily favorited to go No. 1 overall. If the Rangers front office wants him, they can certainly try and get him.

Behind Hughes is Kaapo Kakko, from the Liiga team TPS, Vasali Podzolkin from Russia and Alex Turcotte from the USDP rounding out the top four, according to HockeyProspect.com’s Top 31.

Moving up with a first round and second round selection can be a considerable option. This draft can help add necessary pieces behind the first line of Chris Kreider/Mika Zibanehjad/Pavel Buchnevich. As both Filip Chytil and Lias Andersson haven’t shined through the clouds just yet, this upcoming draft can aid in their development.

Colorado is projected to have the number one overall selection, which is actually Ottawa’s. Ottawa sent over their first round pick for this season for Matt Duchene. Prying Hughes away from Colorado will be tough considering their need for secondary scoring. It could take a lot more than what Ottawa would want or even Los Angeles if they win the Draft lottery.

Further Build the Youth Movement

The Rangers are all in on the youth movement bringing home the next Stanley Cup. Next season can be the arrival of some of their top prospects, and it could be the break out years of some that are already here. Ninth overall pick in 2018, Vitali Kravtsov, is among those that could be making a splash in the big apple in 2019-2020. Actually, don’t be surprised to see the Russian native suit up for the Blueshirts in these last 20 games.

It will also be a goaltending duel with Alexandar Georgiev and Igor Shestyorkin behind Henrik Lundqvist. Georgiev has played well as of late, but this season has overall been shaky. From shutting the door on the Toronto Maple Leafs for 55 saves on his birthday to allowing five goals or more in five different games.

Shestyorkin has been incredible in the KHL this season. In 28 games this season, he has only allowed an average of 1.11 goals per game and has saved .953 percent of shots faced. Those numbers don’t just appear in this season, but his last three seasons in total. Both goaltenders are viable options for backing up “The King”, but one of them will need to be moved to make room for the other.

I have written before that Georgiev should get a considerable amount of the time for the remainder of the season, to show his worth. If he can finish out the year strong, the Rangers could have an answer to Lundqvist’s successor. If not, Shestyorkin gets the nod and gets his chance as at being the back-up.

With that being said, this upcoming draft could be the final piece to the Rangers rebuild puzzle. There is an influx of offensive players in this upcoming draft, and the Rangers need to replace what they lost up front. The absence of Hayes and Zuccarello will be felt with this team going forward.

Of course, they can use this plethora of selections to go after an established NHL player. But, with the success they have garnered to this point with using the younger players, the emphasis should remain the same.

Use the draft selections to supply a stable amount of players that can make the Rangers roster by next season or 2020-21.

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