If Rangers fans thought they were nervous on Monday night, team president John Davidson couldn’t even watch.
“I’m always optimistic, that’s my nature, but I couldn’t look at the TV,” he said. “I had my eyes closed, my hand over my head and my wife was sitting beside me and she started screaming.”
That was the moment when he — along with the rest of the hockey world — found out that the Rangers won Phase 2 of the NHL Draft Lottery and the No. 1 overall pick of the 2020 selection process.
“I looked up and I couldn’t believe it,” he said.
The Rangers were one of eight newly-eliminated teams that were bounced from the NHL’s Stanley Cup Qualifiers after being swept in three games by the Carolina Hurricanes. It immediately gave them a 12.5% chance of winning the coveted top spot that was awarded to a placeholder team last month.
With the lucky bounce from the ping pong balls, there comes a clear path to drafting the highly-touted winger, Alexis Lafreniere. The 18-year-old star-in-the-making provides another major shot in the arm for a Rangers rebuild that was catapulted ahead of schedule last season with the acquisition of Artemi Panarin.
“We’re on our way, we have a long way to go, but it’s certainly helpful,” Davidson said. “It’s a great time to be a Ranger, a great time to be a part of the Rangers, and a great time to be a fan.”
“We keep going with a big fat cherry on top of everything and that’s the No. 1 pick overall.”
There would be no confirmation that Lafreniere is, in fact, the Rangers’ pick — though he’s the clear top prospect of the 2020 draft class.
“We have to have our discussions, do our zoom calls, and figure out what we’re going to do,” Davidson said. “I’m saying that with a smile on my face so I don’t tip my hand.”
Regardless of the pick, general manager Jeff Gorton is already making it clear that the organization won’t put lofty expectations upon the selection’s shoulders.
“As far as speeding things up, we’ll see,” he said. “We have a lot of work to do. We understand that we’re coming out of the bubble being swept by Carolina. We’re still trying to sort through that.”
“I really don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves… just kind of want to enjoy the moment, not get too far ahead of ourselves.”
He might be one of the only ones in ‘Rangerstown’ to have that mindset as fans are already clamoring to make their own Lafreniere jerseys for draft night on Oct. 9. But we’ll all try to act surprised when his name is called by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman in less than two months.