For nearly a decade now, the New York Rangers’ greatest strength has been goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. He’s played a big role in the team making the playoffs in eight of their last nine seasons and is the single biggest reason the Rangers have advanced to the Stanley Cup Final.
But it was never a mortal lock that the Rangers would get Lundqvist. He wasn’t highly regarded going into the 2000 NHL Entry Draft. When the Swedish goaltender made the trip to Calgary for the draft, the thinking was that he might get taken in the fourth or fifth round.
“When it got to the sixth round, I thought maybe coming to Calgary hadn’t been such a great idea,” Lundqvist told the New York Post.
“I mean, all my buddies had been taken and were kind of looking at me. We were all sitting in the same row. Nobody knew exactly how to act or what to say. It was kind of like, ‘Come on, Hank.’ It was not a great feeling.”
He was then told by someone in Dallas that they were going to take him in the sixth round. His twin brother, Joel Lundqvist, had already been selected by the Stars in the third round, so it made some sense. He was excited when the Stars turn came up, but they took forward Ladislav Vlcek instead.
Of course, the Rangers ended up taking him in the seventh round with the 205th pick overall, but it’s not like it was all part of some grand strategy. Rangers scout Crister Rockstrom thought highly of Henrik Lundqvist, but director of scouting Martin Madden didn’t.
That might have been the end of it, except between the sixth and seventh rounds Don Maloney, who was the Rangers’ assistant GM and in charge of the draft, “happened to glance over at (Rockstrom’s) book that had all of his rankings of the eligible players going into the draft.”
Maloney noticed that Rockstrom had listed Lundqvist as his top European goaltender, but the scout hadn’t been pushing Maloney to select him because Madden had already shot him down.
“I didn’t know Henrik Lundqvist from Joe Smith,” Maloney said, but he respected Rockstrom’s opinion and decided to draft Lundqvist anyways.
And the course of the Rangers changed as a result.