|Bobby Sanguinetti, the New York Rangers' No. 1 pick in the 2006 NHL Draft, was one of the top
scoring defensemen in the OHL last season.
The 6-foot-1 defenseman now is ready to graduate to the next level, which could mean a jump straight to the New York Rangers, the team that drafted him No. 21 overall in the 2006 Entry Draft.
"He's all pro now, there's no junior," said Gordie Clark, the Rangers' director of player personnel. "He's all pro. That (juniors) is all behind him."
Sanguinetti went out with a bang, leading all OHL defensemen with a career-best 29 goals, and finishing second with a personal-best 70 points. It was the third-straight season he finished in the top-10 among the league's defensemen in scoring.
For a player who grew up the son of a Rangers season ticket holder and with Brian Leetch posters on his bedroom walls, offense never has been a problem for Sanguinetti.
More important to his development, though, Sanguinetti finished with a plus-10 rating. His defensive-zone play has been something he's been concentrating on since he was drafted, and the positive rating represents a tremendous improvement from the 2006-07, when he was a minus-16 with Owen Sound.
Only 170 pounds when he was drafted, he says he's up to 192 pounds now -- and has room to add more. Getting stronger will help him become more reliable in his own end, and help him climb the developmental ladder that much faster.
"I had a pretty good season, put up some good numbers offensively," Sanguinetti said during the Rangers' prospect camp at the MSG Training Center in Tarrytown, N.Y. "Defensively I feel like I've gotten a lot stronger in the past year."
"There's still a few things he's got to work on," Clark said. "The defensive part of his game has come a long way."
"You feel stronger out there," Sanguinetti said of the extra muscle. "You don't get pushed around, you feel like you can compete for the puck more."
He'll have to up his level of competitiveness even more for next season. September will mark Sanguinetti's third training camp with the Rangers, and now his professional future is riding on just how he does.
Can he do enough to make the jump to the NHL? Or is a stint with the Hartford Wolf Pack, the club's American Hockey League affiliate, a better starting point?
"The odds probably show you that it's not (likely he'll play in NHL next year)," Clark said. "If it doesn't work out (at the NHL), he goes down and he's going to be playing a ton down in Hartford. It's a good stepping stone for him from junior. He'll get a little more work on playing defense in the pro game, but not at the expense of his offense. We want him to take his offense to another level."
Sanguinetti is focusing on Broadway rather than Connecticut.
"The biggest thing is coming in (to camp) in the best shape possible, be ready to play," Sanguinetti said. "I know what I'm capable of and the reason why they drafted me, the confidence they have in me. … I need to continue to show that I'm getting closer and closer to becoming a Ranger and that you want to compete for a job and that you're serious about it, and that you're going to come in and work your hardest and earn that spot."
Contact Adam Kimelman at email@example.com.