GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- New York Rangers
"He's got a fair whack at this thing. We have, I think, penciled in four 'D' and I'm not sure where those four 'D' will fit, but there are a couple of wide-open spots there and it's important that we develop some young defensemen. He's going to get a chance, just like a number of other people." -- John Tortorella
rookie defenseman Matt Gilroy
hears from his old high school and college friends about how they slog through the daily grind and realizes the monotony of his summer is something they would trade for in a heartbeat.
"I get up at the same time, eat the same thing, go to the gym at the same time, we skate at the same time and go to the track at the same time, but I wouldn't want to be doing anything else in the world right now," Gilroy, 25, said recently from the Rangers' suburban Manhattan training facility. "My buddies are sitting at a desk, and on the weekends when we get together they're complaining about this and that and I really have nothing to complain about."
He certainly doesn't, but Gilroy, the 2009 Hobey Baker Award winner from Boston University who signed a two-year, one-way contract with the Rangers in April, has a lot to work for when training camp opens.
The Rangers have only four defensemen with NHL experience -- Michal Rozsival
, Marc Staal
, Wade Redden
and Dan Girardi
-- on their roster now, meaning Gilroy has as good a chance of anyone of not only making the team, but seeing solid playing time.
In fact, based on his contract and how the Rangers feel about him as an offensive defenseman who pushes the tempo, instead of this being one of those training camps where Gilroy has nothing to lose and everything to gain, it's actually the opposite.
An NHL roster spot is his for the taking as long as he proves his worth.
"He's got a fair whack at this thing," Rangers coach John Tortorella told NHL.com. "We have, I think, penciled in four 'D' and I'm not sure where those four 'D' will fit, but there are a couple of wide-open spots there and it's important that we develop some young defensemen. He's going to get a chance, just like a number of other people."
Gilroy, of course, is nearly jumping out of his skates knowing the Rangers' roster has only the four defensemen on it, but by no means is he comfortable. He hasn't found Easy Street once in his burgeoning career, and he doesn't expect to turn down that road in September, either.
"I have something to prove," he said emphatically. "That's the way I go at everything. Nothing is given to you, especially with Coach Tortorella. You've got to earn it and that's been my thing my whole life. I have earned everything I've got and I am not expecting anything else. I'm not as naive as, say, an 18-year-old coming in, but I'm still a rookie and I have to prove myself."
Gilroy, who now measures in at 6-foot-2 and a shade over 200 pounds, was 5-6 and 120 pounds as an 18-year-old after graduating St. Mary's High School in Manhasset, N.Y., in 2003. He strangely admitted at his introductory press conference at Madison Square Garden that he didn't hit puberty until he was 18.
"It was my Irish genes -- that's what my dad says," Gilroy said of his late development. "That's his answer for everything, but I guess that's what it is. It's genetics. I don't know."
Gilroy spent time in the British Columbia Hockey League and the Eastern Junior Hockey League before heading to BU in 2005. He had to persuade legendary coach Jack Parker that he even was worth a look.
He wound up walking on to the Terriers' hockey team as a 20-year-old freshman, convincing Parker to stuff him in as the eighth defensemen because that was the only position available.
Gilroy had 8 points in 36 games in 2005-06. Four seasons later, he was college hockey's best player, a three-time All-American and the captain of BU's national championship team this past season.
He signed a two-year contract worth $3.5 million with the Rangers on April 17, and now has a chance to be one of their top six defensemen this coming season. Tortorella said he loves that Gilroy always is looking to get up the ice. It's an ingredient he felt the Rangers' defense corps was lacking last season.
"I have something to prove. That's the way I go at everything. Nothing is given to you, especially with Coach Tortorella. You've got to earn it and that's been my thing my whole life. I have earned everything I've got and I am not expecting anything else." - Matt Gilroy
"It's the most satisfying thing in the world when you can go in somewhere and earn your spot, prove yourself and have the people accept you," Gilroy said. "When I was a little kid my parents instilled a hard work ethic in me, and if I wanted something I had to go work for it. I don't see that ever changing."
To prepare for his first NHL training camp, Gilroy has been doing what he does every summer. He is skating on Long Island -- he grew up just a few miles from Nassau Coliseum -- with new Ranger Chris Higgins
, as well as fellow NHL players and Long Islanders Eric Nystrom
, Mike Komisarek
and Bryan McCabe
The skates, Gilroy said, started off as just pick-up games to focus on skills, but the intensity has increased this month as the players get themselves into shape again.
"We're starting to bag skate each other toward the end," he said. "It's a pretty good skate and I'm getting excited now. It's less than a month away."
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